There's always a woman that relentlessly serves her community without expecting anything in return. SA's Kitchen Queens is a reality show that gives six women from all over South Africa a chance to share their catering passion.
These women - who were nominated by their communities - share their passion for food, demonstrate their cooking skills and journey to change their communities.
The 11-part series follows the six women doing their part to empower themselves and their communities. Each week they face off and tackle a challenge for an ultimate grand prize, including a chance to win a fully equipped mobile catering kitchen.
Each challenge focuses on key issues in their communities and equips the women with skills such as negotiating, budgeting and cooking.
The Kitchen Queens are assisted by celebrity mentors whose role is to brief them about the task and offer them advice on how to handle the different challenges. Each community is represented by a celebrity mentor who hails from that community.
Ukhozi FM DJ Dudu Khoza, singer Winnie Khumalo, former boxer Vuyani "The Beast" Bungu, former footballer Pollen Ndlanya, businessman Barney Lehari and lawyer businessman Thulani Kgomo use their skill and life experience to ensure contestants are not fazed by the heat in the kitchen.
Each challenge has a monetary value. On her journey the Queen will learn via her mentor - among other skills - basic management techniques and making wise business decisions that will help her run her mobile kitchen successfully.
SA's Kitchen Queens is a show format that uplifts the community by showcasing the crucial role women play in society. As the saying goes: "When you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
Hazel Khumalo from Soweto won the 2014 title of SA Kitchen Queen and a fully equipped state-of the art mobile kitchen.
The Kitchen Queens
Hazel Thandiwe Khumalo
Mentor: Winnie Khumalo
Gauteng contestant Hazel Thandiwe Khumalo is a bubbly, outspoken 36-year-old mother of three who lives in Mapehla in Soweto. Her love for cooking started at an early age and over the years she has worked in various restaurants.
At one point she operated her own catering business, which was unsuccessful because the location was not viable.
Hazel is currently a caregiver at the Tsogang Sechaba Community Centre which feeds at least 1,000 children monthly. The government subsidises only 300 of these children, leaving a funding shortfall for 700 kids.
Hazel helps to cook for the children who are not supported by government. Her community involvement however does not stop there. She also teaches maths and helps the children with their homework.
Hazel is ecstatic about being a contestant on the show as she stands a chance of achieving her dream of owning her own catering business. "This is an opportunity that I will grab with both hands as I can be my own boss one day and help create employment in the community."
Over the course of the series Hazel hopes the skills she will acquire will ensure that her dream will come true.
Mentor: Vuyani "The Beast" Bungu
Eastern Cape's 39-year-old, Aurriender Belewa is fiercely proud that she was born and educated in Mdantsane where she still lives.
As a young woman she ventured away from home, spreading her wings as she worked different jobs around the country as well as spending a year in London. Missing home, Aurriender moved back to Mdanstane and settled in the place of her birth where her daughter Rufaro was born in 1999.
Today she owns Thaba Aurrie Trading Enterprises, a company that supports an NGO that assists those affected by HIV and Aids in her community. As someone living with HIV, this is a cause close to her heart.
Aurriender's dream is to be in a position to ensure that anyone living with Aids in her community was provided with three meals a day, as nutrition is vital for them.
Aurriender is best known for her laugh and her energy – which uplifts all those around her. She is serving her community and effecting change through her love of cooking, and this nomination will put her one step closer to achieving her dreams.
"I am very excited to be a contestant on the show as it will give me exposure to the world. More importantly, it will hone my skills as an entrepreneur, allowing me to have a greater impact on the lives of those around me," she says.
Mentor: Dudu Khoza
A devoted mother of two boys, KwaZulu-Natal's contestant Zama Thethele is a police woman who was born and lives in Kwa Mhashu. Apart from her role as a law enforcement agent, the 42-year-old finds time to express her passion for cooking and baking through her catering and décor company in her free time.
She often caters, free of charge, at functions and funerals to help members in her community.
