This is HER Story. Making Herstory
Passionate ,influential, and largely self taught, our woman making herstory has become a household name in the Zimbabwe culinary circles who, at only 27, is showing no signs of letting up. If the food pictures that are a constant feature on her timelines aren’t enough to leave you hungry, and adequately motivated to go out and chase your own dreams then we’re pretty sure her impressive resume will. Trained and qualified as a housekeeper, with a Graduate Diploma in Business Management and Administration, this impressive Diva, in between hosting private house call and open call cooking classes, serving up daily meal packages to corporate and private clients, also trains household employees and consults for set up and already running hospitality establishments. All this whilst actively championing and adding her powerful voice to the Vitiligo community, with a Vitiligo Support group platform she launched earlier this year to engage and raise awareness surrounding the chronic condition. Impressed? We know WE are. Divas, allow us to introduce chef extraordinaire, vitiligo champion, and all round phenomenal woman Rumbidzai Mugabe, popularly known as Chef Rumbie. We celebrate the woman she is and the power of her story on her remarkable journey to “Becoming Chef Rumbie”
THE EARLY YEARS
You as a young girl. How would the people close to you describe you then?
Baby Rumbie; that’s what my mom’s side of the family called me; it puts a smile on my face every time someone says that. My mom claims I was very independent, and she could always count on me to follow through to the T. I remember my first commuter experience she showed me the ropes once and that was it. I must’ve been in Grade 4 and we were staying in the Avenues, so I had to commute from Admiral Tait. I was also described as my dad’s favorite, look alike and well I guess not that naughty compared to my two older siblings. Always had short hair because my hair never really did grow quick enough for people not to make fun of me. Besides that, I feel I had a lovely childhood I am grateful for, a few heartbreaks here and there but I didn’t quite understand life until Form 2. Definition of heartbreak at this point is my cousin brother changing schools and leaving me behind, we were and are the same age, man was I touched. I don’t know if he remembers but we kind of had a fight before he transferred so I genuinely thought he left because of the tiff. As I grew older, I became mwana waMilli anobatsira mukitchen, I really don’t know why I was always in the kitchen. Maybe I was just a greedy kid to be honest. So people knew me as the little girl in the kitchen as well.
What were the BIG dreams then?
Wow. I wanted to be a lawyer! I thought “I can do this and be excellent at it no doubt, I am a hard nut to crack, it will be a piece of cake definitely; wear a wig, black gown and walk into court, tell on the other team, well I can do that, pssssht, who can’t be a snitch” (Laughs) I had no idea what it took to become a lawyer. I remember my two cousins and I would daydream about our weddings (Laughs). I was going to get married to an Italian man and have a destination wedding, ten bridesmaids because I didn’t want to leave any of my close cousins out. I even said I would charter a whole plane but hmm my family is too big for that. We were talking about destination weddings before they came to be, the mind of a Grade 5. My other dream was just keep going to Awana every Friday until I grew too old for it. Take my friends from primary school and keep them forever. It was very simple. Adulting isn’t so simple.
And what influenced those dreams?
Just wanting to experience more but not wanting to grow and forget everyone around me. Then that used to scare me a lot; not keeping the net tight enough.
What do you remember vividly from your childhood- what memories stand out?
Turkeys! Have you ever been chased by a turkey because you attempted to pull the feathers on its rear end? Our home in Mutorashanga had these kinds of experiences and my friendship with Julie was one of the best I had in childhood. My grade one teacher Mrs Chirara who was the most tender and sweetest teacher I had in my whole life. She had enough questions to answer and I feel sorry for her ears now. My cousin Shingirayi who until now is one of my closest, our friendship was a prize except when he was a problem when it came to eating porridge which would get Anyemba (in charge of keeping us in line) to smack the daylights out of us basically. On one occasion, Shingirayi dared me to eat the elephant plant. Haya, dont judge me please; I did it and I have never had so much milk and candy since that day. My tongue went from 0-100 in a few seconds, the heat and pain cannot be explained. My mom was there to make it all better, the candy blesser of the century.
How does a day in your life today look like?
