Local chef remembers honor of cooking for Mandela - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Local chef remembers honor of cooking for Mandela

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New Orleans, La. -

Former South African president Nelson Mandela was reportedly a little stronger Monday. His friends hope he'll celebrate his birthday in a couple of weeks. A local chef with ties to South Africa got that update from an official with Mandela's foundation.

Chef Dominique Macquet cooked for Mandela and looked up to the leader most of his life: "When he was actually released from prison the world started to change and I saw people were more united. It was a beautiful thing."

Macquet is a Magazine Street restaurant owner who lived in South Africa when Mandela was released. He was a chef at the Cape Town Hotel, and helped prepare one of the former South African president's first meals as a free man.

"I had the secret service in the kitchen watching us cook... they didn't tell us until the last minute. They didn't want anything to go wrong because the whole world was watching," Macquet said.

He didn't get to shake Mandela's hand that day.  But, he said, "I had a chance to go in the dining room and have a peek at him and he did smile. That's a beautiful thing to say after being in jail for 27-plus years.

"During Apartheid it was all negative things, obviously because nobody understood his vision and what he was trying to do with the country," he said.

The chef has supported the Nelson Mandela Foundation. He cherishes a letter from the former president on his restaurant wall, thanking him for a signed cookbook. He traveled back to the country for a benefit in 2004.

"Mandela is an example of what human beings should be. I would always say that Nelson Mandela is a big part of my life," the chef said.

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