Executive Chef Donovan Saunders, known to us as Chefie D, has brought new life to the meals at Pafuri Camp. Having started in May 2017 he has turned the food experience into something delicious and memorable.
1. What inspired and encouraged you to become a chef?
My dad was a chef in the army and loved cooking at home for us, along with my gran who loved baking. I used to come home with friends after school and bake up a storm for us all.
2. How did you get into cooking?
At the end of 1998 I knew that I wanted to be a chef for the rest of my life. So, I started cooking school in January 1999, where I spent 2 years studying to be a chef.
3. What was your first cooking experience?
My first cooking experience, professionally, was at the end of my first year of cooking school, I went to work at the Hilton Hotel in Durban.
4. What are some of your accomplishments as a chef?
Being one of the chefs that worked at Madiba’s (Nelson Mandela’s) state funeral in the Eastern Cape. It was incredible to be able to cook and to be a part of a team for a legend. Secondly, having a TV cooking show while working in Botswana and have family and friends watch me on DSTV back in SA.
5. What has been your scariest wildlife encounter?
I have two. The first was being chased by an elephant when I was a regional executive chef in the Kruger National Park. I was travelling to Shingwedzi Camp from Mopani Camp one day and an elephant bull in must charged me down the road for about 200m. I was reversing like nobody’s business.
My second scary experience was when walking to my room at Pafuri Camp one evening. I came across a lioness about 100m away. I began retreating slowly, only to hear her coming closer. So I decided to Flintstone it and run like mad, not that you are supposed to run!
6. How long you have been with at RETURNAfrica’s Pafuri Camp?
1 year and a few weeks.
7. What is your favourite part of the job?
My love for cooking and serving guests wonderful food. Receiving their positive feedback on how much they enjoyed it is always a highlight.
8. Why should people visit the Pafuri region of Kruger?
Pafuri is one of a kind, the lodge is in such a beautiful setting. The friendly and amazing team all strive to go the extra mile for our guests. The peace and tranquility that surrounds Pafuri is to see nature at its best. To be able to hear the history of the area, take in the knowledge and understanding and most of all to come for the awesome food. This is why people should visit Pafuri.
9. What are your essential ingredients, the ones you can’t live without?
I love working with fresh ingredients. One of my favourite ingredients is basil. But most of all I enjoy trying new things, mixing different flavours to bring it all together in one tasty meal.
10. What is your recipe for success?
Be humble, down to earth, don’t be afraid to work the long hours, have a love and passion for your job. Being a chef is one of the toughest jobs out there. But when you love what you do nothing else matters. Give back to others and teach, guide and advise. You are never too old to learn something new.
I always tell my chefs, remember that the food we send out is our name so send it with love and pride.
One of guests’ favourites is Chefie D’s Duo of Mousses. Find out how you can make it at home.
Chefie D’s Duo of Mousses
Feature Image: Anastasia Pashkovetskaya
1st Image: Olivia Dummer
2nd Image: Godfrey Baloyi
3rd Image: Olivia Dummer