This year’s winner of the Lucky Star Innovations competition, as well as R20 000, is Tsholofelo Mavikane. What makes her win particularly fantastic is that she was a first time culinary competitor. “I’ve seen a lot of competitions at Hostex and I was always interested in entering once I felt confident to do so,” says Tsholofelo Mavikane. “It took quite some time but when the opportunity to enter the Lucky Star Innovations 2017 came up I took it and didn’t look back.”

The young chef, who works at the HTA School of Culinary Art as an assistant chef to the lecturers, trained for the competition by practising at home, researching and making sure she was equipped to tackle the second stage of the competition, the mystery basket challenge. In the first round, Tsholofelo was asked to recreate the signature dish she entered the competition with. “The dish that I created was a Deep Fried Sardine Taco with Tangy Mayonnaise, served with Pilchards Croquettes.”

For the mystery basket round, contestants had to incorporate any of the Lucky Star products to create a dish which represented a traditional 7 Colour Sunday. “In the mystery basket challenge, I made a Pilchards Roti served with Chakalaka , Butternut Puree, Beetroot Chips and Crispy Tuna.” Impressing the judges, Tsholofelo created all of her doughs from scratch.

“I have to say, I was incredibly nervous before the competition,” says Tsholofelo, who was unsure if she would make it through the first round. “What was even worse is that I finished cooking my dish last because I had to make a lot of components for my Taco which took a lot more time than I had practised for so It made me feel less confident.”

The chef was surprised when her name was announced as one of the chefs who made it through to the second round, but she had to get ready quickly. “I was catapulted into coming up with a dish using the mystery basket ingredients, but I had help  – my former lecturer and boss Chef Carien van Tonder assisted me as well as my good friend and colleague Chef Nancy Kinyua. They supported me throughout the competition and I am so appreciative.”

When asked what her highlight of the day was, Tsholofelo says that “Being told I had won was obviously the biggest highlight. I’ll never forget it. I was excited, emotional, and tired, all wrapped into one. It was all worth it in the end and I would do it all over again!”