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Time Square pastry chef pairs up with trainee chef to win SA Chef’s Association competition
09 June 2023
The challenge of being paired with a stranger and given a few hours to create not one, but three top class confectionary items, was no match for Time Square’s chef de partie Cynthia Bombe, who together with culinary student Lorna Biyana, won The 2023 South African Chefs Association’s Pastry Championship Competition.
Bombe and Biyana met the day before the competition and had to decide what they were going to prepare, and start baking. Their winning efforts - 93 out of a possible 100 marks - saw them plating three desserts for each of the three rounds, beating three other teams to share a prize of R20 000.
“The experience was fun, but it was hard to work with someone you haven’t met before,” Bombe said. “I have been with Time Square since 2017 while Lorna is a first-year student at the Johannesburg Culinary Institute. I took the lead using my industry experience, and we had to trust each other and our strengths. Our desserts were amazing.”
The pair created a ruby chocolate dome, with an almond fill on the top and a raspberry compote inside. “We also had raspberry gel and vanilla mousse, with a sable biscuit base, and I sprayed the outside of the chocolate dome for a different texture.”
For the second round, where participants had to create magic using passionfruit, the two pastry chefs made an Entremet cake, composed of multiple layers of dessert including layers of cake, mousse and jelly. The third round was to create friandise, a small, after-dinner treat which could be a candy or a cake.
Bombe said the first thing she would be doing with her prize money would be to have a spa massage to relax after all the work.
“After that, I will buy equipment like a stand mixer to allow me to create and bake more in my personal capacity.” The 27-year-old runs a Facebook page Oven Time with Chef Bombe – making content in her spare time and also selling cakes and pastries.
“When I was a child growing up in Diepkloof, Soweto, I used to help my mom bake scones and jam tarts which she sold. So that is where my passion for baking comes from, and I decided to pursue it as a career.” Bombe holds a Chefs Certificate in Food Preparation from the HTA School of Culinary Art.
“I’ve been a pastry chef for the past six years. I love pastry, it is my passion. I didn’t have any experience when I joined Time Square, I had to adapt and fell in love with it. You have to be patient working in this part of the kitchen.” Bombe paid tribute to Time Square’s Executive Chef Nonkosi Vellem, “who showed me almost everything I know”. Today Bombe is a supervisor, working with banqueting, sometimes preparing up to 1 000 plates at a time. “I oversee functions, making sure the food is out on time and that there are no complaints. I have to delegate to the junior chefs and also manage orders to ensure stock continuity.”
Chefs work long hours, including weekends, and for this reason Bombe’s two-year-old son Oatlegile lives in Soweto with her mother.
“My dream is to one day have my own pastry school. I would love to travel the world to work in countries where culinary talents are more widely celebrated.” She also aspires to open her own eponymous patisserie.