Midlands Food Hero – Ngenzi Sokhela, pizzas prepared with love
“I just love Dargle”, says Ngenzi Sokhela who was born and grew up here. “I love the views, the animals and nature, it is so peaceful.” Nowadays, Ngenzi is the pizza station manager at il Postino.
“I can’t believe how lucky I am to have an interesting job so close to home and family. Most of my friends have had to move away to Cape Town or Jo’burg.” She had dreamt about being a pilot or an air hostess as a child, but realised that this was not really a possibility for a farm girl. When she finished school, Liz Cuthbert, who ran the tea shop ‘Duchess of the Dargle’ offered her a position as waitress, which she grabbed. “You have to take opportunities because you just never know where it will lead. Liz was great to work with, I learnt so much from her – how to treat customers, to plate food and so much more.” When the tea shop closed, il Postino (right next door) snapped her up.
“Funny, I had never been interested in cooking before and never dreamed I’d end up cooking all day and enjoying it so much.” Ngenzi had never eaten pizza before joining the il Postino team – now she loves to experiment with different toppings – her favourite combination is avo, feta, bacon, chicken and rocket. She really loves the feel of the dough which is prepared twice a day – “it’s so soft, it feels lovely.” The team at il Postino is young and there is a nice vibe in the kitchen, although having a woman in a senior position took some getting used to for the guys.
Ngenzi’s partner Nthuthuko Hadebe is the restaurant manager. “Working together is sometimes fun and sometimes not. During busy times it gets stressful.” They spend their days off with their 10 month old daughter Ayame Mbalenhle who lives with her great grandparents on a farm nearby. “It is so good not having to worry about her while I am at work. I know Gogo takes good care of her.”
Even though Ngenzi confidently prepares delicious lasagne, gnocchi, cannelloni and melanzane and reads the recipe sections of magazines first now, her favourite food is still her Gran’s jece with cabbage, baked beans and tripe. You just can’t beat the tastes you grew up with, prepared with love, but do try one of Ngenzi’s pizzas sometime.