Affectionately known as the ‘Celebrity chef’ and with culinary skills that could give Marco Pierre White and Jamie Oliver a run for their money, UK based ‘cordon bleu chef’, Gineas Mupfayi, who started cooking at the age of 14 has been wowing Zimbabwean events for over a decade. Zim Abroad caught up with the Yours & Mine Catering owner and this is what he had to say.
ZA: Tell us a bit about yourself?
GM: I grew up in Glen Norah and I am the only boy. I have three sisters. I am married to my childhood sweetheart, Lydia Mupfayi. We have been married for 25 years and have three wonderful kids, Musawenkosi 21, Zonelle 17 and Tineyi who is 15. Went to Zuvarabuda & Shiriyedenga Primary School. I also attended Glen Norah High 2 and Nhowe Mission.
ZA: There are several chefs in your family. Tell us a bit more about that?
GM: I come from a long line of chefs. My late father was executive chef at several hotels, including Crown Plaza, formerly known as the Monomotapa Hotel, Harare Sheraton Hotel and at Victoria Falls Safari lodge. My grandfather was a missionary cook and all my cousins were executive chefs at Elephant Hills, Holiday Inn, Bumi Hills, to name a few.I started cooking when I was about 14. My dad used to take me to a number of his functions, though my mother taught me how to cook.
ZA: What did you do after you finished high school?
When I finished high school I worked at the Sheraton as a temp chef. The perks of having a dad who was in the industry. One of my fondest memories was cooking for Princess Diana when she visited Zimbabwe in 1993. I have also had the privilege of cooking for several African leaders.
ZA: Your CV is quite extensive. You have won numerous awards and worked for a number of hotels. What have those experiences taught you?
GM: Yes l have won several medals, these include gold for the Junior Chefs Association in 1993, Silver for the Southern African Junior Chefs Association in 1994 and gold for the Zimbabwe Chefs Association in 1995. In 1997, l won silver for the Zimbabwe Chefs Association and a Bronze medal in 1998. While the experience and recognition has been fundamental to my growth,one key lesson l have learnt is staying in my lane and focusing on achieving my goals.
ZA: What were some of the challenges you faced moving to the UK and what kept you going?
GM: Moving to the UK was a completely different ball game professionally. I was used to the Zimbabwean system, especially when it came to delegating jobs in the kitchen. I think the other thing that took getting used to, was some of the accents and l found myself making a lot of mistakes at the start because of it. However, despite those bumps in the road, being passionate and dedicated to what l do is what kept me going.
ZA: Tell us a bit more about Yours and Mine Catering?
GM: Yours & Mine Catering is owned by my wife and l. We’re are based in Essex and cater for weddings, birthdays and general events. We have established a fantastic and dynamic team, which makes doing what we do worth it.
ZA: What pushed you to pursue your own thing?
GM: Lydia pushed me to do my own thing. She always wanted us to own a restaurant. I’m grateful to her because she has always believed in my talent.
ZA: What keeps you a step ahead of the game in an industry that demands so much?
GM:I think my skill keeps me a step ahead. I am very creative and competitive. My experience and the exposure l have had in the industry also helps me massively.l enjoy creating and recreating dishes and, putting my own twist. I think challenging yourself is important to stay ahead.
ZA: Was there anything else you wanted to pursue other than being a chef and if so, what?
When I was a kid I wanted to be a footballer and l think the passion or drive for it was mainly because l grew up in a community with Caps United stars such as Basil Chisopo, Tobias Sibanda, George Nechironga, Oscar Motsi, Kudzi Taruvinga, Shackyman Tauro. Though when I met Lydia, it suddenly became secondary – she became my distraction, in a good way of course. The talent is still there but I’d choose being a chef any day.
ZA: What advice would you give to the next generation of chefs wanting to make it big?
GM: My advice to chefs in the making, is that being a chef is all about passion , dedication and commitment. More importantly, in order to be a great chef, creativity, confidence and exposure are required. Listen, learn and take constructive criticism – that’s what will help you grow.
ZA:Do you have any investments in Zimbabwe and what are your long-term plans for them?
GM: Yes, l am currently working on setting something up in Victoria Falls. It’s a work in progress and l will reveal more once everything is in place.
ZA:What is your message to Zimbabweans in the diaspora who are looking to invest in Zimbabwe?
GM: My message to Zimbabweans wanting to invest is simply this, know what you want to invest in and remain focused on what it is you are wanting to achieve.
ZA: How do you balance your work and family life and what are some of the things you enjoy doing outside of work?
GM: I work Monday-Friday at a 5 star hotel and spend majority of my weekends with my family,even when lm catering an event because we work together and there’s never a dull moment.
On most occasions, we travel to Preston to visit my eldest,who is now at university. I enjoy watching football with my mates. I am an avid Manchester United fan and have season tickets. I also enjoy cooking for my family.
ZA: You won the Zimbabwe Achievers Award for male personality of the year. What did winning this award mean to you?
GM: Winning male personality of the year meant a lot to me. It made me realise that my work is appreciated and that my fellow Zimbabweans value what l do. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for me, may God bless them.