Filmmaker, veteran producer, director, author and presenter of more than 100 TV episodes, Justin has worked in the film industry since the age of 14, filming most of his projects on location in Southern Africa. With more than 117 episodes and various other commercial ventures under his belt, Justin is producing and presenting four new TV documentary properties in 2013: “Ultimate Braai Master” Season I and II; Cooked 6 “Karoo- Land of Thirst”; and two new conservation genre documentaries, “Moving Sushi”; and “The Bush Boyes.” Justin’s first book, “Cooked in Africa”, published by Penguin 2009 was a bestseller and his 5th book Justin Bonello’s Ultimate Braai Master was published in 2012, which South Africans took to like kindle to a flame. 2013 will see the release of his Karoo Cookbook entitled “Karoo” following the broadcast of “Cooked” Season 6 later this year. Because he is a traveller at heart, Justin is at his happiest when on the road, full crew in tow, breaking boundaries and exploring places that many of us only get to dream about. And he’s not about to stop anytime soon.
Peter (or Girdy as nicknamed by Justin) is Justin Bonello’s business partner and Co-owner of Cooked in Africa Films. He's one of South Africa's most acclaimed gurus in branded entertainment. His career kicked off back in the 80s when he joined Cape Town agency, Rightford, Searle-Trip and Makin at the age of 20. By the time he reached 30, he’d became a shareholder of the Group. His success raced ahead when he headed up Ogilvy's production division and won the Grand Prix at the Loeries a staggering seven years in a row.With his sights set high and after twelve years with Ogilvy, Peter took a leap of business faith and set up his own production company Peter Gird Productions in 1991 - which enjoyed significant local and international success, representing some of the world's best loved brands and reaping numerous international and local creative and production awards. Throughout this period, he invested significant time and energy in assisting various charities with advertising and fundraising campaigns, including his role as founding member of the Sunflower Fund and his production of TV commercials for the Red Cross Children's Hospital and Rape Crisis with Charlize Theron. Peter's passion for the upliftment of South Africans has brought him to work with names like Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Bishop Desmond Tutu. When you ask him what the highlight of his career has been, he'll promptly tell you it was being asked to produce South Africa's international advertising campaign with the TV commercial: "Today I woke up in a land that said to me, be free."
With a penchant for new horizons and an accumulated 23 years of media and marketing experience behind her, Lara Black has consulted to a number of leading national and multinational brands on marketing, media management, sponsorship and corporate social investment strategies. As a qualified journalist and marketing specialist, Lara has worked in an editorial and marketing capacity across a number of titles including FAIR LADY, SA RUGBY, FHM, Real Simple and Woman & Home magazines; and was Acting Associate Publisher for Media 24 across three National Geographic titles. Her media management and sponsorship marketing experience includes Coca-Cola’s 1999 Rugby World Cup Youth Programme; Absa Athletics, the launch of ABSA’s inaugural ABSA Relay event in 2000, and the inaugural Vodacom Beach Africa Festival in 2000 – all of which won Raptor Awards for excellence in Sponsorship. Lara joined Cooked in Africa in April 2011 to head up the company’s Sponsorship and Marketing Division where she is able to combine her passion for compelling story-telling and integrity brands within the New Media and Branded Entertainment space.
After helping Justin get the first seasons of Cooked onto the BBC, Wes reckons he has become part of the furniture at Cooked in Africa. With a solid background in the film industry, they don't keep him around just for his good looks and boyish charm. From his side, he stays because he digs the freedom Cooked has with its stories and content, and because he loves working with the team that has become his friends and family, although he swears he will always adore his wife and kids. Despite Justin having nicknamed Wes "Skunky", which kinda stuck after a gruelling six week road trip,he is the rock in the Cooked family and feels quite comfortable working in an environment named after his state of mind.
Going on the road as Justin's right-hand woman has its own challenges and rewards and the line between work and pleasure soon becomes blurred. Sunel is passionate about travel and loves crossing borders, immersing herself in different cultures and exploring new landscapes. Best of all? She gets to document it along the way! Some of her favourite moments on the job include her encounter with the wild horse in Klein Aus (Namibia) and the day the crew went to the Isle of Pigs in Mozambique. Sunel has an innate fear of large bodies of water (river rafting on the Zambesi? - no thanks) but when at home has a torrid love affair with pets Snoekie, Kahlo, Charlie, Dexter and Jakkals. Her rule-breakers are long toe nails and when someone's toes hang over the edge of their sandals. That's pretty universal though.
Rosh has been part of Cooked since day one where she first worked as a freelance editor before becoming part of the furniture for good. “Why Cooked? It’s like family – we love each other, hate each other – fight, make up, we drink, we laugh, we cry. Most importantly, I found my husband in the early debaucherous days of Cooked. It feels like I have grown up here in a loving, caring environment with people that have helped me grow as a person and a professional.” In the little free time she gets, Rosh spends time with her “noo noo” Kai (her feisty 2 year old son) and her other “noo noo” Erik (her feisty husband). Combine this with great friends and a (very large) glass of Sauvignon Blanc and she’s in heaven.
