A chef’s journey in ‘paradise’

43-year-old Litia Nadua, one of the two chefs on Leleuvia Island Resort. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

SHE may have an infectious smile, but the aroma of food she cooks instantly draws your attention.

Meet 43-year-old Litiana Nadua, one of the two chefs on Leleuvia Island Resort whose journey is not the usual as of any typical chef.

Ms Nadua, who hails from Savulotu Village in Ra, has been with the resort since 2011, a journey she says she never dreamt of — particularly not being from a culinary background or receiving formal education for the profession.

Her journey on the island paradise began sometime in late 2010 when she visited Leleuvia with close family friends who so happened to be the managers of the resort.

She joined the resort as a casual employee to help out in the kitchen as a dishwasher then later rose through the ranks to become one of the island’s top chefs.

After her stints as a house girl in Suva for some time, Ms Nadua spent a short time in England before returning to her village in Ra.

There she accompanied the resort manager’s family Lee-Anne Lee who visited the island for a short trip.

With an opening for a casual post, Ms Nadua decided to join to earn a bit of extra money and have her time away from the hustle and bustle of Viti Levu.

But her tenacity and commitment to work landed her a full-time job as a dishwasher and a helping hand in the kitchen.

“When I first came here, I came as a guest accompanying Lee-Anne’s father and I was eventually employed replacing one of the kitchen staff,” the soft spoken Ms Nadua said.

“They then asked me to casually work at the resort by helping the lone chef in the kitchen then for a period of two weeks.

“But then eventually after those two weeks, I was asked to fi ll out a form and be employed full time at Leleuvia.”

Her newfound job exposed her to many new things, particularly within the culinary arts world and the tourism industry.

Since she had no formal training in the profession, Ms Nadua said she basically learned through a chef who was previously employed at Leleuvia.

“When I started, I was responsible for dishwashing, cooking meals for the staff members, and then when the lone chef that was with me in the kitchen had left, I started to cook and prepare meals for the guests,” she said.

“In terms of cooking, I learn everything inside our resort kitchen. The managers sometimes get me my recipe, sometimes I just try and be creative and try new dishes.

“There were some other chefs who came in and that’s where I also eventually learned some tricks of being a chef.”

Ms Nadua said her dishes mainly involved local ones such as ika vakalolo (fi sh in coconut milk) and rourou (taro leaves) served with either breadfruit (uto) when it’s in season or taro.

“I usually prepare local dishes for the guests. I get surprised when most of the guests say they love the local dishes I prepared,” she said.

It’s true — when this newspaper visited the island, most of the guests were curious of the various local delicacies they enjoyed for Mother’s Day lunch.

The job has also allowed the single mother to support her only daughter who is in Year 9.

“I love working here and especially now I have a job which enables me to financially support my daughter in high school, because there’s no one else behind me to support us,” Ms Nadua said.

“This journey has also been a blessing and an overwhelming experience for me. I have learned a lot, especially with socialising with the guests.

“I’m not that good in meeting new people especially those from other countries, I tend to be nervous and shy.

“This job has opened up to a lot of new things for me.”

Like any other Christian, Ms Nadua firmly believes that it was not luck that brought her to the island but “God’s plan”.

“I never expected to be here on this island even to become as a chef because I didn’t study in in school,” she said.

“I thank God for his plans, sometimes we have our plans but when his plan is fulfilled, you’re just left in awe.”

Ms Nadua plans to start and operate her own business of choice when she retires from working and return to her village in Ra.