Connie Mthabini first arrived at Londolozi in 1994 to join the kitchen team, making this her 25th year with the Londolozi Family.
It’s safe to say that Connie has witnessed the transformation of Londolozi. She has been involved in and watched many beautiful, full circles of generational change, the handing over of wisdom, village-life growth and lodge development.
Connie grew up in a town just outside Londolozi called Utah (a two hour drive from Londolozi) with her mother, father, grandmother and seven siblings. Connie owes her innate culinary skills to her parents and her gran, although she says she always had a love for preparing food. In particular, she says, they taught her efficiency in the kitchen and that’s why, when she works, she works FAST.
At a time where Londolozi had only three camps – a time when Varty Camp was called Bateleur Camp and Founders Camp was Bush Camp – Connie began her journey with Londolozi, and since then has witnessed incredible change as family-run-Londolozi evolved into what it is today. The kitchen was significantly smaller then than it is now, with limited fridge and freezer space and a team consisting of only one chef per camp, running breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
The village has also grown; Connie first lived in a traditional hut and today admires how much the village at Londolozi has metamorphosed into a Futuristic African Village, wherein personal vegetable gardens are grown, community events keep us close together, a water treatment plant has been implemented, an eco-friendly lifestyle is encouraged and a space in which similar minded people live together in harmony.
Connie states that Londolozi has got more and more beautiful, from its camp rooms to the village itself. She has born witness to tremendous blossoming in our choir too. For the past 15 years Connie has sung and played drums for the Londolozi Ladies Choir. Her crucial membership and wisdom have resulted in a much-loved choir enjoyed by many.
Not only has Connie seen the incredible remoulding and shaping of Londolozi, but also watched Bronwyn and Boyd Varty grow up. She said when Bronwyn was born, Connie was working at neighbouring lodge Mala Mala. She would walk across to Londolozi to watch soccer, whereby staff from both reserves would take to the field in a competitive match. This was when she first saw Bronwyn as a baby, and today she watches as Bronwyn raises her own children, observing a full circle of generations.
Executive Chef Anna Ridgewell first met Connie in 1997. Anna was working for CC Africa at the time and had come to spend the night at Londolozi to help in the Bateleur Camp Kitchen (Varty Camp today). Unbeknown to her, she was standing in Connie’s section of the kitchen. Connie came up behind Anna and said “You can give me back my knife now!” while gently moving Anna to one side. Little did Anna know that this was the start of a beautiful, seven-year-plus friendship between her and Connie when she (Anna) was to arrive to work at Londolozi in 2012.
Chatting to Connie, you can feel her wisdom and experience pouring out in her excitement to share her stories from Londolozi. Her life here has taught her a tremendous amount and she has been apart of phenomenal change and growth.
Connie once had a very close encounter with a hippo whilst walking close to the river; she tells this story with great respect for the wild and nature.
As we age, we feel it our responsibility to pass down advice and stories to encourage friends and family down successful pathways. Connie now works side-by-side her daughter, Debra, in the Londolozi Kitchen. She says she’s teaching her to be the very best chef, just like herself, and advises Debra to learn all the different sections and elements of the kitchen in order to grow. She says why just learn to make cakes, when there’s bread, meat and much more to be found. Connie began as a pastry chef and today runs our Bush Banqueting section, wherein she ensures that dining in the bush is simple but yet sophisticated.
Connie is famous for her chilli (spoon it on your food with caution; it packs a punch!), poppy-seed cheese biscuits, chutneys and preserves, but most importantly her marula jelly. Two years ago Connie shared her recipe with us:
Today Connie is blessed with two children and two grandchildren, and has watched them grow up at Londolozi. A full circle of transformation from one generation to the next has occurred through genes, wisdom, guidance and in the sharing of Londolozi magic. Connie is a true custodian in the Londolozi Kitchen and to the Londolozi Family. We thank her for 25 years of exemplary culinary work as well as for playing an integral role in the village, choir and Londolozi Family.