Catherine Garden ~ Fennel & Fig
Meet Catherine, Chef extraordinaire with a trademark pure and sophisticated palette. Qualifying as a chef in 2000, this Durbanite took the leap to travel across Africa to expand her skills. She has several years building her culinary skills in the safari industry. Across KwaZulu-Natal, Timbavati, Serengeti, Grumeti and South Luangwa. There are many aspects to her role that she thrives off. Creating fresh new menus, growing other chefs and food styling of mobile camps are just to name a few. After several years of growing kitchens across Africa Catherine started her own company, Fennel & Fig, in 2012. Sharpening those distinct fresh and cultivated flavours that are her signature. Catherine is many things to me. A constant sounding board for all ideas. Whether personal or business-wise. There are many things I admire about her; her work ethic, incredible palette and teaching skills are just a few that come to mind.
“Growing up our family did follow the more traditional gender stereotypes. However, when it came to choosing a career this was not a thought and it took me some time to realise that not all careers were considered appropriate for women. My family were incredibly liberal in that respect. My sister is a scientist and this was actively encouraged by my father, especially as it was a passion they shared.”
What have been your best and worst decisions made so far in your life?
Not always sure I agree with best and worst as they both take us on our paths.
Worst: a rice pudding served on a flat plate? There are many, but ultimately they add to your growth and help you learn. This is especially true when dealing with people.
Best: following a bush chef career.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
We need to embrace what makes a male or female leader different instead of negative comparisons. Each leader male or female will also have their strengths which are nothing to do with gender. I do think some women may hold themselves to a leadership expectation that does not suit their personal style. We do have to deal with comments about been too soft, too hard, not vocal enough, too noisy. Each leader must choose the battles they need to fight.
What woman inspires you and why?
All women inspire me. Everyone has had a personal victory. I am as inspired by a woman in poverty who manages to survive and raise a family as I am as a female CEO or captain of industry.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Excepting our strengths, not bending them to what a perceived leadership position to be. Continue challenging societal norms, we still have a way to go! Strong female empowered movements fuelled by celebrities have also lulled us into thinking things have changed. However, although well-meaning the experiences of every woman can be glossed over and simplified and particularly in Africa we need to be mindful of the cultures and social norms in each situation before we act for the best results. It is not always best to shout the loudest, although there are some cases when this is needed but real change can be shown in how we live and treat others. We must also never forget our sister’s with no voices and for them, we can speak!
When you were a child, what was your dream job and why?
Dream job embarrassingly was to sing or be a fashion designer. So happy with the actual outcome!