From Housekeeper to Chef: The Inspiring Journey of Chef Calvonia

by jabulani safari blog

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We would like to introduce you to Chef Calvonia. Calvonia is not a new employee at Jabulani. In fact, she’s been working at the lodge for years – just not in the kitchen. Until recently, Calvonia had been working in the housekeeping department.

Calvonia’s story at our lodge began in 2011 when she joined the Jabulani team as a housekeeper, dedicated to ensuring the comfort and satisfaction of our guests. However, beneath her quiet exterior lay a simmering passion, a culinary flame waiting to be ignited. Unbeknownst to her colleagues, Calvonia harboured a secret ambition – to become a chef.

It was a chance encounter in a kitchen that unveiled Calvonia’s cooking talent. Before she started at Jabulani, Calvonia worked in the scullery of a restaurant. There, she was asked to help out in the kitchen and earned compliments from guests. “That’s where I discovered my talent,” Calvonia says.

In 2022, Calvonia decided to pursue her dream. In the hours after her housekeeping shifts, she devoted herself to the study of culinary arts, earning a chef certificate that would pave the way for her culinary journey. Balancing her work schedule with her studies was no easy feat, but Calvonia’s commitment and love of cooking propelled her forward. “It was hectic,” she admits, “but because of my passion, I reached my goal.”

With newfound confidence, Calvonia approached Executive Chef Alex and told him of her aspirations, a revelation that came as a surprise to him. She asked him if she could assist in the kitchen in the evenings after her housekeeping shifts. He agreed, provided that she didn’t overwork herself and only did so when she was certain she had enough energy.

Supported by Chef Alex and the lodge management, Calvonia started assisting in the Jabulani kitchen. With each passing day, her passion burned brighter.

Two months later, Chef Alex, Jabulani owner Adine, and General Manager Ruan recognised Calvonia’s dedication and talent, offering her a full-time position in the kitchen. And so, with her culinary dreams in sight, Calvonia embarked on a new chapter. Now, she is Chef Calvonia.

Today, as a fully-fledged member of our chef team, Chef Calvonia continues to embrace every challenge. She finds immense reward in the diversity and creativity of her craft. “It’s exciting to experience different dishes,” she shares. Her approach to her favourite ingredients mirrors the versatility of her culinary creations. “Everything is my favourite,” she enthuses, “because knowledge is power.”

In her time in the kitchen, Chef Calvonia has learned valuable lessons, including insights into kosher food preparation and the importance of teamwork. Looking ahead, Chef Calvonia says she aspires to “explore more with the love of cooking.”

For those pursuing their own culinary path, Chef Calvonia offers advice rooted in her own experiences. “If you have a love of food and cooking, culinary is the right place to be,” she advises. “Practical work leads to experience in the art of cooking and dishes.”

Every day, Chef Calvonia shows us the transformative power of passion and perseverance. Her culinary creations embody the essence of Jabulani, each dish a reflection of her journey. With unwavering dedication, she continues to inspire all who cross her path, reminding us that with determination and hard work, anything is possible.


  1. This is such a lovely story; thanks so much for sharing. So often, we don’t hear about the journeys people travel “behind the scenes”; it’s very much about the front-of-house staff, guides etc…

    So a massive thank you, Jabulani – from Marula Hill Travel xx

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