We chat to SA Bake Off's delicious new judge Zola Nene

2017-09-27 07:00
Zola Nene

Cape Town – In less than a month amateur bakers from across the country will battle it out in the tent for the ultimate title of South Africa’s best amateur baker.

Joining chef Tjaart Walraven on the judging panel in the third season of the Rapid Blue produced show is Expresso chef Zola Nene.

Channel24 caught up with Zola to chat about her new adventure.


The young and vibrant Durbanite started out in the industry by peeling carrots and potatoes in th UK.

"My dad shipped me off to the UK and I ended up finding a job in a brasserie in a town called Knutsford in Cheshire.

"I started off peeling carrots and potatoes. The chef saw that I was always really keen and watching and looking and learning and eventually I worked my way up."

From working in the vegetable section to becoming head pastry chef set Nene on a path of success as she returned home to study, specialising in food media.

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Nene admits she has always been a Bake Off fan and couldn’t contain her excitement when she was offered the opportunity.

“I am obsessed with Bake Off, if I miss an episode my life is not complete, so when the opportunity came I didn’t hesitate. I was like, ‘Yes! When? Where do I start?’

“I love the Bake Off franchise and to be part of it is just such an honour and it’s a great next step in my career.”

Joining fellow judge, Tjaart, Nene plans on bringing “an element of lightness and fun” to the table while still keeping within the seriousness of the competition as well.

“Yes it is a competition and there is an element of seriousness - the competitors take it very seriously and as do I as a judge - but it’s nice to have an element of fun and encourage people to bring out their personalities a little bit more.”


Nene’s main piece of advice for the 12 contestants joining the show is to just remain original and, of course, to bring all the flavour.

“The way to stand out, if I were a contestant, is to bring originality. Showing people something they haven’t seen before and adding in a piece of yourself - you can’t help but admire someone who does that.

“And flavour trumps everything. Even though it may look really beautiful, and yes that counts for a lot, if the flavour isn’t on point then you’ve let yourself down.”


Zola joins chef Tjaart – who has experience from judging the previous two seasons – on the judging panel and has nothing but praise for her judging partner.

On her judging style Zola said she will definitely be using pointers that Tjaart has given her, but also plans to give critique but not bring anyone down.

“Tjaart has given me a lot of pointers because he has done this many times before so he’s given me advice on what to expect and what to look for, so I think I’m going to follow his instruction to a certain degree but if I disagree then I disagree. I’m a tough cookie, I speak my mind when I need to but I like to be fair as well.

“I’m not here to put anyone down, I’m here for constructive criticism in the hopes that people can actually grow from what I tell them. I’m here to help the bakers become better bakers.”


And just because, Zola revealed the three most important utensils she thinks every kitchen should have.

“A really good chef’s knife, a thick bottomed pan or reliable pot/saucepan and of course if you’re baking you need a reliable oven.”

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Watch The Great South African Bake Off weekly from Tuesday, 17 October on BBC Lifestyle (DStv 174) at 20:00.

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