I have a chat with God whilst in bed; it’s a habit I have now. This takes place around 5am or just before. It takes me about thirty minutes to get out of bed. If I have a backlog of contracts, recipes or of any typing I take about 30minutes to put time to drafting my comeback schedule; I tend to forget things. Around 6am I am out to take a morning walk to Greenwood Park; it’s refreshing and there isn’t too many people out so if I decide to start talking to myself very few people have evidence of it (chuckles) I get back and it’s maybe two hours later. If it’s a quiet day I will wash up and go back to sleep and type later depending on the mood, but if its errand scheduled I wash up, do paperwork and get to the errands. Errands consist of taking stock for clients, restocking clients’ homes as I am a household manager for some clients. Do lunch packs, labeling, listing and my day potentially ends around midnight because I hop from client to client within a day.
How did you get here? How did this dream and this life come to be?
That’s a whole article on its own.(Laughs) I went from doing teas for ladies meetings on a Wednesdays or Thursday (Ruwadzano) at Gogo Mazvi’s in my early high school years, to doing bring and share cinnamon cookies, to cooking at roora’s, training household employees. Thanks to mom I remember there was a bring and share at church for the early teens and I wanted to go but that particular time there was no money to buy chips and the stuff that was on the list, but there were ingredients to make cinnamom roll cookies. Mom suggested I bake something because it would’ve been impolite to go empty handed, and so she gave me the recipe. As a result I always try to take something with me when I am invited somewhere because its impolite to get to someone’s house even without helping hands. If I can’t bring something because I am broke, I will cook and leave my gift in everyone’s belly. I remember I made enough for everyone to get but they ran out so quickly I only managed to get a taste when I got back home. I haven’t made them since because, well, I doubt they will taste the same – I don’t want to mess up the memory. In 2008, we had a whole pasta maker and we used to make pasta from scratch. Life was a bit hard then, everyone who was in Zimbabwe at the time knows the situation. But my mom made sure we didn’t feel it. Man, my mother when I think about it; I know I get my hustling from her. Patience; I got this from my Dad I guess as well as working quietly, it helped me get here. One of my best friends, CJay challenged me to realise I wanted to cook. I appreciate and credit her for that question, ‘Are you sure you want to be a lawyer, take your time to decide’ It shook me. I have since put things on paper and man, the plans I have for me, I see them budding. It’s a beautiful sight for me, it’s a bush and I like that everyone else can only see the bush for now.
Why do you get up in the morning to do what you do? What drives you?
I love what I do and I know that’s what I am meant to do. Being able to provide for my family, they have been through it all. I am also very scared of poverty, man am I scared of not being able to be comfortable. So because it depresses me I would rather work than sit and wait. I also want to retire at 40 so I have exactly 13 years to go, to invest and make the impact I want for myself.
And what’s the most fulfilling part of doing it all for you?
I have made, met friends, family, mentors and mind changing individuals. They have all been honest, brutal, educational and to leave a person’s home ten times better than they thought you would be is a blessing for me. Whether its housekeeping, cooking, consulting, trials or training I am honored to be let into their homes.
What are some of the challenges or the things you want to change, or wish were different?
One of the challenges I faced and still face now is being taken advantage of in the workplace. It’s a tough thing being a woman, not all my clients have been great, in the kitchen sometimes the respect you get is different and your dignity is defiled. It’s heartbreaking because I know I work too hard to be treated that way or grabbed a certain way. I wish the honor was uniform with all clients. The constant cancelling contracts just disappoints me, but what’s not meant for you God will remove. If not HIM then who?
And what’s the next big thing for you? What new projects or prospects are cooking up in the pipeline?
Reopening the kitchen, cooking class studio, Youtube channel, a line of products, debt free, hello holidays, hello family time and everything else positive with a hint of trials.
How would those close to you describe you today?
Hmmm, people that really know me are those that call me Cheffy, Breadpot, SpinDoc, Sisterboss, Baby Rumbie and well, they call me a workaholic, and driven. They know me to be switched on for my dream and understand I am willing to do the most to get to where I want.
Work, Life, Play and Everything in between? How do you juggle & manage it all?
I don’t. I allow it to just synchronise naturally but when I am close to burning out I stop and rest. I have such a busy schedule it gets overwhelming sometimes but thank God I never overbook clients.
What’s the role family and those around you have played in your story?
Support, criticism ( I am not well travelled but a portion of my family is so they help me perfect my craft). Most of my investment has also come from my family as well as all the organic produce. I have always wanted to cater for the organic market and its easier when you know how, where and when your produce was.
How do you get away from all the noise when you need to?
I allow my battery to die, close and lock my door after a bath, play music and make sure I have food enough to get me through the day, and I shelter myself until I am ready to get back to the fast life. Then sometimes I go to the farm; the air is different there and subtle plus slower. I can be unreachable and not be moved at all.