Ellah Kandi is a chef, a wedding and events planner, and a basic worship sign language and performing arts teacher.
She is also secretary and choir coordinator of the Emmanu’-El Apostolic Gospel Academy aka De Montfort University Gospel Choir which is based in Leicester in the United Kingdom.
She is the author of El-Ellah Multi-Cultural Cuisines: Heavenly Recipes (Xlibris, 2011) and is currently working on a children’s book.
In this interview, Ellah Kandi talks about her concerns as a writer:
When did you start writing?
I started writing and producing short reports when l was still in high school in Zimbabwe. I remember using exercise books and arranging my work to make it look like a magazine and saying, “One day l will publish a church magazine or a book”.
When l moved to Leicester, there was a project called “As Is” that encouraged us to write. I remember a Mr Higgins asking me to translate Shona writings into English and to write what l did during the day.
Little did I know that Mr Higgins was re-structuring what I was writing and turning it into poems. It never crossed my mind that any of what I was writing would ever be published.
It was only after the project was finished that someone gave me copies of the small published book. I was amazed at seeing my work in the book and l remember saying to myself that if l had known the work was going to be published, l would have used a different approach.
How would you describe the writing you are now doing?
So far, I have compiled a cookbook and I am now working on a children’s biblical story book.
For the cookbook, my target audience doesn’t have any boundaries. The book is for all people, from all walks of life. It has recipes on meals from the four corners of the globe hence the title, Multi-Cultural Cuisine.
When I compiled the cookbook, I wanted to provide a book that gave my audience the opportunity to experience cooking from around the world and I wanted them to also enjoy food that is prepared in a circumspect manner.
The target audience for children's story book are children, schools, Sunday schools and various Christian communities. I was motivated to write this book because I believe there is a lack of books for children that contain messages that can have a life-long, real and positive impact on their lives. This story book is based on biblical events. It also explores some events in the Bible that have never been written with a young audience in mind.
In the writing you are doing, which authors influenced you most?
The Bible is my greatest influence. My experience of reading and enjoying the Bible fuels my desire for the children to have the same, if not more, enjoyment as I do. I thought the best way to achieve this would be to include illustrations in the story book. The illustrations will benefit English-speaking children as well as children of different nationalities and languages.
How have your own personal experiences influenced your writing?
I remember, a number of years back, we were praying and eating particular dishes and many heavenly recipes which God had revealed to me. I wanted to share many of them. l would jot them down when l received them.
I mentioned to a number of people that l was going to publish a recipe book someday and one particular brother would always ask when l was going to get the recipes published because he wanted a copy. Although he never stopped asking, it was only at the age of 29 that l decided to get the recipe book published as my birthday gift to myself.
El-Ellah Multi-Cultural Cuisines: Heavenly Recipes is based on my own cooking experience. It also contains testimony on how I was influenced by the bishop of my church who is an expert chef.
I teach children in the Gospel Academy where I am co-ordinator. This experience led me to decide to write a book for children because I noticed that with children’s biblical story books, some of the stories are not always told as accurately as they occur in the Bible. My book intends to address this and bridge this gap.
What are your main concerns as a writer?
My main concerns are accuracy and that my readers will enjoy and be impacted by what I write.
One of my biggest challenges is time and being able, on a daily basis, to coordinate the many projects I am involved with and meeting various deadlines. I deal with these challenges by delegating some of my workload to my colleagues and peers who possess the relevant skills.
Do you write everyday?
Although I do not write everyday, I write most of the days of the week. Having a busy life means it is complex but when you get going you forget you are tired.
I start by writing new pieces and then l proof read and l always end with illustrations.
So far, I have written two books, El-Ellah Multi-Cultural Cuisines: Heavenly Recipes (Xlibris Publishing, 2011) and the children’s Bible storybook, which is still in production and should be published this month (October) by Xlibris Publishers.
I believe that El-Ellah Multi-Cultural Cuisines covers important cooking topics and themes. It includes recipes for appetizers, soups, fish and seafood, meat, rice and pastas, vegetables and salads, pies, puddings, and so much more.
Pastor Samuel Gapara, who is the Pentecostal and International Chaplin for the De Montfort University, assisted me in looking for publishers and Xlibris was one of the publishers we found.
Finding a publisher was a bit tough. I settled for Xlibris because it was one of the two publishing companies whose consultancies I had a chance to speak to.
I have had a very difficult time with the publishers. As a first timer, l would have appreciated more assistance from Xlibris, which l really expected to get.
l did not receive the assistance I expected and I was not pleased. I thought about give up many times when the publisher was not helping but God was and is on my side so l got through it. When advertising their services, Xlibris sounded so different. They made me believe l would receive the help l need but that help was not forthcoming.
At the moment I am looking for a different publisher for any of my future works.
Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into your books?
At times, I’ve found it difficult to add that perfecting touch to my illustrations using modern gadgets. Being new to the gadget world, it was a completely different experience compared to drawing with a traditional pencil.
Which aspects of the work did you enjoy most?
Not using precise measurements in the recipes. A different method of cooking to what we are accustomed to.
What sets the books you have written apart from each other?
Having to draw the illustrations has been a new experience and this, I believe, sets the children's book apart from the cooking book.
The children's book is very different from my first book and I am enjoying the challenge. The writing is different. The cooking book was a more technical book and involved detailing ingredients and cooking techniques whilst the children’s book calls for innovation, creativity and simplicity.
There are similarities between the two books in that both books are written based on biblical principles and are driven by moral and ethical values.
What will your next book be about?
Recipe/Cookery Book no.2
What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
Being able to reach nations, touching lives. For example, someone in Ghana said that my being a woman has encouraged a number of school students who were ready to give up on a hospitality course because of lack of resources. The person said that hearing my pre-testimony in the cookbook encouraged the students to stay on the course.
One organisation in Ghana has said that when they open their catering department they would like me to honour them by naming it. This has definitely been a significant achievement, being a role model to people l have never met.