Meet romcom star Tendaiishe Chitima

Netflix’s Cook Off looks, at a first glance, like just another romcom. Telling the tale of Anesu, a single mother with a serious foodie side, the film sees our heroine unexpectedly signed up for a top reality cooking show.

Initially, she’s thrown. Quickly, though, she realises that the TV show is offering her a shot at greatness – and a chance at the better life she’s long been yearning for.

Despite appearances, of course, Cook Off represents so much more than just another romcom. Filmed in 2017 – just months before the fall of Zimbabwe’s despotic ex-president Robert Mugabe – the Netflix hit had a initial cash production budget of just $8,000. Indeed, much of it was shot on the set of Zimbabwe’s version of Top Chef, which airs on public broadcaster ZBC.

“We used the costumes, the set, the cooking pots of Battle Of The Chefs,” said director Tomas Brickhill, referring to a programme now no longer airing, during an interview with The Guardian.

“Without that, there would not have been any movie.”

Despite these setbacks, though, Cook Off went on to screen at several international film festivals, including in the Netherlands, Durban, and United States, winning several awards along the way. And, more importantly, it made history when it became the first-ever Zimbabwean film to air on Netflix.

With this in mind, then, Stylist sat down with Tendaiishe Chitima, the star of Netflix’s record-breaking romcom, to chat about the film, her career so far, and the importance of visibility in cinema.

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