24-year old Megs is one of the youngest lost souls at Cooked, but don’t let her age fool you! She joined the company fresh out of varisty and after three years of hard work in the production team there’s not a whole lot that she can’t handle. She chose working at Cooked for the opportunity to experience places she’s never been to before and thinks of her colleagues as her family. Even though her nickname is Cupcake, don’t EVER slurp your coffee next to her…chances are it’ll end up scalding your face! Her favourite moment in Cooked history is scuba diving in Sodwana.
"Looking at the world through a viewfinder has been an incredibly rewarding experience from day one", says Louis. Not only is he inspired by the talent and commitment of his colleagues, he's been having an obscene amount of fun since joining the team a few months ago - flying helicopters, playing with banded mongooses (mongeese?), sitting in an open Land Rover surrounded by a pride of lions it's hard to pick a favourite, but one of the most memorable certainly has been taking the plunge into the Big Blue on a recent tuna fishing trip - jumping into the 1200m deep ocean, beyond the continental shelf off Cape Point. "It felt like an episode straight out of National Geographic!"Â says Louis. That'sÂ good, because his Cooked work can be seen on National Geographic.
Robert is a 'ou vel' at Cooked and is usually the life of any party...except when the beer is warm. He's been editing for six years, but only recently as Cooked's in-house genius. Robbie, Bob or Boobs as he is known absolutely loves comics and wanted to be a Jedi when he was but a wee lad. He says his favourite Cooked moment was the 'boat wars at the Christmas party, because he won.' Sorry to say, there is photographic evidence that shows no one won cause they all sank in a fit of manly giggles and beer.
The unpredictable organised creative chaos is why Raylene loves her job. That might sound like a whole bunch of contradictory words to the untrained ear, but it makes perfect sense in the Cooked context. There is also the added entertainment of the liquorice all-sorts loving crew (uncle and uncled and dad and the children - you know who you are). Having an office that is not an office at all but the great outdoors, sunrises, sunsets, roadside accommodation and long road trips with very bad singing partners - what more could one ask for? No wonder Ray hates traffic, shopping malls and suffers from a bit of trolley rage. In her spare time she collects empty wine bottles, runs DVD marathons under the duvet with her daughter and cats on rainy weekends.
Another newcomer to the Cooked family, Mishal says he has been welcomed with open arms and that’s why he loves working here. “It’s not just a company that makes awesome shows, it’s a family environment. Everyone has their part to play and I’m happy that I’m included.” Mishal is still building Cooked memories, but in his spare time he likes to be as creative as possible, painting and making beautiful music.
Helena has been part of Cooked’s furniture for a while, and three years ago she joined the team as the the company's writer & researcher. When she’s not rapping editors over their knuckles for their bad spelling and grammar or co-writing Justin's books, chances are she's at home drinking copious amounts of good wine and watching trashy reality TV. Many people think she’s shy, but she’s actually just the silent judging type.
It's a good thing that Zahir has the ears of a hawk - he's been working as a sound guy for the past ten years. His motivation lies in never knowing what to expect on a shoot - which is perfect when working at Cooked! Zahir wants to explore the world, loves adventures and when he was a kid wanted to be a pirate, so needless to say, he's super stoked about working from a kayak and travelling around Iceland for the next four months.
Jei loves to colour - the kind that involves balancing light and making footage look beautiful and does a darn fine job of it too. Naturally, she is the brightest crayon in this particular box. "I will do almost anything for a Vida E cappuccino," says Jei, "but I prefer hard cash and/or sushi."
Self-motivated Brian has an impressive 12 years’ industry experience, but still dreams about starting his own punk rock band one day. He loves working at Cooked because he says he doesn’t stand out that much amongst all the other weird people that works there (fair enough). In his free time he loves spending time with his daughter, going down waterslides, singing and playing guitar with her…but admits that when it comes down to the nitty gritty he still has to clean the house by himself.
Janie has 14 years of digital publishing experience under her belt, including work for MWeb, Touchline Media and Associated Magazines. When Janie was a kid she wanted to be a dolphin trainer, chef or explorer. She joined Cooked in Africa Films in 2013 for the chance to travel and to have an office with a sea view (probably to try and spot dolphins). When she’s not at work you’ll find her spending as much of her time as possible in the great outdoors so it’s no wonder that one thing on her bucket list is to cycle around the world.
