10 Tips for Getting the Perfect Flatlay Photo

You’ve seen them across social media, on websites, in magazines and product advertisements. They also just so happen to be my favourite photography style but I’ll be honest, creating them is not always easy.

I’m talking about flatlays, and how they have this ability to truly tell a story in just a single snapshot or make products incredibly desirable. It’s no wonder magazines and websites love using them, and when it comes to social media, you’ll find them being used for personal branding, social media ads and advertising. So as a self proclaimed Flatlay Queen, I thought I’d share 10 tips to help you create the perfect flatlay photo.

1. Find Creative Inspiration

If you have no idea where you should begin with your flatlay, or need some guidance on how you can get started with your flatlay photo, the easiest thing for you to do is find some creative inspiration. Browse through online platforms like Pinterest and Instagram (follow the #khaliphaflatlay hashtag on Instagram as a start). YouTube videos are also a great way to find some creative inspiration for your flatlay photo.

2. Pick a Theme

Once you have some ideas on how to get started with your flatlay photo, it’s time to decide on what theme your flatlay will be. From beauty and skincare to fashion and food, your theme should be decided on what story you want to tell in your flatlay photo, or what product you are trying to showcase. It might not make the best sense to highlight a beauty product in a gym-themed flatlay (unless you can make that work, then go for it!), but make sure that the theme you choose aligns with the goal of the flatlay photo.

3. Have the Right Props

I can’t stress this enough – your props are the supporting act in your entire flatlay photo. They should be used to enhance the overall flatlay or help tell a story in your photo. Your props shouldn’t overtake the main product of your flatlay, nor should you have too many props that they become overwhelming and more of a distraction in your photo.

camera flatlay photo with canon 400D and SD cards and instax photos of khalipha ntloko

Once you have the theme of your flatlay photo in might, remember that you need to select props that will match the theme. Make sure that you also give yourself a good selection of props to choose from when creating your flatlay photo, so that you can exchange props as you compose your flatlay. For more insight into props for flatlays, read my 6 Tips to Remember About Props for Flatlays.

4. Keep Your Background Clean

Another piece of advice that I’ll give whenever it comes to the background of your flatlay photo – keep it clean and simple. A plain white background is the best go-to colour to use as a background because of the versatility it offers. It doesn’t distract from the items you will put on it and you have the most freedom to play, especially when it comes to colour palettes.

I love South African brand, Flatlay Studio, for its wide selection of flatlay boards to choose from. All of the flatlay boards I own are from this brand, and it’s made the biggest difference in being able to create better flatlays with them. However, if you can’t get flatlay boards, use the surfaces that you have around your home. From wooden floors and tiles to kitchen countertops and coffee tables, your options are genuinely right in from of you.

5. Choose the Right Layout

In a recent #CanonCollectiveSA episode, I went into more detail about the 3 composition or layout techniques that you can choose from when composing your flatlay photo:

  • Structured: using gridlines to lay your items out in an organised manner
  • Unstructured: using curve lines to lay your items out in a more casual manner
  • “In The Moment” where you include a piece of yourself in the flatlay photo.

6. Shoot from Top-Down

This might seem like a very obvious tip but just in case you didn’t know, flatlay photos are taken from above so you’re going to need to get comfortable with this angle. Sometimes, you won’t need to use ladders or chairs to get your perfect shot but what is important to know with flatlay photos is that the more you want to fit everything in the frame, the higher you will need to photograph the flatlay photo. If you’re doing a flatlay that focuses more of a product, then you’ll find yourself photographing your photo at a much closer angle.

7. Leave Space for Text

This was something I learned when working with a client who had enlisted my to take some flatlay photos for social media. I’m used to creating a scene with my flatlays but this time around, I needed to do that and leave space for the client to add text on the image. This is a tip that will benefit anyone who wants to use flatlays for their business and advertise themselves. If you are creating a flatlay photo for an ad, you might want to leave some space in the middle to add your business name, your products and services or a special promotion that you might be having.

