Smith always knew she wanted to work with food. After studying at the Warwick’s Chef School, she embarked on a European culinary adventure, taking a position as a trainee at the Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair, London. “I started out washing dishes, watching master chefs and trying desperately to learn anything I could from them, although they weren’t always forthcoming with sharing their skills,” recalls Smith. “One Irish chef, in particular, really made me sweat to gain any insights – I pretty much had to watch first, and then deduce the theory myself afterwards. It was nothing if not a baptism of fire.” Once she was confident enough to take up a position as chef in Chesterfield, Smith knew she wanted to settle in South Africa at a top-10 restaurant. She returned to work at the 12 Apostles Hotel in Cape Town where she gained valuable insights into premium South African gastronomy. But it was Smith’s time at Rust en Vrede that moulded her exceptional baking talent. “I was petrified when I started at Rust en Vrede – I felt completely out of my depth – but working with Chef David Higgs was a dream of mine, so I threw myself into it with everything I had,” says Smith. “Chef Higgs became a valuable mentor and teacher of mine, always pushing me to do better and push the boundaries of what I thought was possible.” In fact, Higgs’s impact on Smith was so fundamental, she travelled with him to Johannesburg when he took up the position of Head Chef at the Radisson and, subsequently, the Saxon. “I never envisioned my career leading me to Johannesburg,” says Smith. “But, in retrospect, I’d never have learnt what I have if I’d stayed put.” After fine-tuning her patisserie skills in the kitchens of the Saxon, Smith decided to join HTA. “Teaching has always been a calling for me,” she explains. “Working with my students and helping them become better pastry chefs allows me to share the knowledge I’ve gained along my journey.” Smith’s goal is to expand the patisserie school at HTA – all while competing in international culinary competitions. In the past few years, she’s taken part in the Junior World Cup for Pastry Chefs in Italy, as well as the Global Pastry Chef Challenge in Namibia. In 2016, she’ll represent the South African National Culinary team in Germany.