Our Chef of the month is South African Chef Malenda Mbonani, owner of Wiecrow SA, he talks about his love for food, the food scene in Miami and his future plans.
1. Who is Malenda?
A father first, a businessman and an all round awesome person. Chef by profession and a God fearing man
2. What made you decide to become a chef?
I was in the finance industry and an unfortunate car accident made me realise that life wasn’t all about trying to figure out why the company’s books didn’t balance.
Being a chef has always been a dream of mine but at the time it wasn’t considered as an actual career, especially in the black community.
3. What’s your honest opinion about Johannesburg and why did you decide to come back from Miami?
I love Joburg. The diversity in the city-from the people to the food to the different areas. I love it, I decided to come back only for the reason that my main objective, was to reshape the South African food industry as a whole.
I went on a mission to gather the necessary skill set I needed to drive me in the right direction to achieve that dream. Very few know, but this country has a lot to offer to the world and I want to pave the way to achieving that global footprint .
4. Which part of the kitchen do you most enjoy
I’m a poissonier (fish chef) by specialization, that will always be my first love. The plancha and fry station always gives me a rush because it’s always busy and I’m the kind of person who is always keen on being by the pastry section.
5. Favourite food memory from your childhood
It’s actually a funny story: being raised by my grandmother when I was really young, my grandmother always (and I mean always) made pap and morogo for us, so I’d attempt to make mini pap and spinach balls for my cousins to make it more appealing and they would always praise me like a god.
6. Worst food or kitchen experience
Oh geez I have so many. When I was working the grill section at the Saxon with my mate Chef Garth and we got multiple fillets at the same time and I accidentally sliced a third of my finger off. I had to get about 14 stitches just on my finger, this kitchen experience is one that I’ll always remember.
7. How is people’s relationship with food different in Miami to here?
One thing that people love in Miami is pork, pork and a lot of pork. It is mostly populated by Latin American people and surrounding islands so a meal isn’t considered a meal without rice and beans.
8. Did you find anything that shocked you?
There’s a lot of things, I was surprised at how ridiculously expensive it is. The fact that 90% of South America was colonised by the Spanish and completely wiped out an entire race. It’s also VERY hot and humid, everybody is topless and health conscious.
The Miami lifestyle is an actual beauty to experience.
9. Is there one dish that sums up your food journey?
That’s very hard to pinpoint, anything that has fish sums up my entire journey wherever I’ve been and worked.
10. Which chef do you aspire to be like
I’ve got a few: Les Da Chef is taking the country’s food industry by storm, the maskopas ice cream that he created, Genius! I’d love to work with him.
Neil Anthony is just an all rounder, he’s a very cool guy and really awesome to work with.
Last but not least, one chef that I truly aspire to be like is definitely my exec sous chef at the Bazaar Mar, Chef Victor Rivera, he’s absolutely astonishing. A fish god. An inspiring leader and an awesome big brother.
11. What advice would you give home chefs who are inspired by your style of cooking?
Always remember that being a great chef starts with respecting your ingredients, what matters most is the processing and taking care of your ingredients way more than what it’ll look like on the plate. Hygiene is very important.
A sharp knife is your tool of war and never be afraid to try something impossible. Whenever they ask you it can’t be done, always ask why and prove them wrong. And most importantly, always have fun.