8. Keep Your Edits Simple

Once you finally have your flatlay photo, it’s time to do a little post-production work. You don’t need to do anything major (unless the way you took the actual photograph in-camera wasn’t the best) but I highly recommend that you get familiar with some of these editing terms for your flatlay photos:

  • Crop: if you plan on posting your flatlay photo on social media platforms, like Instagram, you might want to crop the image so that it better fits the dimensions of the platform that you are posting on.
  • Brightness: this helps to add some light to the overall flatlay photo
  • Saturation: this is helpful for making the overall colours in your flatlay photo stand out or pop. This works best for food flatlays!
  • Contrast: this will help with brightening some of the whites while deepening the blacks, creating depth in the flatlay photo.
  • Sharpness: if your camera hasn’t captured the crispness that you were hoping for, you can use this tool
flatlay with sunflowers and fruit in a bowl and bread

9. Don’t Forget Textures

I recently shared a Twitter thread on why textures are so important in a flatlay photo. Feel free to read through the thread to get more details but in essence, textures help with two things in a flatlay photo”

  • It gives your flatlay photo visual interest, especially since textures help give a 3D element to a 2D photo.
  • Textures help create depth (because you have a flat background so you need to create foreground with textured elements)

10. Balance is Everything

Whether you’re using a flatlay photo for your Instagram feed or a Facebook ad, balance is everything. Now yes, this is subjective and relative but here are some things to remember when it achieving balance:

  • Don’t put all of your big items on one side of the image, and all of your smaller props on the other. You want a good, equal distribution of the two spread across your frame.
  • If you have a big item placed in the centre of your frame, try and disperse medium to smaller props around the bigger item so that you have some balance.

This takes some practice and finessing but creating balance is possible and training your own eye

This takes some practice and finessing but creating balance is possible and training your own eye will help you spot when you have an odd placement of products and when your flatlay photo looks more balanced.

Now Go Slay Your Flatlay

Now that you have these tips on creating the perfect flatlay photo, I hope it helps you with your Instagram feed or social media ads. One thing I love about flatlays is that you certainly will get better at taking them with patience and practice.

If you want to learn more about flatlay photography, read some of my posts below:


How To Relax, Reset and Refresh.

So I took quite the break from blogging and sharing content on my website. To be honest, there were a mirage of things that were going on in my life that took most of my attention. I simply didn’t have as much time as I hoped to have to pour into my website.

Beyond this, however, I was also in a space where I needed to get back to being the best version of myself – which meant pausing on social media to pour back into my overall wellbeing. It isn’t an easy decision, to put writing on hold because this is a genuine passion of mine. But when the lights are dim and the passion just doesn’t create an inner spark, I needed to work on myself a little.

I’m sure we can all agree that this past year has been such an abnormal one in so many ways, and naturally, conversations around mental health and wellness took centre stage because, well, pandemic! There are different ways of resting, and I’m sure we all found the ones that worked for us. But I thought I’d share what helped me manage my mental wellness, stress and overall health during this last month that I was away from my beloved website.


It was a rather difficult realisation to come to, but my partner recently shared with me something that I never knew was something that I struggled with.

I don’t really know how to relax…

Photo by Gabb Tapique on Pexels.com

I mean, spa days and solo dates are great examples of relaxing myself. But during a work week, once I’m done with my 8-5, I give myself about a few human hours to eat and slip into something comfortable before I start working on my personal and side work from 6-3. This isn’t the most ideal scenario because I’m not getting the most sleep.

Relax the mind

  • Remember to breathe. I mean it! I don’t know how many times I’ve had to pay attention to my breathing during my meditations but it’s something that has become more conscious to me, and I use simple breathe work to help me relax and slow my mind down whenever it races.
  • Listen to relaxing music. Because this really will help with relaxing your mind.
  • Meditate. And do this mindfully. Mindful meditation, from my experience, is about focusing your attention to the here and now. From your breathing to the sounds you hear, observing your thoughts is what mindful meditation has taught me, and something I would encourage you to try.

Relax the body

  • Try yoga. It doesn’t need to be the complicated bendy poses you may see but give yoga a try to help relax your body and muscles.
  • Take frequent walks. Or at least, get active and keep your body moving. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a HIIT cardio workout routine. Do something that you enjoy but will help you relax through movement (long walks to the fridge don’t count!)
  • Treat yourself to a massage. Whether it’s a Back, Neck and Shoulders or a Swedish Full Body, sometimes you need to make the time to relax your body and a massage can be just the answer.

