Travel is as much about a destination as it is the people you meet. Everyone has a story to tell and taking the time to personally engage with these often-entertaining, often-humbling characters will only enrich the travel experience.
This certainly rang true during a recent stay at &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp in South Africa’s prestigious Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Not only did the late hunter-turned-conservationist, Harry Kirkman, leave an indelible mark on the (Sabi) sands of time, but after spending time getting to know executive chef Lulama Magatya, I discovered that he, too, is leaving his own enduring mark in the sand.
It all starts at home
Cape Town-born Lulama Magatya was raised and inspired by his grandmother. “I was very close with her,” he smiles. “I would say I was her favourite, because wherever she was, I was right there, asking questions.”
Growing up in the Magatya household, Lulama recalls festive family gatherings and how he would help his grandmother with the cooking and baking. Their quality time in the kitchen instilled in Lulama an unwavering passion for food, yet he still believed, back then, that he would pursue a career as an auditor. Thankfully his love of numbers was far outweighed by his obvious love of cooking.
An early mentor
Cooking was put on the backburner, so to speak, as Lulama set his sights on hotel management. Upon completing his training, he applied to work on the casino floor of a renowned hotel, but the interviewer suggested he should consider becoming a chef.
Taking this advice to heart, Lulama took on his first role in the professional kitchen in 2000 as a junior sous chef under the guidance and mentorship of an executive chef that took Lulama under his wing. “One thing he always told me was to just go for it,” Lulama recalls. “He said that if an opportunity ever presented itself or a door opened for me, that I shouldn’t hold myself back.”