‘MasterChef SA’ contestant Charmaine Govender-Koen adds a modern touch to Indian cuisine

Charmaine Govender-Koen. Picture: Supplied

Charmaine Govender-Koen. Picture: Supplied

Published May 15, 2024


Resting is not an option for a self-taught cook, Charmaine Govender-Koen.

In an interview with Independent Media Lifestyle, the Durban-born culinary artist said that she became a private cook and ran a catering business, because she saw an opportunity for people wanting Durban Indian food at home.

Growing up in Verulam, Govender-Koen said she has always enjoyed cooking and playing with flavours.

“When I was off work or college I cooked for the family. At that time I cooked things I learned or read about. From an Indian family, food is a big part of culture,” she said.

A few years ago, Govender-Koen was inspired to go back to her roots and cook all of her favourite childhood dishes for her Afrikaans husband, Frikkie.

She wanted to introduce him to the rich Durban culinary world and, in doing so, ignited a passion for sharing this part of South African food culture with her community.

With her natural talent for flavours and experience in hospitality management, Govender-Koen decided to forge her own path in the industry with a sensationally delicious range of home-cooked fresh and frozen meals that celebrate her heritage.

In 2020, life was very different for the couple as they both lost their jobs in the hotel industry because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The setback inspired her to start cooking and today she owns Charms Kitchen, which supplies meals to people in and around the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

Charmaine Govender-Koen. Picture: Sinamatic Media

“A few years ago, I was inspired to go back to my roots and cook all my favourite foods for my Afrikaans husband, and introduce him to my rich Durban-Indian heritage and spicy cuisine.

“I have always enjoyed cooking and experimenting with flavours, and when the pandemic hit, I turned my passion and talent for flavours into a business.”

“Charm’s Kitchen has been well received by many people, who enjoy the journey and comfort the food brings,” said Govender-Koen.

She has a range of deli products and has an eatery space at Makers Landing at the Cruise Terminal.

Govender-Koen was also a contestant on M-Net’s “MasterChef South Africa” season 4.

She said: “Becoming a finalist was a surreal moment.”

Besides supplying meals, she also hosts private and corporate events, birthday parties, family gatherings, and dinner clubs and sometimes groups spend time in the kitchen creating tasty dishes with her assistance.

Govender-Koen said she loves doing social cooking classes as it gets her to teach his style of cooking to others.

And for anyone aspiring to become a chef or work in the hospitality industry, she said: “It is important to understand flavour profiles. The food industry is a tough business, do not give up. Think out of the box, be innovative and creative.”

About the future of the kitchen, Govender-Koen said they are looking to grow in the event space and are looking at holding cooking classes.