Relax the soul

  • Journal your thoughts and emotions. This is about letting go of the thoughts and emotions you may be holding onto, causing your mind to feel cluttered and your soul uneasy. Journaling can be such a great way to release negative emotions and work through the clutter.
  • Create boundaries. And try your best to stick to them. I sometimes have a tough time with saying no because of my ‘team player’ nature, which has brought me some stress that I could have avoided. It’s okay to say no; don’t do things that will cost you your peace.
  • Do more of what makes you happy. I am in the process of doing this, and I am moving into a space where I enjoy life so much more because I’m doing what makes me happy. Whether it’s reading a book, listening to music, or creating something, do more of what makes you happy, okay?


Our current internet age has this phrase “Get it together!” There once was a time where I would say this and didn’t really care for ‘getting my life together’ but so many of my experiences in adulthood have called me to take ‘getting my life together’ more seriously. What, though, does that even look like?

Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

An Attitude of Gratitude

Well, for one, I consider Gratitude to be part of my routine for a daily reset. Every day, I tweet “Dear God, Thank you for another day.” I don’t do this for the casual sake of it; it forms part of the morning and daily reset ritual I’ve created for myself, where I begin the day on a new blank page but that God for giving me the opportunity to experience the day ahead.

Practicing gratitude has also proven to be healthy for me beyond just resetting my mindset. You’ll find yourself attracting so much more joy and peace, and engaging less with negative emotions. You might find yourself sleeping better and actually feeling well rested. Gratitude, in all of its simplicity, has the ability to help you realise just how wonderful life is and how much good you have in your life.

Try and take this approach when you reset; think about the abundance that is all around you and how each day, you have access to all of it if you allow yourself to be open to it. All it takes is less than 10 minutes to simply write down all that you are grateful for, and affirmation each day that you are worthy and deserving of the abundance that life has to offer you.

Set Social Media Boundaries

This is something new to be but it’s what I want to continue implementing for the rest of my life.

As much as a large part of my work involves being on social media, I’ve had to do some resetting in terms of creating boundaries for myself where I can use social media without it running my whole life. Social media is great for connecting with others, marketing yourself and your skills, and being some kind of distraction during my lunch breaks.

But I’ve also realised that Twitter has become my morning newspaper right after I wake up, that I’m scrolling through different online platforms for a little too long, and I’m thinking about what’s the next thing that I need to post. So, I’ve had to reset my life a bit by creating some boundaries so that I can still be productive without needing to see who or what is trending online.

I love that my smartphone has included a “digital wellness” aspect to them, where I can set the amount of time I am on my phone. It takes some getting used to but it’s well worth taking the time to create these boundaries for myself so that I can live offline and have a more healthy relationship with social media.


There’s nothing quite like that fresh feeling what washes over you after a hot bath or shower. Or perhaps, that’s just me but that sense of feeling refreshed goes hand-in-hand with resetting my life.

Self care

I no longer wait for Sundays to practice self care; if I need that face mask and glass of red wine with jazz music playing in the background on a Wednesday night, best believe that’s what I’ll do on Wednesday night. Learning to refresh my life has made me realise that I don’t need to wait for a designated day to do this – I can refresh myself by doing self care at any point of the week.

The important thing to remember about self care, no matter how you practice it, is to think about what makes you feel taken care of for YOU! At one point, I thought I had to do a whole 10-Step Skincare Routine on a Sunday in order to participate in “Self care Sunday”. That’s not the case though; my routine is only about 5 steps and, more than anything, it works right for me in making me feel more relaxed and refreshed. This is my encouragement to you. It’s great to have sources of inspiration and advice in terms of what you can do for self care, but make sure that you do what makes you feel comfortable and refreshed for yourself.

P.S. Read this blog post on self care if you need some ideas 🙂

Photo by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels.com

Create your sanctuary

Throughout my journey of decorating the apartment I moved into this year, I have realised the importance of creating a safe space for myself – not just to call home but to feel like I can relax, reset and refresh myself as many times as I can with no restraint.

I’ll be honest with you, I am not the most tidy person on the planet. When my mind is a mess, it can easily be reflected in my living space, and it’s something I’m working on. Unfortunately, life keeps me so busy and with all the work and home and social things I do, it can get difficult to upkeep my space in order to maintain the sanctuary I am trying to create for myself.

With that said though, here are a few things that I have found helpful in creating that sanctuary that is a safe space:

  • Incorporating scents. Because I’ve come to realise just how much this matters to me, and the calming effects it has on my mind. I’ve become a fan of vanilla lately as well as room sprays for those quick bursts of making any space smell like heaven.
  • Have a different set of bed linen. I’ve always stuck to white throughout my adult life, and that still remains true now that I am living on my own. However, I’ve added other colours to change the look of my bedroom, and stimulate the feeling of ‘peace’ and ‘tranquil’ that I like to create in this space specifically.
  • Clean regularly. From vacuuming to doing dishes and laundry, it really makes such a difference when you take the time to clean up on a regular basis.

