From the farmlands, to the court house, to the kitchen for Nicole Neethling

From the farmlands, to the court house, to the kitchen for Nicole Neethling

•Jana du Plessis Müller

Nicole Neethling, owner of food and cooking business Flour & Oil, had an incredible journey from where she grew up to where she finds herself today.
Born and raised in the farmlands of KwaZulu-Natal within a Hindu community, Neethling’s life took a few unexpected turns – from her career as a lawyer to her encounter with Christianity. She took everything she learned while honing in on her passion for interacting with people to create a business that not only connects people but also encourages them to find their ‘flour and oil moment’.
Nicole’s life was unconventional from the start. She went to a Catholic school in Durban, while being raised within the Hindu culture. After school, she went on to complete a Bachelor of Science in the field of Genetics and Biotechnology. “I wanted to be able to regenerate the eye, that was my dream then,” she says. “I paid my way through university and worked all the time while studying.”
She emphasises how this cultivated a strong work ethic and she wouldn’t have had it any other way. A smart young woman, she felt a change at the end of her post graduate year, and embarked on a postgraduate degree in law. During this time she was able to focus wholeheartedly on her studies as she was awarded a bursary.
A big dreamer, Neethling found herself in Amsterdam at the end of her law degree. “I often hear the words ‘you are either brave or crazy’ when people hear about my life, but my answer is that it can only be faith,” she says. “I didn’t have the finances for any of this, but God made it all possible.”
Upon her return Nicole was offered an article apprenticeship at a boutique law firm in Gauteng. She started practising as a patented attorney straight away and felt how her two worlds collided as the role brought her two degrees together. “It was a great time, even though my future husband was in the Western Cape.”
After two years, she returned and married her husband, Jaco. She also joined one of the most prestigious law firms in the country, complete with floor to ceiling views of Table Mountain on one side and the V&A Waterfront on the other. “I wore three-piece suits and did the whole corporate lawyer-thing. My husband and I were living a good life, but I felt this burning question: Was this it? Was this everything God had planned for me?”
This question propelled her to leave her comfortable position when their first child was born. She wanted to be at home with her firstborn and not to miss out on his life. The Neethlings took a big leap of faith and said goodbye to her monthly pay-checks and subsequent comfort zone. They moved to a small two-bedroomed apartment in Paarl.
Nicole explains the next chapter of their lives: “I came across 1 Kings 17:7-16 where the prophet Elijah is sent to a widow by God. When he arrived, the widow told him she only had enough flour and oil for one more meal. Elijah asked her to trust God and to make the meal. As it turns out the flour and oil never ran out.” This touched her deeply and made her wish for a similar miracle.
With this in mind, Nicole started cooking what she knew: authentic Indian food. The family invited people to their home for meals and conversation. “I love interacting with people – plus I was the only Indian person most people knew. We thought we could teach people how to make Indian food, the way my mom made it.” From these humble beginnings, Flour & Oil was born.
Always ready to embrace their next adventure, the Neethling family moved to Riebeek-West a few years later and is currently living in Malmesbury. Nicole highlights how choosing the simpler life has shaped how they live their lives. She enthuses how the community has embraced and supported them.
To date, Flour & Oil has hosted workshops locally at restaurants, wine farms, guest houses and in homes, and has even presented a very successful pop-up experience in Switzerland. Nicole and her cooking partner, Nolene Nel, are in awe of how the business has journeyed and made an impact on people’s lives. “My heart is for people to come sit at our dinner table and just know that they are welcome and accepted,” says Nicole.
When asked about her spiritual journey from Hinduism to Christianity, she explains that she had an encounter with God at the age of 14 when her mother took her to a Christian church. After both mother and daughter had extraordinary meetings with Jesus, they were faced with a difficult decision – either to reject Jesus and turn back to Hinduism or to leave her father’s house and the Hindu community. They chose a life with God, and so the young Nicole, her mother, and her sister, at four years old, packed a bag each and left their family home in KwaZulu-Natal.
Recalls Nicole: “As we walked out of the house my mom said, ‘Today you’ve walked out of your earthly father’s house, but walked into your Heavenly Father’s Kingdom, and you will want for nothing.’ Although people might think this extreme, it paved the way for future miracles in our lives.”
“I still only have a bit of flour and a bit of oil, but it just hasn’t run out. I really have wanted for nothing. This has been my story and I want others to have that too.”

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