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In The Midnight Kitchen with Zorah Booley

Professional chef, popular food blogger, food photographer and an all-around foodie, Zorah Booley Samaai and her esteemed blog, in the midnight kitchen, is a name you must note down if you want the best of the food world. Today we get to know her a little better.


So, Zorah, what ignited this passion that you have for food, and when did you know that this was the career you wanted to pursue?

I’ve always loved baking, but while I was studying law at UCT, I decided to delve into my passion and really make it into a career.


Could you take us on a small journey through the highlights of your career?

I am very proud to say that I studied at Le Cordon Bleu in London where I studied to become a pastry chef. I then had the opportunity to work at The Marriott Hotel in London as well. I have been featured in amazing magazines in South Africa, and just recently I announced my first-ever cookbook, which is focused on gut health and living without being restricted by the foods we eat.


Wow! That’s right, you are a Cordon Bleu Chef. What exactly does that entail and what has that journey and training process been like for you?

The training at Cordon Bleu really helped me to focus on the discipline of French food and pastry. But more so, it taught me to be diligent in what I was putting my mind to and to really work at my craft. It was an incredible experience; it was gruelling and very tiring but the best experience I have had in my career yet.



You have a blog titled ‘In the Midnight Kitchen’ where you share some of your delicious recipes and more. What is the story behind starting your blog and its name?

While living and studying in London, I would come home late because of classes etc. I would find myself baking at odd hours of the night to catch up on what we learned that day. So, a lot of baking and experimenting with recipes happened during the nighttime.


You also have one of the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram pages out there, how would you describe your aesthetic?

I would say it’s neutral with a minimalist feel.


What are some great photography tips or hacks that you can share with everyone who loves to take food photographs?

I would say that food photography takes a lot of patience and perseverance. And it’s all about finding out what works for you. A great tip is to start with neutral tones in your food styling. This can range from an off-white background to vintage silverware, beige linen cloths and white and grey matte plates. This really pulls your scene together and will possibly lead you to find your signature aesthetic eventually.


As you have previously mentioned, you have recently released your brand-new cookbook, providing us with amazing recipes for a better gut without compromising taste. How has this journey been for you?

It was really difficult at first, I was testing recipes on myself for a long time. I understand that everyone is different, but for me, trial and error was the only way to really know. I found it frustrating and tiring but when I started seeing results, I knew that it was all worth it.



For those who have food and diet restrictions, what can they expect from your cookbook?

These recipes are based on my background, which is half Indian and half Creole. The food is very flavourful, not too spicy and very inclusive. There is something for everyone! There are over 50 recipes, ranging from breakfast and lunch to snack and dinner. I made this cookbook to be enjoyed by everyone, even those who don’t have dietary concerns. It’s an amazing family cookbook and no matter what your cooking style is, it will leave you feeling satisfied and happy.


What advice can you give to those who maybe can’t afford/acquire your cookbook right now, but would like to know what ingredients they should include or look out for, for better health?

For me, it was all about testing the foods out. I would suggest looking into a Low-FODMAP diet. A lot of foods we eat can be triggering, I would suggest that you start by eliminating garlic and onions and find alternatives, like shallots. And after a while, you will see that your gut will have fewer flare-ups.


Are there any ingredients or hacks that you actively avoid using? Why?

I just avoid using soy products mostly because I have IBS and that could trigger me, the same goes for gluten. And gelatine, as I  haven’t found a good Halaal brand that I love yet.


How was your own journey with IBS and how did you come out of it stronger and happier?

I am definitely still on this journey. It’s something I will live with, as goes for most people with IBS. However, I now know how to manage it and how to control the symptoms which for me is a great positive.


How long does it take you to come up with the recipes, cook, plate, decorate and so on? What advice would you give to the baby food bloggers out there?

From start to finish it could take me up to 5 hours if not more, if we’re talking baking from scratch to editing and eventually publishing the recipe. I would say that it’s a wonderful field to be in if you love food and photography. But if you aren’t skilled at both or one of the two, educate yourself, buy courses, invest in good props and gear if you are able.


How do you deal with food waste?

Hardly anything goes to waste, I eat quite a few of my products, and my extended family gets a lot of leftovers. I also give to the homeless if I have good quality food that I feel they would like and enjoy. I never give something away that I wouldn’t eat myself.



In honour of woman’s month, we want to ask you, what makes you proud to be a woman?

I am proud to be a woman because of how far we’ve come, thanks to the generations before us. And because of that, I think we have moved mountains to succeed in life (career, relationships, acknowledgements etc). Women are pushing boundaries and I could not be prouder to be a part of it!


Who are some women who have impacted you and how have they inspired you or left their mark on you?

My mother, my sister, my mother-in-law and my friends… they really do the most each and every day. It blows my mind how they’re able to juggle life and still be there for everyone who needs them.


What are some words of encouragement that you would like to share with women who are trying to find their own passions and paths?

YOU GOT THIS! It may seem hard, and it may seem unreachable right now. But I promise you if it’s something you want, work hard and you will achieve your goals.


Time for the final but most important question. Zorah, do you only cook at midnight?

Hahaha! No, I cook in the morning nowadays. There’s just too much to do now in my business for me to be awake that late.



Words: Thuveshnie Govender | Photography: Courtesy Images