I hope that helped…

This may not be the world’s most certified method of successfully relaxing, resetting and refreshing, but I do hope that there was something in this post that you can take away and implement if you aren’t already.

More than anything, I hope that if you do choose to incorporate some of the things I have been doing in your own life, you’ll start to feel a little more… you, in the sense that you’ll feel more at ease with life, that you’ll let go of negative emotions and that you’ll understand the importance of hitting that refresh button whenever you need to.

Let me know if you do try something from this post; I’d love to hear your experience of it and how you found it beneficial for you.

A Quick Beginner’s Guide to Flatlay Photography

Anyone who knows me on social media knows just how much I have a passion for flatlay photography. I’ve been taking flatlay photos for 5 years now, and while there is still so much to learn, I’ve built up enough knowledge and experience to nail some of the fundamentals when it comes to flatlay photography.

With that in mind, I wanted to share this quick beginner’s guide to flatlay photography, so that any and everyone who has an interest in this particular photography form has something to refer to. I wish I had a guide like this to help me when I was starting out years ago, but I guess I needed to explore and experiment with a number of flatlay concepts before truly providing a guide like this. So, grab your notes (or bookmark this article) and let’s dive into flatlay photography!

What’s The Reason?

This is a very literal question that you should be asking yourself every time you are about to create a flatlay image. What is the reason? Why are you doing this?

Are you educating people through your flatlay photo? Is there a specific product that you are highlighting or showcasing? Perhaps it’s a service that you want to share in the image? Or maybe there is a story that you want to tell through your flatlay photo?

Whatever the reason is, make sure that you actually have one and build your flatlay around that.

flatlay photo of canon camera and polaroid

Choose the Right Background

I say this quite often whenever I speak about this aspect of flatlay photography but, the background that you use is like the location you use when you’re doing a portrait or fashion photoshoot. Wherever you place your model, or subject, will have some kind of impact on the overall image you take. Same concept applies to flatlay photography.

The background, or surface, that you use to place your objects on is important because it will either enhance the overall image or distract from the objects and items you are trying to place on the background. So, pick your backgrounds wisely!

My golden rule of thumb is to try keep your backgrounds clean and neutral. White is a staple background colour for me because it allows for the most versality in terms of the colours I can include through the objects I’ll use. Textured backgrounds (such as wooden tables or charcoal slates) are also great, especially for food flatlys, as they add this natural and organic feel that often compliments food. I personally get my flatlay boards from local South African brand, Flatlay Studios.

Just remember that when you are selecting a background for your flatlay photo, it shouldn’t be something that’s busy with patterns or distracting with harsh colours. Keep it as neutral as you can to make the most out of your flatlay photo.


Light it Up!

So, I am a natural light photographer, both in my flatlays and portraits – in just about everything that I snap a photo for, natural light is my best friend. Of course, there are pros and cons to this, but I have found that the best flatlays are the ones that have been taken in natural light.

Some advantages for using natural light are, for one, it’s free and Mother Nature is quite generous in letting us get a lot of hours when it comes to natural light. Even though it’s not as easily controlled as artificial lighting, I personally prefer the overall softness and warmth that natural light provides.

However, you do want to avoid direct or overhead sunlight. There is a way to work around this (like having a diffuser) but the reason I say you want to avoid this type of natural light is due to the harsh shadows and contrast you can get in your flatlay photo.

Pick Your Theme

What kind of flatlay are you going to do? What’s the theme that your flatlay photo will take on? Food? Skincare? Makeup? Lifestyle? Camera gear?

You’ve probably come across food, beauty and camera gear flatlays (these are quite common) but there are so many other themes that your flatlay photo can take on as a theme, and it’s important that you have an idea of what the theme will be.

Your reason for the flatlay photo you want to take will more than often guide what theme you should select. If, for example, you want to showcase your morning breakfast meal, then the overall theme of the flatlay photo is “food” and you’ll create your flatlay photo around that theme. In essence, you want to select a theme that links back to the reason why you are doing this flatlay to begin with.

