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Zimbabwean man’s journey from dishwasher to one of SA’s 7 certified sommeliers

RECEIVING his certificate, and the coveted ‘grapes’ lapel pin is only the most recent milestone in a long journey of wine education for Joseph.

Arriving in South Africa from Zimbabwe almost 10 years ago, Joseph and his wife Amelia Chakamba had dreams of starting afresh for themselves and their family. But at first, the going was not easy in their new home.

Starting out as a dishwasher, and working his way up to bartender, by small determined steps Joseph tasted every wine he could get his hands on. Considering that Joseph had no knowledge or experience of wine, it was a bold and ambitious move for him to follow his new found passion in Cape Town’s wine industry.

Joseph’s big break came when Chef Proprietor Scot Kirton and his long esteemed Restaurant Manager Jennifer Huge, agreed to take him onto their Front of House team at their fine dining restaurant, La Colombe.

He gets a bit emotional when he speaks to us about his colleagues: “What a place to work for. I never encountered any incident where I ask Scot for anything and took no as an answer, it’s always YES Joseph. Jennifer is one of the greatest but underrated mentor in the hospitality industry. She is a perfectionist, and has always seen the potential in me.”

He explained the process to us, “For one to have this certification, you have go through a rigorous blind tasting of two wines, blind tasting of two spirits, a practical which consist of making a cocktail for the judges, wine service then food and wine pairing based on the menu which they will present to you in the competition room. It was very tense and difficult for me.”

Joseph was also recently nominated as Captain for Team Zimbabwe at the World Blind Wine Tasting Competition in France in October. It is the second year for this group of eager, young Zimbabweans at the prestigious competition which is amazing considering Zimbabwe does not have a wine growing culture. He is joined by compatriots and colleagues in wine, Marlvin Gwese, Tinashe Nyamudoka, Pardon Taguzu, Admire Wakwa and Billet Magara.

In his free time, Joseph loves to cook for his family and enjoys the odd football game on TV. He also has his own (delicious!) boutique brand of wine, Mosi Wines,  which keeps him busy when he is not on duty at La Colombe.


Gary Murambiwa
the authorGary Murambiwa