Dorah Lydia Nobakhethwa Thokozile Sitole was born in Soweto on the 24th of September, 1953. She was the first child that the late Rose and the late Samuel Mabena were blessed with. At the age of two she and her younger brother, Jabulani, moved to Charterston Location in Nigel, to live with their cousins at their paternal grandfather’s home where they were raised by their aunt, Mani Maria. In 1963 she and Jabu moved back to Dube, Soweto, to live with their parents and siblings, Mandla and Lindi.
After matriculating, and though she had ambitions to study further, Dorah started working to support her family and her first job was as a research officer at Market Research Africa.
In 1978, Dorah married the love her life, the late Archie Sitole. Their love story began when they met at church where they became best friends. Four years after dating, they were married on the 6th of May. Dorah and Archie were blessed with four children, the late Sifiso, Sibusiso, Ayanda and Phumzile. Dorah and Archie were married for 35 years before his untimely death in 2014.
Dorah’s illustrious career in food began unexpectedly when Archie, who was a fan of his wife’s cooking, recommended her for the position of assistant to the Home Economist at the Canned Food Advisory Services, a division of Metal Box. Her role as the assistant to the senior Home Economist entailed testing new recipes, demonstrating recipes to women’s groups and home economic classes in the townships. It was during this time that she was able to undertake and complete her formal qualifications which included training as a Cordon Bleu chef, a public relations diploma from Damelin and a communications diploma from Prestige College. Dorah was South Africa’s first black food stylist to have published in major magazines, her first food article was published in Bona magazine in 1986. After seven years at the Canned Food Advisory Services, in 1987 Dorah joined Drum Publications as Group Food Editor for True Love, Drum and City Press. Her position as Food Editor for True Love magazine established her as a household name and she became known and loved for empowering black South African women of all ages to develop a love for cooking.
In 2008, Dorah was promoted to editor of True Love magazine. Dorah went into early retirement in 2010 but this was short-lived since her passion for food would not let her rest; as a freelancer she continued to be involved in food writing and styling and recipe development through the Dorah Sitole Culinary Studio which she registered in 2012. At this time, she continued to mentor young chefs and also went on to be Food Editor for Move! magazine.
The impact of Dorah’s contribution to the African food industry has been acknowledged through the many accolades she received over the years, including a South African Chefs Association President’s Award (for her contribution to the South African hospitality industry) and a Galliova food writer’s award. Fittingly, in 2019 she was honoured with two Food Icon of the Year awards: Women in Food and the Irna van Zyl Food Media Icon by Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards.
Dorah authored four cookbooks, the first of which was Recipes with a Touch of Africa (Via Afrika, 1994) a compilation of recipes featured in True Love magazine. Her second cookbook Cape to Cairo, a Taste of Africa (Tafelberg, 1999) told the story of her travels across South Africa’s nine provinces where she explored traditional South African cuisine, the book also showcased the traditional food of 19 African countries that she travelled to. Cooking from Cape to Cairo (Tafelberg, 2009) came as a follow up to her preceding book and included the recipes and stories of her travels to an additional five African countries. Her magnum opus, 40 Years of Iconic Food (Human & Rousseau, 2020) is a celebration of her culinary journey and was her final gift to us before her untimely death on the 3rd of January 2021.
Dorah was the pillar of her family and will be remembered by her children, grandsons, family, friends and the many people whose lives she touched through her love and passion for food.
Long may her legacy live.
Lala ngoxolo Jobe kaMatshana, Mondisa, Maphita.