WINDHOEK, JULY 18 – Eli Abel was born and raised in Windhoek. He entered the Nedbank Kapana Cook Off competition in 2017. At the time, he did not have a job and a friend who was aware of his talent as a Chef encouraged him to enter the prestigious Kapana Cook Off.
He won the professional chefs category for the 2017 Kapana Cook Off competition and now, he describes the inspiration for his winning kapana and salsa to be, “the simplicity of the ingredients, the meat, the spice, the chilli and the togetherness.”
Present day, he works at Mad Chef (M.C.) and Chillar as the Chef and owner, an eatery he co-owns with his partner, Patric. Their slogan is ‘A Mad Restaurant. Every day a new meal. No menu,’ and it is evident that their offering is a unique food journey. The restaurant is based in Ongwediwa, an all-round restaurant serving French, German, Asian, African and Italian cuisine. He refers to himself as the mad chef and his partner Patric as the crazy chef – which ties in well with their slogan.
In preparation for last year’s Nedbank Kapana Cook Off competition, Eli went to the Omataras (open markets) to see first-hand and study what kapana really is. He drew his inspiration from the fresh ingredients and the markets to help push him over the edge for the competition. When Eli was announced the winner, he was overwhelmed with joy, “I felt like a one and not a zero, which was how I felt for awhile before the competition,” Eli recalls.
Chef Eli Abel is of the opinion that the Nedbank Kapana Cook Off competition is a brilliant platform, “I would encourage other Chefs to enter the competition not because of the winning, but the networking, the experience and the lessons,” Chef Eli relates.
The Nedbank Kapana Cook Off competition ushered in a new dawn for Chef Eli, the competition helped elevate him further and changed his life. “The wings I got helped me get started with Mad Chef (M.C) and with the help of a benefactor Mr Denish de Moura.
Chef Eli’s journey to becoming a chef has not been a glamourous fairy tale dream come true. He started from the very bottom, “I started as a mop boy working with Jona Levi at the Rent a Chef,” Eli recalls the early days in his career. He then went to the South African Chefs Academy in Cape Town, “I was homeless for two weeks while I was there, but that drove me to do better… ” He reflects back on the tough times he had gone through.
Chef Eli got his first real job at the Oshakati Country Hotel.
In his career, Chef Eli has not been weary to get his hands dirty to work in his field. “I went as far as working on a mine, I’ve worked at the Raft, I have catered for the Mad Max Movie, I opened the Mango guesthouse Kitchen, Jeli Deli at Medi Park and now I’m here at Mad Chef and Chillar,” Chef Eli reflects on his culinary journey in Namibia. When Chef Eli thinks about Namibian cuisine, he becomes enthused with passion, “what I like most about Kapana and Namibian food is the simplicity from raw to cooked food and just how yummy full it makes you,” he says.
When Eli Abel was young, he dreamed of becoming a Pastor…but life pushed him in a completely different direction to becoming a formidable Namibian Chef who now owns his own restaurant. On the topic of being a Chef, he proudly laments, “It’s my passion, my safe place, my comfort zone, it is where I believe I am my true self, where I am fully understood.”
On 14 July the Nedbank Kapana Cook Off competition preliminary round took place at the Coast, which will be followed by the Eastern preliminary round taking place on 21 July in Gobabis and the Central preliminary round taking place in Windhoek on 28 July 2018. The highly anticipated finale is scheduled for 4 August 2018. In the meantime, Nedbank in partnership with Namibia Chefs Association (NamChefs), Bakpro, MeatMa and Pick n Pay look forward to see whether the eastern and central rounds deliver mouth-watering kapana recipes to compete at the finals.
The Nedbank Kapana Cook Off competition 2018 could open doors and creates new opportunities. Keep an eye on the press and social media to stay updated on the rounds as the national competition progresses. – NDN Staffer