Female Chefs In South Africa: Tjing Tjing’s Christina Semczyszyn

Words: Katrina Rose Wind

It’s Women’s Month and given that we love food, we want to celebrate the powerful female chefs of South Africa. These women represent what it means to rank their own needs second or even third by facing obstacles under high pressure, working long hours, and getting a few cuts and burns that comes with working in a kitchen. We want to thank these female chefs for continuing to push their restaurants to top-tier status and for sharing their passion for food with us.

Celebrating Women In The Food Industry – Christina Semczyszyn

In the first instalment of our Women’s Month series we speak to Head Chef at Tjing Tjing, Christina Semczyszyn and two of her team members, Adri and Nicola.  Semczyszyn did a Culinary Arts Diploma at Alfresco in East London, worked in London with Polpetto chef Florence Knight and at The Egerton House Hotel in Knightsbridge (part of the Red Carnation Hotel). After her stay in the UK, she came back to Cape Town where she was appointed Head Chef at Tjing Tjing and then Dear Me in 2014.

Christina Semczyszyn

She provided culinary direction to the redevelopment of the business into a three-floor Japanese restaurant, called Tjing Tjing House. The building is now home to Tjing Tjing Torii, a casual street food eatery on the ground floor, Tjing Tjing Momiji, a multi course Kaiseki dining area on the middle floor, and the original Tjing Tjing Rooftop bar on the 3rd level. Semczyszyn was a nominee for Eat Out’s Rising Star in 2019, and Momiji placed at number 19 on Eat Out’s Restaurant awards in the same year. Tjing Tjing Torii has won Eat Out’s Everyday Eateries award twice.

Christina Semczyszyn: “We are a female-led team, with women making up 75% of our kitchen squad and management team.”

Interview with Chef Christi

Why did you become a chef?

I love feeding people and seeing them enjoy something I made with love.

When are you happiest at work?

When my team and I are all focused, head down, prepping food and listening to a killer playlist.

What’s the most valuable attribute of being a great chef?


What has been your most meaningful, memorable meal?

Den, in Tokyo. His incredible menu is playful, sophisticated, but doesn’t take itself too seriously

How does your personal heritage feature in your food?

My Dad’s side of the family is Afrikaans, and I grew up camping along the west coast, and visiting family on the farm. I try to bring small parts of my Heritage into the Japanese food I create, without making it too cheesy.

What’s the most valuable thing you have learnt in the kitchen that translates in your life outside of the kitchen?

Manage people’s expectations properly. Sometimes things are out of your hands, but if you can communicate effectively and timeously, it can diffuse a situation before it happens.

What has been your experience during lockdown and how have you had to evolve your business/kitchen.

We’ve had to adapt constantly, changing our ideas, scrapping plans if they don’t work, and reassessing at the end of each week.

There are a lot of differing opinions about “Best Female Chef” awards versus awards that recognise achievements in the industry with no gender attached, with good arguments for both sides – do you have an opinion on this?

Unfortunately we’re outnumbered in this industry. I think acknowledging women for having the balls to excel in a misogynistic industry is great. One day, when the numbers are more equal, we can hopefully scrap the need for a differentiation.

Why is it important to have women in the field?

Because the kind of women that can put up with it are strong, determined and not to be messed with.

What is the future for female chefs in SA?

I’d like to see us sticking together more and doing more collaborations. Our voices are louder when we’re working together.

Semczyszyn’s kitchen team is predominantly women, Adri Morel, her senior sous chef and pastry chef at Tjing Tjing and Nicola Aucamp, her sous chef are part of the fabric that makes Tjing Tjing’s food so great.

Interview with Chefs Adri and Nicola

Why did you become a chef?

Adri: I love food.
Nicola: I got a love for food and cooking from my family and I’d rather do something I enjoy that something that only makes me money

When are you happiest at work?

Adri: When I see someone enjoy the food I’ve made.
Nicola: When I’m busy.

What has been your most meaningful, memorable meal?

Adri: Den, in Tokyo
Nicola: Wolfgat’s at Home Box

Who inspires you and why?

Adri : All the people I encounter daily: fellow staff, my husband, my family – there’s so much to learn from everyone’s experiences.
Nicola: Right now, Rene Redzepi and Anthony Bourdain’s writing – they’re the best at what they do.

tjingtjing.co.za |165 Longmarket Street | 021 422 4920/4374 | Instagram

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