Just a Hint of Chilli!

It’s just after 10am on a stifling Thursday morning. Nazira Moosa answers the door and immediately exclaims about the heat, ushering me into her gorgeously furnished home. She looks sensational in a coral dress and a pair of strappy nude heels, with her glossy hair tumbling over her shoulders. We sit down, and two dusky cupcakes appear in front of me, with a glass of pink lemonade. Five minutes with Nazira, or Zira as she’s better known, and I feel as if I’ve known her for years.

When she was nine years old, Zira’s mother sent her to the then ML Sultan Technikon to do a baking course. “I loved baking,” Zira settles back on a pillow. “During one lesson we made Swedish Tea Rings. Mine was enormous, and I remember my mother dropping the telephone in shock, when I walked in holding it!” Zira continued honing her baking skills, assisting the family’s helper whenever she baked. “But I was lazy,” Zira concedes. “My mother wanted me to spend more time cooking but I always ducked out of it. She’d nag my dad – since I listened to him – to get me to cook on Saturday mornings,” Zira smiles as she remembers. “So I cooked, but there really was not much love in it.”

When Zira got married, she went to a few cooking lessons in preparation. Still, her heart was not totally in it. “My mother in law saw me in the kitchen one day. She sent me to get a pen and some paper, and then told me to watch her cook and write down everything she did. That’s how I learnt…and I still have that book!” Zira entered the corporate world – moving around Cape Town and Johannesburg – and soon found that cooking became a chore, especially after a long day at work. “But, whenever I got the chance to entertain at my home, I found great joy. I simply adored hosting dinner parties, getting to cook something special and having friends over.”

This stuck with Zira, particularly after she left corporate and moved back to Durban. “I needed a change but I had no idea what to do.” During a conversation with a close friend, Zira had a ‘light bulb moment’. “She asked me what I like to do, and I thought of Nigella Lawson. I love cooking. Entertaining, making people smile with my food,” Zira winks. “The more I thought about it, the more plausible the idea seemed. I was going to turn my love for food and entertaining into a business. I was going to become a brand.”

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In June last year, Zira Cooks was officially launched and got instant attention. The forceful marketing campaign coupled with Zira’s unabashed confidence and sultry personality made people sit up and listen. That, and her unique ‘fusion cuisine’. “The minute people see someone of Indian origin cooking, or they hear ‘cuisine’ they assume we’re all about curry. I love to cook a good curry, but I don’t want to be known as another curry queen.” Zira describes her cooking style as all types of cuisine with a hint of chilli’. “I love exotic flavours and spices. I can cook you anything – Italian, Asian, even scrambled eggs – but it’s going to be with spice. That’s my way.”

Zira’s philosophy is: ‘you don’t need a million bucks to look like a million bucks’. “I am not shy about the total package: I like to look good, I love the camera and I love being fabulous. All of this contributes to the overall Zira experience.” She has a firm presence on social media, with her YouTube tutorials being especially popular. Though, following her rather aggressive launch, Zira is taking things slower as Zira Cooks develops. “I know my worth. And I am facing challenges, but I know my break will come.”

If Zira could offer any advice to aspiring cooks – she insists she is a cook, not a chef – she would say: “cook with love. And don’t be afraid to experiment! Have fun, and do whatever you feel like doing…as long as it’s with your heart. No matter what happens, you can always fix it.” Looking ahead, Zira is looking forward to watching her brand grow and commercialise. She is currently busy with her first cookbook, which she hopes to publish soon. “I don’t want to compromise my passion in any way. I want to absolutely kick ass!”

EMAIL | info@zira.co.za
INSTAGRAM | @ziracooks
FACEBOOK | www.facebook.com/ziracooks

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