What started out of necessity grew into a passion: This is Prince Mashele’s story. How a young man’s survival turned into a love affair with food. Prince heads up the kitchen at Thornybush’s River Lodge and his big smile, gentle nature and wonderful way with food has endeared him to all our guest, as well as the rest of his team.
Growing up in a small, rural village on the outskirts of the Greater Kruger National Park meant that life for Prince was simple. His days were spent going to school, playing with his two younger brothers and kicking around a soccer ball. But, one day his mother became sick and suddenly the onus of keeping the family fed fell upon him.
His mother showed him what to do, and taught him all the skills she had acquired over the years, from making tasty food to growing his own vegetables. These lessons struck a cord with the young man and so as soon as he had graduated from school he applied to the Singita Cooking School.
As one of over 200 applicants he was ecstatic to make it to the final top 10, this enabled him to be part of the extremely successful, up-liftment program that this culinary institute offers. It allowed him to refine his skills, be creative, get a better understanding of food and it’s creative partnerships, as well as gain the confidence to become the talented chef he is today.
When the 18-month apprenticeship was over Prince was invited to join the team at Singita Sabi Sands where he had the privilege of working with world-renowned chef Liam Tomlinson, as well as many other culinary masters. For five years he continued on this journey of inspiration and learning, until the time came when he felt ready to spread his wings and seek new adventures.
Joining the Thornybush team at our southern most lodge on the Thornybush Nature Reserve gave Prince the opportunity to improve his skills even further by allowing him to manage and run his own kitchen. Although this role is filled with many fabulous positives it also has its challenges and many learning curves.
In the two years that Prince has headed up the River Lodge kitchen he has pushed his own boundaries, he loves the homely environment of this 5-star lodge where he can interact personally with guests from all over the world, chatting to them and hearing all about their lives.
Prince believes that as a chef you can never stay in one place for too long, this is a profession of many journeys, each one bringing something new and exciting. His ultimate dream is to one day own his own restaurant in the nearby town of Hoedspruit, which he would run with his wife who is a pastry chef. Together they would create inspiring dishes and keep things fresh with seasonal, local produce.
But he also has another goal, he would like to give something back to his own community. By starting a cooking school in his village he would create the opportunity to uplift young people through food. Having experienced the extraordinary power of being given a chance and a purpose first-hand, he feels it is his duty to share this with underprivileged young community members, through teaching them the skills he has learnt along the way, and giving them hope for the future.
Prince harbours a secret passion for gardening, and is well known for his green fingers at home. He has grown a fabulous vegetable patch where he nurtures an assortment of vegetables from carrots to beetroot, spinach, onions and peppers. In fact before he started his culinary journey he always envisioned himself working for the department of agriculture.
There is no denying this young chef has many exciting aspirations, and with this much ambition and his contagiously positive outlook on life, we believe he can only succeed. Any challenges that occur he faces head on, making the most out of every opportunity.
There are many life lessons we could all learn from Prince, you just need to look at the team he works with to know what a great effect he has on those around him. It is an absolute privilege to have such a grounded, ambitious and generous individual as part of our team, not to mention being thrilled by the mouth-watering meals he comes up with.