Chef Zondi @ Metropolis on Park

Aug 2021 | Barrow Conversations

From making mud cakes with his mother’s tupperware to baking custom cakes and pastries for some of the country’s most influential names, Chef Simphiwe Zondi has come a long way. His story is one of determination and passion, and much like Barrow he has kept family at the heart of everything. We sat down with Simphiwe to hear his story, how his time at Barrow played a role in his business and where he is now – owner and cake artist at Chef Zondi & Co.
 
Simphiwe grew up in a small township in KwaZulu-Natal with his family and his love for baking began as a child while making mud cakes outside, with his mother’s tupperware. When he moved to Johannesburg as a child, he used to help his mom in the kitchen with all the cooking and baking. For Simphiwe, his journey to becoming a professional pastry chef has always focused on his family. It was during this period of his life, in the kitchen with his mother, when he realised that baking was what he really loved.

As most young adults know, sometimes figuring out what you love to do takes some trial and error and Chef Zondi’s story is no different. Although he loved baking as a child he also wanted to be in the entertainment industry and it was only really when he took consumer studies in high school that he figured out that this was what he wanted to focus on. This decision allowed him to develop the skill as a baker. Following this passion, he went on to study at Capsicum and “found [his] love for cake art” there. After finishing his diploma and graduating, however, Simphiwe struggled to find the right place for him to thrive.

And that’s when he found Barrow.

Simphiwe began working as a receptionist at Barrow, and then worked under Paul Barrow. Simphiwe attributed a lot of his recent success as a businessman to his work with Barrow, saying that Paul “taught [him] a lot about business and communication.” As a successful entrepreneur with his own cake art and pastry business now, Simphiwe explained to us that his time at Barrow “prepared [him] in a way that [he] wasn’t even aware of at the time.” Sometimes taking the time to learn business and communication skills can set you up for success in a way that you would never have otherwise realised. This is certainly true for Chef Zondi and his experience with Barrow.

“Little did I know that I would also one day own my own place and have to run it myself. Although they’re completely different fields – property and cake art, at the end of the day I’m still running a business. To this day, I still use a lot of their methods and their teachings in running my own business.”

One of the things that was most impactful for Simphiwe was Barrow’s focus on family. He drew the parallel to his own business, Chef Zondi & Co., explaining that Barrow’s family owned business taught him many skills around communicating, setting goals and working together. Simphiwe also works closely with his family, saying it’s inspiring because “We all have a common goal, a common vision”. Furthermore, just as Barrow started their business 120 years ago and laid the foundations for future generations, Simphiwe and his family are now laying the foundation for the next generation of their family. Knowing that the work and investment that he’s pouring into the business today will impact his family for generations to come is hugely motivating for Simphiwe. Simphiwe has moved away from Barrow in a personal capacity, but has set up his business, Chef Zondi & Co., at Barrow’s Metropolis on Park. Chef Zondi runs the patisserie and cafe at Metropolis, as well as his cake art business.

“Barrow has really played a huge role in helping to develop this family business of mine, now, without them really even knowing. I doubt they know!”

Since taking the leap from Barrow and starting his own business, Simphiwe has been able to make cakes for some of South Africa’s most recognised people, including the Furgerson family and former Miss SA, Basetsana Kumalo. For Simphiwe these were people he grew up in awe of, so it has been a real highlight for him to be able to make cakes for them.

As well as this he mentions that his mom has been his main source of inspiration over the course of his career. He discovered his dream in her kitchen and he’s so proud that he can work now at Chef Zondi and Co. with his mom.
For custom cake orders and beautiful pastries and desserts, go to https://www.chefzondi.co.za or visit Metropolis on Park today! You can also follow Metropolis on Park and @chefzondiofficial on social media to stay up to date!

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