Chef Vicky Gurovich simply loves what she does.
“It was meant to be. I love eating and I love feeding people. I get to do that everyday…I think I am pretty lucky,” she says.
She started young, growing up in a kitchen filled with women who were “great cooks”. Weekends were spent in the kitchen baking, with each creation more ambitious than the last.
“I think I made quite a mess, I always had rather ambitious goals in mind when I was baking as a youngster.”
Messy beginnings aside, she has had to hone her craft through her education and her time in celebrated kitchens. She studied food theory at the WITS Tech Hotel School in Johannesburg, her hometown.
“We studied the theory behind what we were cooking…we got a very good classic base which was good to build on because you understand the basics properly.”
She then took a leap, moved from Johannesburg and made her start in the industry at the four-star Shrigley Hall Hotel, an English countryside retreat. It wasn’t the life of grandeur and sophistication she imagined when she was a student but it was an important step, she says.
“I moved in a different direction but I learnt how to work quickly…it was a good first job. You walk out of hotel school with these delusions of grandeur but you get down to peeling potatoes and moving out mise en place at a rapid pace.”
It was after that first job that she took an interest in pastry-making. She got in touch with the pastry chef at the Michelangelo Hotel, in the heart of Sandton in Johannesburg, and found a way into his kitchen.
“I worked for free for about three months…I just wouldn’t leave.”
She didn’t, she joined the pastry department at the hotel for over a year.
That was the catalyst for her impressive career in pastry. She moved to the historic Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town and made her mark there, twice. Gurovich then returned to Johannesburg to lead the pastry department at the Saxon, a luxury mainstay in the city. She even won the Huletts Pastry Chef of the Year Award along the way.
Today, she leads the same department at the glittering new Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, perched on the hills of southern Johannesburg. She is excited about her new challenge.
“I think going forward, it’s going to be very interesting,” she says.