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Five industry-leading women who inspire us this Women's Month

This Women’s Month we are showcasing some of the most talented women from art and design, to gardening, and food and wine

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By Kimberley Schoeman  | August 17, 2023 | Travel Leisure

While Women’s Month is a time to highlight women who inspire us daily, we at House & Garden SA are always turning to women who are redefining sectors in South Africa and beyond. Despite the challenges and obstacles they face, these influential women continue to reshape their sectors, lead with distinction, and break glass ceilings.

1. The art consultant: Elana Brundyn

Elana Brundyn of Brundyn Arts & Culture is one of South Africa’s champion art consultants. Image: supplied

Elana Brundyn’s illustrious 25-year-long career from being a gallerist to becoming museum director and esteemed art consultant has established her as a force in the art milieu in South Africa.

Brundyn’s ability to identify talent in artists and her capacity to make intuitively-led, tailored connections at all levels – from collectors to stakeholders – have contributed to her being internationally renowned in her field.

Since her previous posts as founding CEO of Norval Foundation and Director of Institutional Advancement and External Affairs at Zeitz MOCAA, Brundyn’ established Brundyn Arts and Culture in 2023, an art consultancy with the aim to leave a more pronounced impact within the arts, both on the African continent and abroad. Currently at Brundyn Arts and Culture the opening exhibition with Lebohang Kganye's solo exhibition Mmoloki wa mehopolo: Breaking Bread with a Wanderer, is on show until 15 October and is a must to witness inspiring female artists.

2. The fighter pilot: Major Mandisa Mfeka

Major Mandisa Mfeka is the first black female combat pilot in the South African Air Force. Image: supplied

Major Mandisa Mfeka is a pioneering figure in aviation, breaking barriers as the first black female combat pilot in the South African Air Force. Major Mfeka’s ground-breaking accomplishments and unwavering dedication serve as an inspiration to aspiring aviators, especially women and people of colour, making her a role model in the aviation industry and beyond.

Her passion for flying began at a young age, and she overcame numerous obstacles to achieve remarkable milestones in a male-dominated industry. As a combat pilot, she has displayed exceptional skills and leadership qualities, earning the respect of her peers and superiors. One of her career highlights was flying one of the five SAAF Hawk MK 120 aircraft over Loftus Versveld Stadium during President Cyril Ramaphosa's inauguration in 2019.

Beyond her military achievements, Major Mandisa advocates for gender equality and empowerment in aviation. She encourages young girls to pursue their dreams in STEM careers, mentoring them to thrive despite societal barriers.

3. The garden entrepreneur: Claire Blackenberg

Claire Blanckenberg marries her passion for gardening with architecture for social good. Image: supplied

Claire Blanckenberg is the Founder and CEO of Reel Gardening. She first unearthed her passion for gardening when she was 16, trying to grow vegetables to sell to her parents. Through this experience, she realised the need for an easy solution to grow vegetables correctly.

During her Architecture degree, she designed housing that needed a simple food security solution. It was then that she created the Garden in a Box, a concept designed to feed a family of 4, encasing seeds and nutrients in colour-coded paper tape at the correct distance below the soil, making planting and growing food simple and affordable. This took off and she established the company at the end of 2009. Reel Gardening is now a patented concept.

Designed to be handmade by previously unemployed mothers, Reel Gardening has a positive social impact not only by using their product but also through its creation. Reel Gardening is enabling the establishment of household food gardens in impoverished areas across South Africa. In the past two years, they have helped over 50,000 households to become food secure.

4. The pastry chef: Chef Vick Gurovich

Pastry Chef Vicky Gurovich is bringing the iconic afternoon tea at the Belmond Mount Nelson to the next level. Image: supplied

Pastry Chef Vicky Gurovich has taken Afternoon Tea to another level of indulgence at Cape Town’s iconic pink Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. Back at the helm of the hotel’s pastry department after an eight-year hiatus, Gurovich is on a mission to elevate the hotel’s afternoon tea to new heights as part of the hotel’s gastronomic metamorphosis.

Gurovich previously worked at The Westcliff Four Seasons in Johannesburg and at the acclaimed Pierneef at La Motte restaurant in Franschhoek. But most recently, Gurovich has collaborated with the The Mount Nelson Hotel’s Executive Chef George Jardine to change up the sweet and savoury offerings of its iconic Afternoon Tea. Here, Gurovich has introduced melt-in-the-mouth surprises, such as the butternut and roasted vanilla custard mousse, apricot and rooibos delice, and a macadamia nut tart with spiced Chantilly, salted caramel and vanilla mousse. We can’t wait to try her creations at our next visit for afternoon tea!

5. The sommelier: Jennifer Hugé

Jennifer Hugé has helped take Cape Town’s iconic restaurant FYN to the top of the charts as one of the world’s most sought-after restaurants. Image: supplied

As the Service and Beverage Director at world-renowned restaurant FYN, and former General Manager at La Colombe, it is no wonder Jennifer Hugé won the inaugural Eat Out John Psillos Award for Outstanding Contribution to Service in 2016. Hugé is known for her warm, welcoming presence, her attention to detail, and expertise in food and wine pairings. In 2023, FYN was the first stand-alone restaurant in Africa invited into the prestigious Relais & Châteaux association.

Hugé’s significant impact on service standards in the restaurant industry is clear through FYN, which she says, “invites diners to enjoy diverse textures and techniques incorporated in each course, paired with complex and uniquely crafted wines”.

Peter Tempelhoff, with over 20 years’ experience in Michelin-starred restaurants, is at the helm of the team, including Jennifer Hugé and Ashley Moss, that opened FYN in 2018 - which has since been on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Top 100 list for three consecutive years. FYN was recently awarded the coveted World’s 50 Best Flor de Caña Sustainable Restaurant Award, in recognition of Tempelhoff and team’s sustainability philosophy – including foraging and celebrating South African and Japanese ingredients and cuisine, with a focus on supporting local communities.