Zama says despite high unemployment and poverty, the vibe in the community is one of hope. Hers is a community, she says, that genuinely pulls together and helps its members.
Raised in Umkhabathini, Zama attended Umsinga High School. Post matric, she obtained a Diploma in Marketing from the Durban University of Technology and also attained a certificate in Public Relations. Thereafter she joined the South African Police Force where she is currently employed.
Zama is no stranger to hard work. In addition to being a police woman and running a small business, she empowers women and youth in her community through motivational speaking engagements and teaches Sunday school at her church. She also organises soup kitchens for the poor.
Through her participation in SA's Kitchen Queens, Zama hopes to realise her dream of owning an all-in-one business where she can run a bridal boutique, as well as her catering and décor company, while extending her service in the community.
"I am thrilled and very excited about the show and at the prospect of helping the community further. I am also nervous about the show, as being a perfectionist I want to make sure that everything I do is perfect."
Zama says if she had limitless resources she would build more classrooms for the schools, upgrade their kitchens and build free space for pensioners. She would also create a centre that helps develop entrepreneurs.
Mentor: Barney Lehari
Soshanguve resident, 39-year-old, Windsor Ramokolo is known for her drive, intelligence and discipline – traits that have served her well as a single mom working full-time, running a charity and raising two children.
Windsor brings real change to her community in a quiet and unassuming way. In 2003 Windsor and her mother founded the Tumelo Home and Hospice. Despite having a full-time position at the SA Mint as a sales consultant, Windsor still finds time every weekend to work at the hospice.
Windsor assists with the administrative work and indulges her passion for cooking by preparing meals for patients over the weekends. Her desire to help others has been shared with her son, who organised a school project where his fellow learners did community service at the Tumelo Home and Hospice.
"I am extremely privileged and proud to have been selected for SA's Kitchen Queens," says Windsor.
Windsor feels there is a dire need in her community for information and education on health, and is committed to teach her community about such issues especially HIV and Aids. She is a firm believer in a healthy lifestyle and spends much of her time teaching others how to improve their health through eating correctly and exercise.
Interestingly, Windsor has a tertiary qualification in fashion design. Again, she has shared her knowledge with the community by starting an arts and crafts training programme for young people.
Mentor: Pollen Ndlanya
Twenty-seven year old Daveyton resident Nokuthula Khumalo is one of SA's Kitchen Queens' youngest contestants. Nokuthula was nominated for her dedication to the Senzokuhle Aftercare Centre based at the Dumihlezi Primary School, where she is a volunteer.
Nokuthula gives of her time selflessly, fuelled by her genuine love and concern for the community. She takes care of the children through her cooking and helping with their homework.
She loves living in Daveyton, where she was born. She describes it as a very vibrant, old township and, after moving to Swaziland at the age of six, was delighted to return eight years later.
On her nomination, Nokuthula said she was excited and had no doubt she would do well. "One day I want to start my own catering company, and I hope that SA's Kitchen Queens will help me reach that dream."
Nokuthula has a big heart: if she were armed with all the resources she in the world, she would build a huge home for all the homeless children and those less fortunate than herself.
She feels that this would go a long way in preventing crime and drug abuse. Another one of Nokuthula's talents is her great singing voice.
Mentor: Thulani Kgomo
Mpumalanga contestant, is 56-year-old Manini Montato – a strong and quiet woman, who is known for her organisational skills. The mother of three girls moved to Secunda as a young wife and has lived there happily ever since.
She loves living in Embalenhle as she feels it is a melting pot of South African cultures and languages. However, she is deeply concerned about the level of youth unemployment and the resulting crime.
Manini teaches unemployed women in her community skills such as sewing clothes and curtains as well as cooking and baking. Manini worked for Sasol in various capacities until she opened her own catering company. She is a truly generous soul, and often provides free catering services to members of her congregation.
She is happy to be participating in SA's Kitchen Queens. "I feel this will give me a chance to initiate some meaningful change in my community."