With a love for exploring, cooking and the outdoors, Chef Linkie Marais' ‘will to grill’ stems all the way back to her unique blend of South African and Southern roots.
Born in Evander, a town in northeastern South Africa, Linkie was raised in the kitchen, helping her mother prepare meals on a daily basis. With a lack of abundant fresh ingredients, she inher- ited her mother’s creativity, utilizing whatever they had available to create fresh and original meals. Described by Linkie as a “melting pot,” South African cuisine incorporates influences from across the globe.
“We love our meats – especially lamb – but South African cuisine is really a mix of northern African and European influences,” says Linkie. “We grew up eating everything from rustic cur- ries to fine breads and cakes.”
Immigrating to the U.S. in 1999, Linkie and her family settled in Tupelo, Mississippi where she began her culinary career piping cakes for a local catering company. Upon obtaining a degree in Culinary Arts and a minor in Food Arts from Mississippi University for Women, Linkie's career took off as she held various pastry and executive chef positions in Oxford, Mississippi before making the move to Massachusetts’ acclaimed Montilio’s Bakery.
Years later, Linkie decided to venture out on her own and accepted the opportunity of a life- time to compete on Food Network’s hit series, “Next Food Network Star” in 2012.
“My experience on the show can only be described as ‘crazy.’ It’s like driving a fast car—fun but unpredictable. It forced me to push my limits and take my creativity to a new level.”
After discovering her love for grilling during a Big Green Egg® competition, Linkie’s passion for grilling began to take her career in a new and exciting direction. It’s clear that her meat-filled and resourceful South African culinary upbringing has had a tremendous impact on her cooking flair, as Linkie is considered the best among the few females who have mastered the art of grill- ing.
“I love how action-packed grilling can be. My absolute favorite thing to grill is lamb! The aroma that is released when the lamb hits the fire is incomparable. But what people don't realize is that much more —from sides to desserts—can be prepared on a grill, too.”
It is only natural that this outdoorsy, fun and energetic chef spends her weekend's hunting, camping and debating with her South African husband, Jannie, over who gets to do the grilling.
“But ultimately, I’m always in the kitchen. That is where I spend not only my work time, but my free time. Cooking is my therapy.”