In an on-going series of interviews, Source profiles prominent individuals involved in the South African food industry to discover their personal stories, motivations and to share their advice. This month we interviewed Chef Sharon Glass, bestselling author of numerous South African cookbooks, television personality, celebrity chef and the inspirational force behind her flourishing cookery school in Johannesburg, South Africa. Sharon is an innovative and exciting self-taught chef who blends many different cuisines in her dishes to produce harmonious, beautifully prepared meals. Moving with the times and following local and international trends, Sharon’s motto is “fresh, fresh, fresh”. Her food focuses on today and tomorrow’s eating habits and translates into the home where everyday cooks can be inspired. Her food has universal appeal because the ingredients are so easily obtainable in most local supermarkets. Requiring no extra effort, the recipes are always successful and taste delicious. Sharon also believes that because she had no formal training, her style of cooking suits everyday lifestyles.
Source Food (SF): Tell us a little bit about your career, and how you have managed to become a household name in the South African food scene?
Sharon Glass (SG): I have been interested in food from a very early age. When I started giving cookery lessons in 1986 after my first child was born, I knew that my passion was showing people how easy it was to make beautiful, delicious food. As my reputation grew, I began thinking about writing a cookbook. This was at a time when South African cookbooks were not very attractive and all the beautiful books were being imported. And so, in 2000 I published my first cookbook, a stunning representation of South African food. Thereafter I continued teaching and writing, gaining a following in South Africa while my books were transported around the world to friends and family. It is really satisfying to see how many people love the books and also enjoy watching my cooking shows, which have been very successful .
SF:What inspired you to go seek out a career in the food industry?
SG: I didn’t initially want a career in the food industry. I studied French at UCLA and wanted to be an interpreter at the UN. I just happened to want to work from home when my children were born, hence the career in food.
SF: Did you study professional cookery, or are you self-taught?
SG: I am completely self-taught. I devour books, magazines, blogs, TV shows and I love good food.
SF: What is your food philosophy?
SG: My food philosophy is to use the best ingredients that are available with no preservatives. Cook from the heart and create wonderful food that is fresh and not only tastes delicious but looks delicious too.
SF: What advice have you got for young chefs who want to follow a career in the public eye?
SG: They need to work very hard from the bottom up to learn all aspects of the industry. . They must follow their dream and never give up. There are always opportunities for people with talent.
SF: How does one go about getting a cookbook published?
SG: Find a theme or idea that is different and marketable – it has to be a book that people will want to buy. Then you need to find a publisher who buys into the concept and will cover costs and give you a royalty.
SF: What advice would you give to young aspiring chefs when they first start working in the industry?
SG: Don’t be upset when doors are closed in your face. In the food industry you don’t get recognised for the hours worked – confront all challenges and be prepared to do just about anything to be noticed!
SF: What are your thoughts of the current food trends in South Africa?
SG: We produce some pretty incredible food in this country. I think we follow world trends very well, and can stand alongside anybody in terms of availability of produce and groceries.
SF: What’s your favourite piece of equipment in the kitchen?
SG: I love my food processors, both the mini one and the large one. Don’t know what I would do without them.
SF: What are your top 3 ingredients to cook with?
SG: Olive oil, coarse sea salt and fresh lemon juice.