Pastry Chef and Entrepreneur Jessica Gower chronicles her passionate journey to launching her own safari inspired baking business
“My Career as a pastry chef started from a young age. I used to love having my own make-believe cooking show in my mom’s kitchen and would describe to the “viewers” what I was doing and what I was making, just like the shows on TV. My mother is a great baker in her own right and runs a successful cake business in South Africa so I can safely say she has been a great inspiration on my culinary journey.”
– Jessica Gower, Owner – Frosting on Safari
Before finishing school, Jessica had already started learning how to become a chef at Sondela Academy on part-time basis. Shortly thereafter she then moved to Johannesburg, where she enrolled at the Food and Beverage Institute: School of Pastry. The goal in Jessica’s words, was to explore and refine her love for pastry.
“During that year I did in-house training at the Michelangelo. After completing my programme, I moved to Durban to the 1000 Hills Chef school where I completed my final year of studies. A highlight during my time there was when I won a culinary internship only offered to 1 chef per department per year in the entire country. I couldn’t believe that I had been selected for the remarkable opportunity to jet off to Naples, Florida, all the way in America, for a 6-month internship at the Ritz-Carlton as a pastry chef. That was the time when my passion for pastry really bloomed.
“When I returned from the USA, I moved to Cape town, where I was involved in several high-end catering events like the “Table of Peace” and “Unity in Cape Town” – both of which were hosted on the top of Table Mountain. I enjoyed the privilege of working in several high-end restaurants as the Head Pastry and Dessert Chef, all the while baking delicious cakes for friends and family. It was in Cape Town where I met my now husband, AJ and our journey together saw us moving to the stunningly beautiful Okavango Delta, where we both worked in luxury bush camps for several years,” says Jessica.
Frosting on Safari is born…
As fortune would have it, Jessica and AJ got an exciting opportunity to move to AJ’s home country; Zimbabwe. It was here that they opened a small B&B, which became a moment of pivoting for Jessica, as she really immersed herself in the local cake decorating scene and began promoting her business as “Frosting on Safari”. The name came about as inspired by Jessica baking cakes for guests in the camps in Botswana as well as Victoria Falls – a tourist border town widely known for its abundance of safari opportunities. The name was a hit and the orders started to come through.
“It took me a while to establish myself in the town but now that I have, I am the go-to person for cakes! Victoria Falls is a stunning place to get married and I absolutely love doing wedding cakes too! Did I mention I have an obsession for flowers!? Everyday I prep my sugar room for a days’ worth of decorating and creating. I go and pick whatever fresh flowers are in my garden, get the indie music going and start working. Most of the small intricate items I make take hours to piece together but the final product is so beautiful I sometimes don’t want to give them away!” Jessica cites with enthusiasm.
But working and living in Victoria falls isn’t always easy. Jessica has had to contend with a multitude of challenges like wild animals, extremely hot temperatures in Zimbabwe’s Western region, and of course unreliable electricity supply! And yes, you read it right, wild animals!
“There have been several times when I have been baking some delicious cupcakes for a big birthday party only to come back to the baking room to find a baboon with 3 cupcakes shoved into his cheeks with 3 more in his hand as he jumps out the window! Everything manages to get a taste of my cakes including the mongoose family who come through the garden almost every day. When I hear them, I must quickly run and shut the doors or risk having my house ransacked by a family of 30 mongoose, looking for all the sugary bits that fall on the floor,” Jessica narrates.
During summer, the temperatures can reach up to 48 Degrees Celsius! What it means is a constant dance between Jessica’s chest freezer to give the cakes a brief shock of cooler temperatures and the decorating table. Everything melts at that temperature so when someone orders a cake, her delivery time must be quick!
Looking ahead for Frosting on Safari
Jessica hopes that Frosting on Safari will evolve into a successful private catering business, leveraging the growth she has already started to witness as she prepares sunset snacks for cruise boats. She enjoys taking advantage of the beautiful sunset on the Zambezi as tourists to Victoria Falls enjoy sundowners onboard river boats. She also hopes to provide catering for private guests in luxury homes that she and her husband rent out to high-end tourists, finding young, aspiring chefs with the same passion she carries to work and grow with, giving them the same excitement and zeal has led to her success as a Chef to date.
“Most of my inspiration comes from the beauty of nature around us,” says Jessica. “Living in Victoria Falls has made it easy to make safari themed cakes, simply because the environment is a fitting ode to the beauty of nature and wildlife. I love making the small lions, hippos, and giraffes on the cake, and the best part of my job is the reveal; to see a bride’s tears well up or hear the excited scream of a toddler is really the best part of it all,” she adds.
While Jessica shares that she hasn’t travelled to many places in Africa yet, she does hope for the opportunity to experience more of what the continent has to offer.
“My absolute favorite places must be Cape Town for its incredible beauty and food, The Okavango Delta in Botswana for its amazing wildlife and Gonarezou National Park in Zimbabwe for its beautiful landscape and wildlife,” Jessica shares.
“The amount of wedding and birthdays keep me rather busy but when we get the chance, we always go for a drive into the Zambezi National park and have a picnic along the river. We are so lucky to live in this part of the world, and so we take every opportunity to enjoy it.”