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Meet our development chef: Zita Steyn

A cheeky little interview with Zita!

As seen on our social media (yes it's aaall over our Insta, but we're just super excited) we started a collaboration with Zita Steyn, the brain behind Food Fights. As a former model and banker, and current nutritional chef and cookbook author we felt like she's the perfect fit for ProToGo. Zita understands the pitfalls of a busy lifestyle and the food, or shall we call it fuel, you need to keep up with that kind of lifestyle. We asked Zita some questions on her food philosophy, life as a model/banker and her secret adoration for Doritos Heatwave crisps...

PTG: Hi Zita! Let's start off straight away. You graduated as a holistic chef at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York. What are the key lessons you've learned there?

Z: That delicious food can and should form an integral part of your wellness plan, but that you should not obsess about its nutritional content or the piece of cake you had last night. That shared meals are the bedrock of any society and they will only be as health supportive as they are enjoyable. And finally, I mastered some pretty mean knife skills :-)

PTG: How would you describe your own food philosophy?

Z: Very simple: prioritise food prep, cook from scratch, eat lots of plants, avoid refined foods, listen to your body, and savour each mouthful.

PTG: What are your favourite top-three ingredients in the world?

Z: This is such a tough one to answer, but if I had to judge by what I use most, it would be good quality rock or sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and citrus.

PTG: Just like Valerie, you used to model when you were a student. Did this influence your food philosophy?

Z: Yes, I think it did. But perhaps not in a way most would expect. Modelling opened up many doors for me and was a wonderful opportunity to travel and earn some money. But rather than boost my self confidence, modelling often managed to make me question my self worth. I had French clients saying behind my back that I was too large for a certain outfit. Or the booking agent in Milan suggesting I lose a kilo or two. Just to have scouts in Germany tell me that I was too skinny and not athletic looking enough. This focus on my appearance (with no interest whatsoever in my thoughts, opinions or intellect) made me very angry at times, but also quite adamant NOT to be intimidated into an eating disorder. I firmly resisted (to this day!) the pressure to skip meals, calorie count or diet. Thankfully I had the advantage of having gone into modelling at the age of 19, so was a little more mature and not quite as impressionable as some of the other girls. Having said that, most of the models I met during my 6 years in the industry ate normally. They were naturally slim and always hungry. We were constantly complaining that the food provided during shoots was not sufficient and not filling enough! ;-)

PTG: Right before you became a nutritional chef, you had a career as a banker. How did you end up in the food-industry?

Z: I knew I wanted to work in the food industry even whilst I was studying law at uni, but at the time my father suggested it was probably wise to finish my degree first. Unfortunately, once you’ve invested 6 years of your time and money in a certain field, it’s difficult to walk away from it overnight. So I ended up working in investment banking for almost 10 years. I enjoyed my job, absolutely loved my colleagues and could have continued working there for a considerable time, but I knew it was not what I was most passionate about, and when my second son arrived, it became clear to me that I needed to make a change. I felt that if I was going to spend time away from my family to work, it better be for something that I cared deeply for. My mum was very ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when I was young, and we have always focused on healthy food in our family. So when I decided to retrain as a chef, I knew a traditional culinary school wouldn’t be the right place for me. Thankfully I found the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, where chefs are trained with nutrition in mind.

PTG: Here at PTG, we are super happy to have you onboard. What made you decide to jump into this collaboration?

Z: I read an interview with Valérie and loved her strong sense of purpose and her goal to provide filling, healthy “to go” meals.

PTG: The first Zita x ProToGo recipe launched recently. What other things can we expect from you in the future?

Z: Hopefully many pots of deliciousness! :-) Amongst other things. But I have also ramped up my teaching again, now that my little daughter is 1, I am working on an app, trying to write a proposal for my second cook book, and generally just trying to keep up with life!

PTG: Last but not least, at PTG we promote a balanced lifestyle. (It's okay to have a glass of prosecco with some peanut-butter on the side) What's your guilty pleasure?

Z: I try not to feel too guilty when I have some dark chocolate with a cup of tea after dinner, or a nice home-made pudding on the weekend. But my love for Doritos Chilli Heatwave every now and then is definitely something I shouldn’t be admitting to anyone...

PTG: Ahh you should try the Sizzling Salsa-variant! We just got you a new addiction ;-) Thanks a lot for your time Zita. Looking forward to all the good stuff that is coming up, we are super excited :))

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