There’s a school of thought that black South Africans play the race card, rather than working as hard as their white counterparts.
That opinion, however, is countered by data released by Statistics SA, which found that in households where the breadwinner’s white, they have an income approximately 4,5 times more than that of black-headed households.
This disparity continues to bar opportunities for many black South Africans, including those wanting to attend culinary schools, where the fees are often exorbitant.
“As a 24-year-old black chef, I was at a culinary school with both black and white fellow students and there were glaring differences between us. Because white students came from privileged backgrounds, they were perceived as being more ambitous, since they’d had a lot more exposure to other cuisines. While black students simply wanted to learn how to cook, the white students were launching food blogs, getting involved with food photography and learning about food styling,” says Mtoba, who’s best known for his own blog, Loyiso & Spoon.
Unfortunately, for many blacks, traditional food’s been relegated to visiting a chisa nyama with friends in the township on the weekend
“While the playing fields are still far from level, we black chefs also have to take accountability for the disparity. In this day and age of smartphones and other technology, it doesn’t take much to start a blog or become great at food photography. It’s up to black chefs and other players in the industry to explore the many opportunities in the culinary field,” he adds.
Although Mtoba’s blog has been well received and the food photography he displays attracts scores of admirers, he says there’s residual racism in the industry.
“Cape Town is probably the most divisive foodie city we have. Yet it’s more difficult for a black chef to make it there than anywhere else in the country, as the culinary industry is still very much white-dominated. I lived and worked there for a time and although I was more qualified and experienced than my white colleagues, I was overlooked for a promotion.”
Mtoba insists that for the industry to be more accommodating, especially when it comes to peripheral culinary activities such as food photography, styling and blogging, those who’ve made it need to give back.
“People like me should host free photography lessons in underprivileged areas, in order to introduce these skills to a broader segment of the population. Many black people can cook really well, but when it comes to showcasing their offerings, they need help in styling and presenting it. Giving back is the key to increasing representation,” he says.