Brain food! Celebrated SA chef Siba Mtongana's now a Harvard case study

15 November 2020 - 00:05
Siba Mtongana has shared her career story with Harvard Business School as a case study in its MBA programme.
Siba Mtongana has shared her career story with Harvard Business School as a case study in its MBA programme.
Image: Supplied

When television chef Siba Mtongana was first asked by Harvard Business School to be a case study in its prestigious MBA programme three years ago, she laughed it off as a hoax.

But the host of the award-winning Siba's Table on the Food Network channel realised it was serious when the school contacted her again last year, and she agreed to share her recipe for success with the Boston-based institution. 

"I must have ignored two of their e-mails as I did not believe it. It sounded too good to be true and I thought it was a hoax, but it was real - so the joke was on me," she said.

Harvard Business School boasts more than 60 billionaire alumni. Graduates include Jamie Dimon, chair and CEO of the US's biggest bank, JPMorgan Chase, Bollywood actor/producer Salman Khan and US business tycoon Michael Bloomberg.

After a year of her path to success being under the Harvard spotlight, Mtongana was finally introduced - virtually - to the school's MBA students last week.

She said that after the case study on her career was completed it was taught for the first time in the MBA class on November 4.

"I was their guest for the day and they invited a number of my business associates and family. It happened virtually due to Covid-19 but under normal circumstances they would have invited me to join them for the class physically as their special guest at Harvard," she said.

The study delves into Mtongana's background, her career journey, highs and lows and the challenges she has had to overcome as a black business person in SA.

Who would have known that a girl from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape could now be part of Harvard University literature?
Siba Mtongana

"Who would have known that a girl from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape could now be part of Harvard University literature?" she said.

When Siba's Table first aired on the Food Network, it not only cemented Mtongana's standing as SA's premier culinary phenomenon, but catapulted her to the status of global food icon in more than 135 countries worldwide, and 60-million homes in the US through the Cooking Channel alone.

Mtongana said the recognition by Harvard was important because, in essence, the university was recognising SA and the potential "that lies inside every child in SA, especially those children who grew up in the township, like me".

"My mom, who was an educator and a cum laude graduate at Rhodes University, would have been so proud of me as this is the kind of success that really excited her the most," Mtongana said.


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