A Chef Is Born

By Johnny Els
Photography by Marla Camp 

My adventures seem to always start in the kitchen. I started being interested in cooking and baking by watching my mother in the kitchen, because she is a wonderful cook and loves to bake all kinds of traditional South African dishes. Our family is originally from South Africa. When I was about three years old, I started to make sugar cookies. I had so much fun making them and giving them to my friends and family. I was amazed and proud when I saw how much they all loved them and asked for more!

Because of this, when I was about eight years old, I started making food from scratch. I continue to do a lot of experiments with food and baking just for fun—to see what will happen. Most recipes work well, but some don’t. Luckily my little brother will eat almost anything I make. He is a good tester. I love to cook real food, like fresh green beans with onions and bacon, and experiment a lot with mixing sauces and trying them with all different kinds of desserts—especially South African crepes. I love to bake bread with my mother and enjoy making breakfast for my family with bacon, eggs with cheese, pancake choc-chip muffins and hot tea.

Now I am 13 and can make my own recipes. One of the best experiments I’ve done was my own “mini choc-chip pancake syrup loaves.” They were a hit and very unusual—pretty good, too.

For my parents’ wedding anniversary, I prepared a whole home-cooked meal, with a menu and a variety of drinks and desserts to choose from. They loved it and now I am feeling more and more comfortable in the kitchen. The cleaning up part is not my favorite.

Cooking is easier than one might think. If you can read, you can cook. To me, cooking is like science…there is always something new to be discovered.