GABORONE, Botswana, April 2020/ — Freedom Nxele is Wilderness Safaris Botswana’s Premier Camp Food Experience Manager. Born in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, Freedom was sent to boarding school where he learned how to cook for himself.
As the oldest son in a traditional Zulu family comprising eight children, Freedom had a lot of responsibilities and expectations placed upon him. His father wanted him to study Engineering or Law, and was not pleased, nor did he approve, when he learned of Freedom’s chosen career, as Zulu tradition permits only women to cook. However, his father’s opinion soon changed after attending an open day at the International Chef School in the KZN Midlands.
Freedom enrolled at Fern Hill Training College where he became the top chef student for two consecutive years, completing a Diploma in Professional Cookery. His career in the hospitality industry began as a senior Chef de Partie at Fern Hill Hotel; Freedom later took on a sous chef position at Everglades Hotel where he was soon promoted to Head Chef. He also worked as a Kitchen Manager at a 5-star establishment in Zululand.
From here Freedom moved to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where he was appointed Head Chef at Syahya Hotels & Resorts, a Middle Eastern Hotel Group, running three 5-star Italian kitchens, and where he also learned to read and write in Arabic.
After completing a year’s contract he was offered an Executive Chef position at the AccorHotels’ 5-star Mercure Hotel Khamis Mushayt, where he created à la carte French fine dining menus, as well as catered for numerous VIP functions.
Freedom began his career with Wilderness Safaris in 2012 and now couldn’t think of being anywhere else but in the magical Okavango Delta, doing what he loves. One of his most interesting moments in the bush was when he was working at Vumbura Plains, and had to delay, and then change, the dinner menu because he had been charged by an elephant and spilled the entire meal. A classic wilderness story that his guests loved, and were happy to wait for Plan B.
Working for Wilderness Safaris is not simply a job for Freedom, as he considers the company family: “Wherever you go you feel loved; when our guests leave our camps they leave as friends, and return time and time again. I love the fact that the company conserves the places we operate in, while giving the best experience to our guests – and support us as family at the same time. It’s a balanced system”, says Freedom.
His philosophy on food is, “There’s more to cooking than just preparing a tasty and presentable dish. The food must be fresh, healthy and nutritious, which is why I’m studying food nutrition to further the knowledge I have”.