When Lolandi ‘Lientjie’ Isaks was a little girl, she had a big dream; one day she would be a chef and through her cooking, she would see the world. But as she grew up, her dreams faded into impossibility. Being the eldest child, she needed to take care of her younger siblings and after Grade 10, there was no money for Lientjie to continue her education - instead she had to work to help support her family. From a very young age, Lientjie loved to cook so one of her first jobs was as a cook in the kitchens of the local copper mine. Then she took up an opportunity to train as a chef at the 4-star luxury !Xaus Lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape province - in the Kalahari desert where Oryx Desert Salt is harvested. There, she learned new ways to cook, experimenting with spices and new flavours in the kitchen creating her own recipes and today, Lientjie is one of 4 chefs at the luxurious lodge.
Why are we telling you about Lientjie?
Because we love stories of synchronicity and magic.
Carrots can make you fly!
Former Northampton College catering lecturer Richard Curtis happened to be a guest at !Xaus lodge recently and was delighted with his dinner. He was particularly charmed by a special dish of caramelised carrots and asked to see the chef who happened to be Lientjie that evening. They struck up a conversation about the differences in flavours and cooking traditions between the UK and South Africa and the next thing Lientjie knew, she was being invited to Rugby, Northampton, for a month to experience and learn about British cuisine, as well as share her own South African experience and recipes. This was an invitation that she couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams, yet it was exactly her childhood dream coming true! All her expenses in the UK would be covered, she only needed to come up with her airfare. So with contributions from the TFPD foundation and the percentage from sales which Oryx Desert Salt donates on a monthly basis, Lientjie has been able to fund her flight, visa and other expenses and she’s all set to go!
So What Happens Next?
Oryx Desert Salt managed to meet up with her during her quick visit to Cape Town where she needs to arrange her visa and other travel documents. Smiling happily, Lientjie tells us how she’s determined to make a huge success of this opportunity. ‘I want to make !Xaus Lodge proud of me!’ she declares. During her 4 weeks stay, she’ll be working in 5 different establishments:
Northampton College, Northampton: where they have two restaurants, a bakery, pastry kitchen and a larder (for preparation of fish, meat, and cold products).
Northampton Saints Rugby team: where Lientjie will work with the Head Chef of the Northampton Saints Rugby Team learning about healthy eating cooking methods, particularly for people engaged in sporting activities.
The Red Lion, East Haddon: which is a pub in Northamptonshire noted for the quality of its food.
Mercedes at Pitsford in Northamptonshire: at this facility, they cater for the engineers of the Formula 1 cars. The standard of food is excellent. Their chef has won Northamptonshire's Chef of the Year twice, and their pastry chef is outstanding too.
Fawsley Hall Hotel, Northamptonshire: this is an excellent hotel with a good reputation. The Head Chef is this year's Northamptonshire Chef of the year.
Sharing Food Traditions
When we ask Lientjie what South African recipes she’s planning to share with her UK colleagues she smiles and says ‘Well, the carrot recipe of course, a lamb shank we cook in a potjie and also a special apple tart we make.’ She gives a big laugh. ‘I might also share my Butternut Chicken Curry.’ She laughs again, saying the butternut curry recipe came about as an accident. She’d been experimenting with new recipes and misread the instructions for Butter Chicken Curry. ‘When I saw the word ‘butter’ I just immediately thought ‘butternut’ but it turned out so well everyone said the butternut must stay in!’
‘So how do you make those special carrots that got you invited to the UK, Lientjie?’
Lientjies Caramelised Carrots Recipe
‘Well, first you scrub the carrots clean and then using a potato peeler, peel off long strips the whole length of the carrot. Be sure to keep the carrot strips in ice-cold water to keep them crisp. Heat up some butter, sprinkle in about a teaspoon of aniseed and fry that gently for a while. Add in a teaspoon or so of sugar and a pinch of Oryx Desert Salt. Now add in the carrot strips and let them cook for 10 or so minutes until they’re just tender – don’t over-cook them! By then, the sugar will have caramelised making the curled up carrots all delicious! If you don’t want to use sugar, honey works just as well.’
OK, we’re definitely going to be trying that out. Who knows the places it’ll take us!
Bringing It Back Home
Ironically, all of Lientjie’s younger siblings went on to pass matric thanks to her hard work and care for them. ‘But I’m the one going on this wonderful trip overseas!’ she says with a grin. ‘And I want to share everything I’ve learned overseas with the people back home.’
We’re celebrating Women’s Month and we’re so happy to have contributed in a small way to the future success of this determined young woman! Well done Lientjie. We’ll be following your trip with great interest. Fly well and keep us posted!
Sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date with our products, latest news and promotions.