A Long, Challenging and Winding Road: An interview with Bernadette Warambwa

A Long, Challenging and Winding Road: An interview with Bernadette Warambwa

Bernadette Warambwa is a Zimbabwean award-winning chef and author. She authored a cookbook back in 2008 titled “Nutrition from Our Environment” which apart from its many innovative recipes, has a detailed guide on nutrition and the food groups. The cook book mainly focuses on Zimbabwean cuisine while also adding modern twists. Warambwa also features on a weekly cooking show on radio on which she shares her years of culinary skill. She generously shares cooking tips and hacks, shares recipes and breaks down the nutritional value of each meal. When I first her, she then mentioned that she had recently put together a poetry collection titled, “Children’s Poems and Activities”. Fascinated by this woman, I roped her in on a conversation about her literary journey.

*KM – Kudzai Mhangwa, BW – Bernadette Warambwa

KM: Who is Mai Warambwa? Please introduce us to the person behind the books.

BW: She is that lady who when she sets her mind on something, she sticks to it; she doesn’t look back. She perseveres until she achieves her goal. She is passionate about cooking. She is very creative, curious and wants to learn more about the culinary world.

KM: When did you first get the inspiration to write books?

BW: It was in the late 1990s. I was inspired by the writings of our late popular Zimbabwean Shona novelist Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa. His novels like “Dzasukwa mwana asina hembe” and a lot more. My writing was erratic; one day I would wake up very charged and the next day the inspiration would be gone. I suppose I lacked patience and perseverance. I believe it was lack of maturity. The desire to write died a natural death and I could not even trace the manuscripts.

I was also inspired by my husband who is passionate about poetry writing. I would always watch him drown his thoughts in poetry writing. I started writing poetry too. This is how my children’s poetry manuscript was birthed. I tried to publish it but it was very difficult at that time. I abandoned the idea.

KM: Has the passion for writing always been there?

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BW: As I have stated above, the passion surfaced in the late 1990s. However, in 2003 my passion for cooking got me rooted in writing. I decided to document my recipes and since then I have never stopped. My 275-page cookbook “Nutrition from Our Environment” is the proud product. I never looked back. I had all the patience. It was tough though, because I had to juggle writing with family and work. As a teacher, one has to work after hours; marking and preparing for coming lessons. I did the cooking of the recipes and writing during weekends. If a brain wave struck me while driving, I would stop and jot it down before it vanished into thin air. This explains how much passion I developed for writing.

KM: You took time to author a cookbook that is filled with so many different recipes and meal ideas. How did that process go?

BW: It was a long journey with lots of challenges. To cut the story short, I managed to put together the 275-page cookbook in 5 years. I went to China to have it printed where costs were more affordable. Passion, faith, the Lord’s Grace; ingredients in dream realisation.

KM: What has been your greatest achievement as a chef and author?

BW: I have achieved quite a lot through this cooking and writing journey. Apart from the cookbook and the Poetry book, I also authored 10 French booklets for Beginners; 5 all French and 5 with English sub-titles. I realised as one grows in age, the brains follow suit so the reason for writing the French books was to excite my wits.

In 2010, I received an award in a cookery competition in Botswana where I was rewarded with a P10,000 cheque. This also gave me an opportunity to appear in a local newspaper called ‘The Voice’. I also appeared in an agri-news farmers’ monthly magazine because the Botswana Agriculture Marketing Board was one of the cookery competition sponsors. In 2011 I was one of the panelists in a television talk show called ‘Talk Back’. It was a discussion on the benefits of indigenous food on health.

In 2017 I was invited to present food preparation at Savanna Natural Foods Expo in Harare. In 2021, I scooped first prize in a traditional cooking competition in Harare, Zimbabwe at provincial level. In June 2023 I got a slot as one of the guest speakers on Radio Kitchen on Capitalk FM in Harare (where we got connected). In November 2023, I was one of the semi-finalists in ‘Chew On’ Season 3 cookery competition organised by ZTN and DSTV which gave me an opportunity to rub shoulders with seasoned chefs and culinary students. In December 2023 I was invited to write an article titled ‘How to Maintain Health’ by Zimpapers in their Christmas edition. The article would appear in the prestigious, ‘The Galaxy Magazine’.

KM: You have also ventured into children’s literature. Speak to us a bit about your latest book, ‘Children’s Poems and Activities’

BW: Fortunately, unlike the lost Shona novel manuscript, the children’s poem manuscript was still hibernating in my archives. The toxic atmosphere created by the COVID-19 period, the anxiety, the uncertainty and fear of death jogged me into writing my latest book ‘Children’s Poems and Activities’. It took me four years to weave the book together.

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KM: It is truly inspiring to see you continue to pursue your passion. I’m going to be a little nosy and ask what other things you’d like to achieve in your lifetime?

BW: If the Almighty opens a door for me, my dream is to start my own kitchen, or a TV cookery show so that I could showcase my creative cooking talent. I am not yet done with authoring; the journey is still on.

KM: Thank you for taking the time to speak to us. Any final words for our readers?

BW: To our valued readers, especially the young generation; never ever give up! Pursue your dreams to the very end. Keep on keeping on. Life is a long rough journey. If you open your horizon to learning new things, the sky is the limit. Philippians 1:6-7 says; “He who began a good work in you, will carry it to completion.”

Warambwa’s books are currently available in paperback and are available from the author herself who is based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Kudzai Mhangwa

Kudzai Mhangwa is a writer, actor and musician. He writes poetry, plays, essays and short stories. His work has been featured on House of Mutapa, Atrebla Magazine, Ka'edi Africa, Poetry Soup and elsewhere.

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