US Celebrity Chef Carla Hall explores Victoria Falls,and showcases a passion for all things African

It was not her first trip to Africa, as Carla Hall has visited West Africa previously. But it was her first sojourn to Southern Africa. During September, the US celebrity chef, television presenter and author, Carla Hall, “booked that trip” and embarked on a two-week safari to Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and to Cape Town.

Her passion for all things African, from people and community, local and fusion cuisine, art, history, and dance – was evident in a four-day cultural immersion experience at the Victoria Falls.

The trip to Zimbabwe began in early 2022, when a friend and colleague – Zimbabwean born, makeup artist and entrepreneur, Jacque Mgido shared with her colleague and close friend Chef Carla Hall, the story of Mati Nyazema and how Mati built Mbano Manor Hotel in Victoria Falls. Jacque and Carla work together in the USA. A year later, Carla, Jacque and several friends arrived in Victoria Falls, having earlier spent a few days in Harare.

Within minutes of touchdown at Victoria Falls airport, Ms Hall joined in dance with the traditional dancers, to the beat of the African drum. As one observed her African dance moves, not only at the airport but on several other occasions during her Vic Falls holiday, it became apparent that there was more to Miss Hall’s very expert dance moves. It turns out that Carla Hall has a strong long-standing passion for African dance and has even taken lessons on the art of African dance with an instructor in the USA!

Her passion is infectious. Arriving at Mbano Manor hotel, hotel staff were each greeted with a warm hug. And she toured the Mbano kitchen with the first half-hour of arrival!

Mbano Manor Hotel is the first black female-owned luxury five-star hotel in Victoria Falls. The boutique hotel was founded and developed from an original forest location to a world class establishment, despite numerous setbacks on the journey. The 19-suite hotel opened in early 2020, just weeks before Covid struck. In June 2023, Mbano Manor Hotel joined the Mantis Collection, a luxury division of global hospitality group Accor, and now trades as Mbano Manor Hotel Victoria Falls by Mantis.

In fitting with African tradition, Mbano Manor Hotel welcomed a sister home with a special festive meal. The team hosted a special “Mabiko nanaTete” (Meal with the Sisters) luncheon, which brought together women from different backgrounds, across the community of Victoria Falls to celebrate food, music, art, and dance. Working together with the Mbano chefs, several community women also showcased some of their favourite traditional dishes for Chef Carla & guests. Starters were served by the hotel poolside. Salads were served in the hotel herb garden. The main course was an open demo of open fire to barbeque cooking. Entertainment included a local high school marimba band, a mbira and dance group. A hotel public courtyard was dedicated to showcase local ladies with their arts and crafts. A well-known local barista, Loretta, showcased her local brew, made with local-grown Zimbabwe coffee. Guests for the luncheon included business managers and community partners of the hotel in Victoria Falls.

Another nod to tradition during the luncheon was when Carla Hall was bestowed by the Mbano team with a local name, Zanele, which means “the girls are enough”. “Your visit completes us as sisters”, explained Dr Mati.

For the hotel chefs, another highlight was the following morning, when Carla Halls donned her apron and assisted in cooking breakfast in the hotel kitchen. Carla also spent time in the Mbano herb and vegetable garden, exploring ideas.

As Dr Mati explained “Today’s global tourist wants to explore local culture and cuisine. Increasingly, there is a shift towards fusion cuisine where chefs combine elements of different culinary traditions from different cultures. Mbano has embraced this trend and our menu reflects both classic meals and traditional meals, or a fusion of both. Our pesto, for example is made from combining a local vegetable – tsunga, with basil – both of which are grown in our herb garden. Locality and sustainability are central themes to our delivery.”

“Chef Carla is someone who I have admired and follow as a successful black businesswoman in the culinary industry. I am delighted that she “booked that trip” and came all the way from the USA to support a fellow sister. Carla also shared how my story resonated with some of the challenges she faced in her own career journey. Her advice and expertise in the kitchen are something my team will always treasure!”! 

Carla Hall and her friends also explored the sights and sounds of Victoria Falls, including.

a tour of the Falls, a sunset cruise, high tea overlooking the Falls Gorge, and the dinner and drum show at the Boma Restaurant.

In the words of Chef Carla from her personal newsletter: “I am so in awe of the wonderful people, food, culture, and nature that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying since we landed. I am so happy I said yes to this adventure”. 

Mbano Manor Hotel is an eco-luxury experience in a bird and tree sanctuary at Victoria Falls. Comprised of 18 luxury suites and one Forest Villa, in a four- acre forest setting, the boutique hotel is located on the edge of town, only ten-minutes’ drive from the entrance to the Victoria Falls National Park.


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