Choose the Right Layout

In my 5 years of flatlay photography experience, I’ve come across 3 distinct layouts to choose from when it comes to placing your products and props:


This is where you use gridlines as a template to help you place your objects and items. These layout styles have a rather masculine and stoic feel to them because they are quite rigid, and everything is placed in a meticulous manner (think “camera gear” and beauty flatlays).


Opposite to the structured layout, this is where you use more curve lines to help guide you on where you should place items in your flatlay photo. This layout style can get a little messy and frustrating if you have no sense of direction when it comes to product placement, so my advice is to grab a piece of paper and draw S-curves to create a template for yourself to follow. It becomes a lot easier for you to see where you can place your products and props, and you won’t feel so confused on where certain items should go.

“In The Moment”

This is phrase I have coined, and I refer to this layout as one that includes a piece of yourself in the actual flatlay photo. Whether that’s your hand or leg (or any other body part), in essence, you had a human component to your flatlay photo, which can oftentimes feel more inviting and personal (as opposed to just a viewer seeing a bunch of products on a service, adding a piece of yourself feels like the viewer is with you “in the moment”).

Photograph Your Flatlay Photo

Once you have worked your way through the above steps and tips, it’s finally time for you to actually take a picture of your flatlay photo. Whether you are using a smartphone, DSLR or Mirrorless camera, your flatlay photo will always be taken from one primary angle – directly above, or bird’s eye view.

You basically want to hold your camera directly above your flatlay scene, trying your best to get as parallel to your scene as possible, before snapping away! If you have a tripod, this will help you in terms of getting more stable images, and you’ll always have your photos taken from the same exact height (which is helpful if you are planning to switch out some props and products throughout your photoshoot). However, a tripod isn’t necessary, especially if you are a beginner. Working with what you have (tripod or not) won’t stop you from being able to capture amazing flatlay photos.


Editing Your Flatlay Photo

I try my best to stay away from using filters with the flatlays I create (especially if I’m doing brand or client work) and instead, focus on getting specific editing techniques right. Whether I use Lightroom or Snapseed, some of the main editing tools I use for my flatlay photos (and the tools I’d encourage you to get familiar with) are:

  • Brightness
  • Contrast
  • Saturation (especially with food flatlays)
  • Highlights
  • Shadows

These really are some of the most basic editing tools you want to get right first before you add filters or presets (especially if you work with natural light, where it can change so often and you’ll need to adjust the white balance).

Go Slay Your Flatlay!

Now that you have a better idea of some things to consider when it comes to taking a flatlay photo, I hope this guide encourages you to keep exploring this photography style. Like I mentioned before, I wish I had a guide like this to help me out when I was starting, but I truly hope that this will be the guide that someone needs now.

I’d absolutely love to write a guide that’s even more in-depth that this one, but I’ll save that for another day. For now, grab your cameras and enjoy the art that is flatlay photography.

P.S.: I recently recorded a podcast episode with Orms for a discussion on defining authenticity for yourself as a content creator. I touch on my flatlay photography process, sharing tips that I believe will be helpful for you. Take a listen here.

5 Beauty Tips To Remember

In my 25 years of living life on this blue planet, the amount of beauty tips I have come across have been more than a handful. And of course this would be the case, given how beauty trends come and go, and you take your own time to discover what makes your particular skin tick.

What I’ve come to know, though, is that looking good has a dose of wanting to save time and money without having to sacrifice on quality products or effective routines to get you looking like your best self. So after a lot of trial and error, it’s safe to say that I’ve picked up on some tips and tricks along the way that I’d like to share with you. Use them, or lose them, but I’ve seen how effective they are in giving your skin a boost when you truly give it the love and care it needs. So without delay, here are the 5 beauty tips I reckon you should remember.

1. Don’t Skip the Sunscreen

For a long time, while growing up, I didn’t think I needed to use sunscreen because I simply figured that the melanin in my skin would be sufficient. I hardly wore sunscreen during the days I was playing a hockey match, or basking in the sun on school trips. Looking back, I wish I could kick myself for every time I left sunscreen at home.

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

I’ve heard this piece of advice about a million times before, and I’m sure you have too, so for all times sake – please wear sunscreen. Like, all the time. Come rain or shine, thunder and winds. Wear sunscreen.

