Meet Mzansi’s top chefs – illuminaija

Cooking is an art, and chefs know it best. These chefs can add flavor to any bland dish. Their composition game is always right.


From experimenting with diverse ingredients and cooking a delicious meal to combining two cuisines and creating their own signature dish – they know how. South Africa’s top chefs understand that the art of cooking is complex.

Each dish prepared by them will surely bring you an unprecedented culinary experience. They come up with something that not only soothes your taste buds but also stays with you for a long time.

Dear foodies, we’ve rounded up some of the best chefs in Mzansi. Make sure you try at least one of their dishes.

1. Mmabatho Mole

Mmabatho Molefe is the chef and owner of Emazulwini Restaurant, located at V&A Waterfront’s Makers Landing.

Hailing from Nagina near Mariannhill in KwaZulu-Natal, Molefe started her restaurant to give people a taste of “what Zulu food could be if you re-imagine it”.

She has found a niche in fine dining, embodying the Nguni culture. Restaurant Emazulwini was opened in 2020 after she lost her job in the restaurant industry due to the pandemic.

Molefe uses African ingredients that have been “forgotten” but are now sourced from several markets. She also believes in sustainable eating and shows that all cuts of meat are edible, head to tail.

Although her father is part Zulu and part Sesotho, she realizes that she knows very little about her Sotho heritage and that she is related to Zulu cuisine.

Molefe started cooking before the age of twelve, and she and her sister often watched the cooking show “Ready. Steady. Chef”.

She studied consumer science in high school, where she further developed her interest in creating meals. However, a career in the food industry never took a chance, and after school she studied politics and law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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During her fifth and final years, she realized that writing five anthropology essays for a course was not her hobby and dropped out to attend culinary school.

Last year, Emazulwini won the title of African Restaurant of the Year at the 4th annual Luxe Restaurant Awards. In June, she was also named one of the great hospitality pioneers. The best in the list of the 50 best people in the world in the next 50 list.

2. Lentwe Bhengu

Lentswe Bhengu is a celebrity chef and television personality known for appearing on several food-themed shows.

Born and raised in KwaZulu-Natal, Bhengu has always expressed a love for food and eating.

He has been cooking since the age of 8, following his mother around the kitchen. In 2010, Bhengu exchanged his suit and tie for a chef’s coat when he enrolled at the prestigious Culinary Institute in Cape Winelands.

Upon graduation, he quickly made a name for himself in the culinary field, creating memorable creations in the kitchens of some of the finest restaurants.

It wasn’t long before his talent and passion for cooking opened new doors, one of which led him to embark on a journey to explore the different tastes of Africa.

Bhengu is a regular food festival, event and exhibition and has had some of his work commissioned overseas.

3. Guide Kamini

Kamini Pather is a chef, food blogger, television and radio personality. Pather rose to fame when she won the second season of MasterChef South Africa in 2013 and hosted the food tour show Girl Eat World.

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She learned to cook in her grandmother’s kitchen in Mobeni Heights in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, where she grew up and where her family used to meet for Sunday lunch.

When Pather matriculated into Durban Girls’ College, she didn’t know what to do and decided to study a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, something she said she would never regret because of the things she did. acquired knowledge about the business world.

But she always felt like something was missing. During her first year, she started messing around with eggs and Googled recipes, trying to make more complicated dishes, and the rest is history. In 2017, Pather released the kitchenware line, Kitchen Kulture.

In 2018, she partnered with South African meal kit service UCOOK and went on to launch Füdy, her own plant-based dark kitchen, and also released Eat Glocal, an e-book on how to Indian South African cooking.

4. Kobus Van der Merwe

With inspiring dishes like kiesieblaar scones and wild sage-smoked angelfish, chef Kobus Van der Merwe has become known for his culinary skills.

Van der Merwe’s high standards have set a new paradigm in the award-winning restaurant Wolfgat he owns.

Born in Kalahari, his story is the inspirational story of a man who fought against all odds to pursue his passion of becoming a professional chef and restaurateur.

The award-winning Wolfgat has a string of awards. Van der Merwe’s culinary career started off a bit off track, as he first worked as a freelance reporter and then worked in digital media for several years.

He went to Paternoster in the Western Cape in 2009 on a one-year sabbatical, and now, twelve years later, he runs one of the best restaurants in the world.

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Van der Merwe didn’t start cooking seriously until he was thirty years old. He forages daily on the wild Atlantic coast of the Western Cape near his restaurant Wolfgat, where he also makes his own bread and butter.

Wolfgat opened in September 2016. The restaurant is renowned for its use of locally sourced ingredients.

Van der Merwe’s passion for food and the way he prepares it, plus service and exclusivity, has made it an attraction for food lovers.

5. Mokgadi Itsweng

Vanessa Marx is an award-winning chef with diverse experience. Educated at the prestigious Academy of Culinary Arts (ICA) in Stellenbosch, Marx completed his apprenticeship in 2006 under the tutelage of renowned MasterChef SA judge Pete Goffe-Wood. She prides herself on her sustainable and ethical approach to food.

The philosophy that Marx brings is the philosophy of using local and seasonal products, and creating dishes that match the seasons.

She worked passionately to found Dear Me Restaurant in 2009 and developed the nine-course food and wine pairing menu at The White Room.

With accolades and media hype behind his name, Marx is a chef making his mark in the food and beverage industry, dish by dish.


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