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Mama chef!

Renowned chef and culinary school owner, Jackie Cameron became a mother a year ago. Now she has launched her own exciting baby food range. We chat to her about both and get some handy baby feeding advice!

Anyone who knows Jackie knows she is a driven, motivated professional who is dedicated to the work she does. And that is exactly the type of mother she became when little Jasmine was born a year ago. As devoted to her students at the Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine as ever, she manages to find a balance between motherhood and work and is excited to introduce her baby food (which has been approved by a clinical dietitian) to the market.

Tell us about how you manage to balance motherhood with your work at the school.
I am as hands-on as I was before Jasmine’s arrival – I just work longer in the evenings after putting her down now! I say this, but I would not be able to cope without my exceptional team, my husband and my mother. What would I have done without my mother?! She helped me every day for the first three months. I am so lucky that we all live on the same property. ‘Tete’ Anna Manzire, Jasmine’s carer, also eases my load. We all work as a team, so I have extra-ordinary support which allows me to balance work and motherhood. My heart goes out to single mothers who have no help.

What has been the biggest surprise or revelation for you in terms of feeding a little human?
Gee whiz…everything! This has all been a huge learning roller-coaster ride for me. I have always loved babies and enjoy spending time with them, but I simply appreciated them for what they were. Now I’m enjoying witnessing the stages of development and, being a chef, I am fascinated with the changes in Jasmine’s palate. I also appreciate my understanding of food as I witness the development of her tastebuds. During my pregnancy, I ate produce from farmers and suppliers that I knew. If I ever ordered food from a restaurant, I would choose a vegetarian meal. I’m not vegetarian but I am particular about the source of the meat and the chicken that I eat and serve. I know that my baby will become a young teenager and spend time with friends, going to parties and eating fast foods … and probably shun her mother’s food values! But I am determined not to be too pedantic. While I can control her food intake I shall do so and will be satisfied knowing that she ate food from reputable local farmers and got a healthy start in life!

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What do you love most (so far!) about being a mom?
I have never been affectionately demonstrative, but this little girl has drawn affection out of me. From where? I have no idea. I am so grateful that Jasmine has taught me how to love in this way, because I now have a deep love for everyone around me. I was always caring and concerned … but now I love.

Top tips for early feeding from a mom who is also a professional chef:
• Stock-up with my baby food! This is said with a smile. I would like to know that more babies are eating nutrient-packed, flavoursome food. Babies’ palates need to learn the authentic flavour of different foods. They will then grow into adults who expect a high standard of food quality and preparation. I am distressed when I see a brownish apple purée because my green, granny-smith version is beautifully green and my red-apple range is the most appealing light, pink-red colour. All the products scream flavour and nutrients.
• During the introductory stage, moms are advised to add breast milk or formula to ensure the baby food is the correct consistency to ease baby’s switch to solids.

It must be remembered each baby is unique. I keep away from reading too much and I focus on Jasmine’s needs. I’m intrigued by the fact that a baby will never overeat or over-drink and that he/she knows exactly when satisfaction limit is reached. If a baby is eating and crying, I suggest try giving a little water, then going back to feeding.

• I’m an advocate of natural combinations before going to the pharmacy. So, when Jasmine demonstrated digestive problems, I added prune compote to her breakfast. This worked.
• I abhor waste. My baby food range comprises single flavours because if a baby doesn’t like one of the ingredients in a mixture a spoonful will be spat out and the entire serving will be lost – and you won’t know which ingredient caused the reaction. But you can have fun mixing small portions of different flavours and seeing how your baby responds.
• Jasmine has brunch every day! This is often an egg of sorts with shredded Sassi, green-listed fish or trout. We have huge avo trees, so she will also eat half an avo and egg. Remember, if an ingredient is difficult to find it probably is not in season, therefore it shouldn’t be eaten.
• Support local growers and farmers.
• Avoid over-complicating meals. Parents often put too much pressure on themselves. Keep it simple and ask yourself how your granny would have done it. Apart from a few new-age tweaks, I believe granny usually knows best.

Details: Jackie’s baby food range can be ordered on her website: www.jackiecameron.co.za (collection or delivery) or email her for more information: [email protected]

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