Besides its ability to protect your skin against the harmful UVA and UVB sun rays, sunscreen just so happens to also be the most important anti-ageing product. A broad-spectrum sunscreen is going to your skin against wrinkles, pigmentation, and skin cancer. So make sure that you choose a sunscreen product that has this characteristic as well as an SPF of at least 15. My current day and night creams, from the Justine A-Firm Time Renewal range, all include SPF 15 in them but this isn’t enough to give me the full protection I need from the harmful sun rays. So investing in sunscreen as been on my list of must-haves for 2021, so if you have any suggestions, please leave comments!

2. Remove Your Makeup Sis!

Oh yes, I was once guilty of skipping this particular step in my daily routine because I was too tired or figured that makeup wipes would suffice. But oh, did I learn my lesson when it comes to this tip.

At the end of a really long and taxing day, it can be tempting to simply wipe the makeup away before diving head first to bed, but not properly removing makeup can lead to some bad skin results. You really do want to make sure that you take the time to thoroughly clean your face and remove as much makeup as you can before going to bed. What you don’t want is clogged up pores, which can cause pimples, blackheads and acne.

Some of my go-to makeup removal products include:


3. Drink Up!

I’m a firm believer in taking care of your skin starting with what you put into your body. At the end of the day, your skin is an organ – living and breathing and replenishing itself on a consistent basis.

Photo by Nadi Lindsay on Pexels.com

Did you know: drinking more than 2.5L of water per day keeps your skin supple, increases elasticity, and improves your skin’s hydration levels? There are so many more great benefits to drinking water for your skin, and I reckon that this is a tip that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine (especially since you can include beverages, fruits or vegetables that have high water content in them).

4. Eat Lean and Clean

Sticking on the subject of drinking more water, pairing this with a healthy diet adds to the benefits this has for your skin. I’m no expert in the art and science of what exact foods you should be consuming because of what nutritional value they have, but I do know that having a diet that is rich in nutrients has benefits for your body as a whole – skin included.

Some foods that you might want to start adding into your diet include:

  • Fish (for the protein and omega-3 fatty acids that promote skin health)
  • Wholegrains and beans (to reduce your intake of refined “white” carbohydrates)
  • Fruits and vegetables (especially the more colourful kind for Vitamin A)
  • Nuts and seeds (for healthy omega-3 fats and selenium)

5. Exfoliate Regularly

Your skin cells experience a good amount of wear and tear because of how exposed it is to the environment. So you’ll find that dead skin cells tend to shed off naturally, while constantly replacing itself with new skin cells underneath this dead layer. This process usually takes about 28 to 45 days in an average adult. The downside to this, however, is that the dead cells your skin sheds can still get deposited on the skin surface. This can lead to you having an uneven skin tone or even acne breakouts. This is why exfoliation is an important step in your beauty routine. Not only does it help to remove the build up of these dead skin cells, but you’ll help with a more brighter complexion as the skin replenishes itself.

Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

Personally, I don’t think that there is a one-size-fits-all answer to “What exfoliator should I use?”, purely because I think that this depends on your own skin type. There are also so many options available – chemical exfoliants vs grainy exfoliants. Exfoliant variants will also differ depending on where on your body you might be exfoliating. So there are some things you definitely need to consider with this tip before choosing your product accordingly.

Exfoliating has its benefits but choosing how you exfoliate your skin is linked to knowing what your skin type is, as well as any products that your skin might be sensitive to. If you are unsure, rather consult a dermatologist to get the best, most expert advice.

I hope these 5 beauty tips are easy enough not just to remember, but to perhaps try and include into your own beauty routines (if they make sense for you and actually fit into your lifestyle). I’d love to hear your own beauty tips that you love so leave them in the comments for me to read 🙂

NOTE: This content includes advice providing generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified and professional medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information on your own specific needs.

A Culinary Conversation with Nomtha Gocina

As I write this post, I’m sipping on a glass of red, biting into an open sandwich, and longing for the days where I can actively plan for a vacation again that involves trying out the local cuisine.

I admit, that this lockdown period has given me ample time to think about food in general – how much I’ve eaten it, how comforting its been during the cold winter months, and how I need to get back to indulging in this small passion of mine.

But, whether you found yourself baking banana bread or trying out new recipes, I’m willing to bet that food found its way into our lives in a meaningful way during the pandemic, and provided this silent method of allowing us to cope through the chaos. In the same breath, I wanted to share one amazing young woman’s inspiration on creating her own Instagram food page during this time.

