By Charndré Emma Kippie
Serial entrepreneur and cookbook author, Chantal Lascaris, has built a fine career thus far by simply indulging her passion for food, travel and healthy living. Chantal draws inspiration from her travels and home town – the beautiful Franschhoek valley, famed for fine wine, delicious dining and breathtaking views.
A health-conscious foodie, Chantal Lascaris is dedicated to coming up with innovative recipes that taste good and leave one feeling healthier. Following this passion, she has written various books, such as the bestselling All Sorts of Salads (2015), All Sorts of Healthy Dishes: The Mediterranean Way (2017), as well as All Sorts of One-Dish Wonders (2020).
She has also started up a YouTube channel, where she launched her 15 Minute Gourmet series of cooking videos for her audience to join her in the kitchen and cook along. Chantal Lascaris believes that it’s all about continuous exploration and learning, and being able to exceed the expectations of one’s loyal customers/audience.
What are your main career objectives? How do you hope to make a difference?
As a self-taught cook (not a chef), my aim is to produce cookbooks that have lots of choice within a category, that have simple recipes for the home cook and include ingredients that are easily attainable at the local supermarket.
I want people to buy my books because they enjoy eating healthy, tasty food, and I want to show them that it’s easy and enjoyable to cook, whether it’s for yourself, your family or for a group of friends.
Background – how did you get to this point?
I guess I’ve been a bit of a serial entrepreneur, having started selling homemade lip balms at the age of 13. I always loved fashion and as a little girl I wanted to be a fashion designer, so it was a natural progression to start my own clothing company. I never really felt comfortable working for someone else and had always seen myself having my own business. So I took the first opportunity I could to find a unique angle and I saw a gap in the corporate clothing arena where most corporate clothing all looked the same. With my sense of fashion I started a factory where we designed and manufactured uniforms, mostly servicing hotels in the Middle East and Africa, trying to bring a sense of style into the industry.
Eventually, I sold the corporate clothing business for two reasons – firstly I was travelling far too much and spending very little time at home and secondly, I had started experimenting with food and saw an opportunity to write a series of cookbooks.
The first book was written 5 years ago and it was an attempt to broaden the meaning of ‘salads’ and give the home cook a choice of salads to make. It was called ‘All Sorts of Salads’ and included over 75 different salads. This turned out to be a best seller because no one had ever written a South African book on salads. This was followed by ‘All Sorts of Healthy Dishes’, ‘All Sorts of One Dish Wonders’ and ‘All Sorts of Tapas’.
What excites you the most about the work that you do?
I really enjoy the creativity around food and writing cookbooks. It’s a creative process from beginning to end. It starts with the ingredients, deciding on flavour, texture and colour combinations. Then it progresses to how the food is actually put together i.e.: is it fresh, roasted, pan fried etc. The next exciting process is the photography and styling of the food for the books. I love this part as it fascinates me how a stylist interprets my recipe, how the photographer knows just how to catch the light in the right way and together how they create what I think are beautiful works of art.
What life mantra/inspirational quote do you live by
A well-known quote: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for.” – Robert Browning.
What 3 tips do you have when it comes to implementing solutions in your field
Depending on the challenge or issue, I either take it head on or I take some time to think and strategise around it.
- I also find it’s better to ‘sleep on’ a problem, as I have time to process it through my subconscious, and invariably the next morning the issue seems a lot less intimidating and I haven’t made any rash decisions.
- I believe you’re never too old to ask for advice. Ask someone for help, it’s amazing how often people are ready to help you, if you simply ask.
- Always under promise and over deliver.
Have you read any books or listened to any podcasts that have inspired you and your career thus far?
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R Covey
- The Widow Clicquot – Tilar J. Mazzeo
- The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
- The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
- The 5am Club – Robin Sharma
What is your ‘why’ i.e.: Bottom line? And how do you stay motivated?
Sometimes it’s the most mundane things that can spark my creativity, such as the delicious aromas emanating from the bakery section of a supermarket, which can set me off. Or it can be lunch or dinner at a new restaurant, or reading about different cultures and their favourite foods. I believe it’s important to keep learning and by doing so, I find I stay motivated and I am always ready to try something new.
Outside of work, are you involved in any extracurricular activities and/or community outreach projects?
I help the Franschhoek Hospitality Academy and Learning Centre. It was set up four years ago to help disadvantaged young people in Franschhoek, and the surrounding areas, by providing them with knowledge and skills that will help them find jobs and provide stability in their lives.
The Academy offers a one-year training course in the field of hospitality and management. They cover all aspects of hospitality, from front of house, through to cooking and management. Their top students are offered internship programmes in Austria. We’re proud to say that even the students from last year, who had to study under extreme circumstances, all managed to find jobs at the end of last year.
Who or what inspires you on a daily basis?
My husband Reg, who isn’t a foodie at all, inspires me. He has been my rock and shoulder I cried on when I first started my clothing business. He encourages me to take bold decisions, like changing careers and writing cookbooks.
Exercise is important to me because when you exercise the left part of your brain is very busy with the job at hand, leaving the right part of your brain to create ideas. I also find that when I push myself physically, I have to push myself emotionally too. Knowing that I’ve accomplished a hard workout prepares me for the day ahead.
Music also features prominently in my life. Although I’m a hopeless singer, I love listening to music and I try to listen to different types of music. Some days it will be classical, other days hard rock. I find that if I’ve hit a bit of a creative block, listening to some music clears my mind, creating space for inspiration to flow.
What advice do you have for young women/future generations who aspire to work in your industry?
Having been in both the clothing industry and now writing cookbooks, I’ve found that no matter what business you’re in, you need certain qualities. I believe that you need to have focus and determination in everything that you do. I think young women need to accept that success doesn’t happen overnight, that it takes hard work and to realise that you are going to get knocks along the way.
You need to believe in yourself, especially during tough times. It’s important to trust yourself, listen to your gut and follow your heart because most often, they’re telling you the correct thing. Don’t always listen to others but rather be true to yourself.
*Interested in discovering more inspiring stores about Top Women? Check out the 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here.