Kirsty, a.k.a “Thirsty” is the person that plays the number game all day long and says she joined Cooked by accident. As one of the more sane members of the team it makes sense that Kirsty’s pet hate is being disorganised. When she’s not at work crunching numbers, you’ll find her at home playing with her kids. Oh, and don’t let her job title or the fact that she’s a mom fool you…Kirsty is one of the best head-bangers Cooked has ever seen!
New to the industry, and new to Cooked, Georgie decided to cut herself loose from the corporate world where she slaved away as a lawyer and try her hand at Marketing, Media and PR – and has not regretted a single second of the cooked life so far! Either frowning or blushing her way around the office, she loves the creative and sometimes chaotic approach to work and life!
Taz “Tazza” Wilde has been part of the Cooked circus family for ages, and after taking a sabbatical from the industry for a couple of years, she returned as the post production manager. Her best Cooked moment was when she went white water rafting on the Zambezi River and fell out of the raft. Yikes! In her free time she hangs out with her son, a.k.a “Adventure Boy”.
Darren is one of the Cooked camera operators and has been working in the industry for five years. He's been nicknamed Fish cause he's allergic to seafood and sometimes gets tortured by the production team, who on quiet days on the road enjoy making the chicken mayo look like tuna mayo to freak him out. His favourite Cooked moment was scuba diving in Kosi Bay...good thing he doesn't swim with his mouth open. Darren's dream is to one day shoot a documentary that will change people's lives.
Brad “Chommie” Theron became a child star at the age of 10 and this is where he got his first taste of the film industry and knew he wanted to be a part of it. He started working as a camera operator in 2007 and joined Cooked in 2009. Brad hopes to one day write, direct and star in his own epic feature film one day…here’s hoping he remembers the little people when this happens! Travelling to new places and getting to know the lives of strangers, their environments and cultures is what keeps Brad motivated. In his free time he surfs, hangs out with his girlfriend, cooks (suppose the guy’s got to eat) and tries to write scripts.
Llewellyn has been part of the film industry for 12 years (if you count his childhood running around on film sets, getting into shots, accidentally formatting a hard drive containing all the footage of a 3 day shoot). Otherwise, make it eight years of professional editing. He dreams of having one of his screenplays made into a feature film and is motivated by seeing ordinary things being done exceptionally well. He’s obviously at the right company!
Matthew Abraham aka “Big Cheese” has been toiling in the world of IT for the last five years, and has recently joined the Cooked family to turn everyday operational chaos into creative order. After graduating from Stellenbosch University he travelled and taught his way around Europe in his 20’s before joined the corporate world in 2005 as a DTP techie and eventually launching his own business. A solutions-minded kind of guy (on a Vespa), Cheese got into the crazy world of production in 2010, and hasn’t had the time to look back. We can’t wait to see what he does at Cooked!
Grant has been working in the film industry for five years, but says the only annoying thing about his job is that his work is never done. As another lover of Beer O’clock (which might explain the work never being done) it comes as no surprise that his favourite moment at Cooked in Africa Films was going surfing with the guys. He chose Cooked because of the amazing shows that we produce and is motivated by, other than beer and surfing, seeing how all the bits and pieces come together to make an awesome reality TV series
Ian knew that he wanted to be a filmmaker at the tender age of 10 and was just about to give up on the seasonal film industry when a position opened up at Cooked, and a few months later there was just no looking back – lucky for us! He loves working for a company that produces such exciting local content and is motivated by flexing his creative muscles. When he’s not stuck at work into the late hours of the night he enjoys rocking out at music concerts.
20-year old Taz crunches numbers under the watchful eye of Kirsty Abbey. “When I first stepped into the Cooked office and could feel the vibrant atmosphere of the friendly people I knew that this is where I wanted to be,” says Taz. The one thing she absolutely loves is when beer o’clock arrives on Fridays and so far her favourite Cooked moment was the UBM wrap party at the end of 2012. Aaah…to be 20 again!
When she was a little girl Megan was immersed in a world of fantasy and dreamt of becoming a princess in a big puffy dress. Unfortunately, as these things happen, she grew up like the rest of us and became the Executive PA to Peter Gird and Lara Black instead. When she’s not juggling Peter and Lara’s crazy schedules, you’ll find her hiking with friends and family, or watching awesome TV shows (probably something horrible like Honey Boo Boo Child!) Even though she hasn’t been part of the team all that long, her favourite Cooked moment includes drinking wine…which means she’ll fit right in!
Lutfiy-yah joined Cooked as the Fleet Manager and Office Clerk, which basically means she’s running around most of the day, looking after all of us. Lut loves working with different types of people (so the Cooked circus is right up her alley) and she hopes to travel abroad one day. When she was a little girl, she wanted to become an organiser, which is pretty much what she does here on a daily basis. When she’s not running around, driving around, walking around or wheeling around on her office chair, Lut likes to be in the outdoors, loves listening to music and is an avid sports watcher.