Allow me to introduce to you Nomtha Gocina, a 23 year old from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, who now resides in Belgium as an au pair. With a Media & Communications degree under her belt, Nomtha is also a cooking, travel and beauty enthusiast, and launched her food page on Instagram called Tah Cooks in June 2020. Her food page is a place where she shares recipes and shows off her love for cooking, and quite honestly leaves me inspired and encouraged to keep experimenting in the kitchen.

So in this article, Nomtha is sharing her very own food for thought – the inspiration behind Tah Cooks, her experience with Dutch cuisine, and tidbits on how South African flavours make their way into her cooking. Grab some jenever and enjoy the read!

Khalipha Ntloko: Since moving to the Netherlands, how has this change influenced your love for food? 

Nomtha Gocina: Me moving to the Netherlands has broadened my view of food and has definitely deepened my love for food. I have learnt new ways of preparing food, I have been exposed to different types of foods and vegetables that I have come to enjoy. One thing people should know about the Netherlands is that there is almost no cuisine you can’t find; there is so much versatility!

KN: What are some of your favourite Dutch delicacies that you have come across?

NG: Honestly, I don’t like a lot of traditional Dutch food because most of it, I call it baby food. Their traditional foods are different vegetables mashed together, served with meat or not, and that’s it. But what I do love is erwtensoep met vlees (chickpea soup with meat pieces), courgette soep met spek (courgette/zucchini soup with bacon), en snert (pea soup).

KN: What inspired you to start your new Instagram food page, Tah Cooks?

NG: I have always shared my cooking on my Instagram stories, and I would get requests for recipes and people seemed to be really interested in my cooking. I’d write out recipes on my notes on my phone personally for people, until I decided to take a leap of faith and just start a cooking page. Purely just to post what I enjoy to do, in the hopes that I can one day go further with it.

KN: How do you incorporate South African cuisine or flavours into some of the meals that you create? 

NG: One thing about South African food, in my opinion, is that it is known for being rich in aroma, taste and colour. It’s truly food made with love, even if it’s a simple meal. That’s what I try to incorporate into my recipes. I enjoy making simple and easy-to-make meals, but also meals made with TLC. I received a compliment from someone and they said “You can taste the love in your food” and that was probably the best compliment I have ever received about my food.

KN: Which would you rather choose: starting your own restaurant or releasing your own cookbook? 

NG: Honestly that’s a hard one! But having worked in the restaurant business as a waitress, it’s a difficult industry to navigate through, Id need many years of experience. But what I would love to do is release my own cookbook, Id love to collaborate with other cooks to do so too.

KN: Which restaurant do you miss in South Africa, and why?

NG: Wow, another hard one! Very hard but I find myself thinking about the platter for one from Ocean Basket often! I also miss itshisanyama, with some steamed bread and chakalaka. Last time I had this from a restaurant was at Black Impala in Port Elizabeth.

KN: What are some of your favourite European restaurants that you would recommend?

NG: You’re killing me here! But here is my Top 5 (because I really can’t remember the others): Burger Bar, Koi, Sumo, Brodway and Thaicoon.

KN: You’re having dinner in your home next weekend – what would you put on the menu?

NG: This is something I made recently, I wanted to have an Italian themed evening and it turned out amazing! I would have Carpaccio as starters, served with rocket, cherry tomatoes, green seedless grapes, pine nuts, shaved parmaggiano, and a drizzle of truffle oil and balsamic vinegar. Paired with some ciabatta bread with tomato, pesto and mozzarella. Mains, I would make my delicious Melanzane and as dessert (for guests usually because I can do without dessert) I would make Tiramisu.

KN: Is there anything unusual that you have come across in Dutch cuisine?

NG: I find it very unusual that they eat raw fish with onion and say its delicious! But hey, I am not judging. I also think Dutch people are very practical about their food and meals; their meals are simple and use simple ingredients and its as if they treat food as substance to fill the body and that’s it haha. A typical Dutch meal is meat, one or two vegetables and potatoes. The simple the better.

KN: Since launching Tah Cooks, what are some of the cuisines or ingredients that you are interested in trying more often?

NG: I would love to try and cook Indonesian food. It has become my favorite since I moved to the Netherlands because you will find so many Indonesians who live there and so many amazing restaurants to eat from. Id love to learn Thai and Korean cuisines too.

If you’re hungry for more and want to keep up with Nomtha’s flair for food and cooking, give her a follow on her social channels below:

Instagram: @tahcooks

Instagram: @nomtah

YouTube: Nomtha Gocina

Twitter: @nomtah