Pine Mountain chef has fond memories of Nelson Mandela - WRBL

Pine Mountain chef has fond memories of Nelson Mandela

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PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -

A chef in Pine Mountain, Ga. once lived in South Africa and remembers Nelson Mandela well, and he says it was hard for him to hear the news of the leader's death.

Nearly two decades ago chef John Makin served a meal to world leaders during President Mandela's inaugural banquet. It's an experience he'll never forget.

At the Rose Cottage Bakery in Pine Mountain, you'll run across some rare photos of Nelson Mandela. Makin treasures these memories, especially now that he's gone.

"I knew it was coming," says Makin. "He was 95, but the reaction is like a grandfather passing away. And he was. He was everybody's grandfather."

Living in South Africa for eight years, Makin baked birthday cakes for Mandela and spent two weeks planning the 1,200-person inaugural meal when he was elected president. He was moved by Nelson Mandela's generosity and humility, and he says the leader truly believed that everyone was a brother and sister.

"He, in my mind, is as great as Gandhi," Makin says. "That's the level of this. When you walk up and you shake this man's hand, the aura and the energy he casts on you is unbelievable. It will raise the hair on your arms."

Although he's traveled the world mastering the culinary arts, Makin says he's humbled by his experiences with the man those closest to him called "Madiba."

He says, "I'm just a cook, but at the end of the day was lucky enough and privileged enough to be able to cook for him, and that was neat. That was pretty cool."

Makin says his fondest memory is of the world leader smiling and laughing as he sat with his grandsons on his lap after that inaugural meal.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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