… the rise and rise of this young pâtissier

Tichaona Phillimon Mugwambanini is passionate about cakes and pastries.

The 30-year-old from Diepsloot – who is now a pastry chef at one of the city’s most popular Italian eateries Dolci Cafe – says that while growing up as a child in Zimbabwe he was fascinated by baking and the magical allure of cakes. 

When he made the move from Chinhoyi to Johannesburg, he started working in the scullery at a Fourways hotel. It was the start of his culinary journey which has seen him graduate with a diploma in patisserie.

Tell us how you progressed up the kitchen ladder? 

After showing enthusiasm about food and patisserie, I was promoted to the position of assistant baker by Chef Kurt Pieterson in late 2010 at a Parkhurst restaurant. I worked for him for three years until he left for overseas. I had grown in skill and confidence so that by the time he left, I was an established baker. I was delighted to join Dolci Café 18 months ago. Even though Dolci is essentially an Italian restaurant, Chef Jackie Righi-Boyd studied patisserie and then worked in a pastry shop in Italy for four months and is known for her pastries and speciality cakes. I was delighted to join the team. While at Dolci I also studied for my diploma in patisserie at HTA and graduated earlier this year. 

Have you always loved baking?

To be a baker was always my childhood ambition. I was fascinated by the different shapes and sizes of cakes and always wondered how they were made. Luckily my childhood fantasies became a reality.

Tell us a bit about your job at Dolci and what you’ve learnt.

My day starts at 06.30 when I start preparing a range of pastries for the display fridge and the desserts on the menu. If there are orders for cakes, I may work on that as well. The Dolci experience has added to my repertoire – I now know something about Italian cuisine while Chef Jackie has taught me new cake recipes and decorations.

What are you most proud of on the menu?

The Dolce Della Nonna – which is Chef Jackie’s grandmother’s famous dessert that is comprised of layers of zabaglioni, cream, amaretti biscuits, pecan nuts and dark chocolate. I also love the cheesecake and cream horns.

Would you recommend cheffing as a career?

People have to eat every day so you’ll always get a job! Quality counts and if you are a good chef, you will be sought-after.

What are you three favourites, desserts/pastries/cakes:My three favourite desserts are mango sorbet, Dolci Della Nonna and Amarula crème brulee; my best three pastries include cream horns, pecan pie and macarons; and for cakes it has to be spiced carrot cake, baked cheesecake and chocolate cake.

Leave a Reply