Chefs from 19 by Michael at Steyn City reveal their passion and inspiration


The restaurant at Steyn City’s modern, green-roofed clubhouse, overlooking the estate’s 18-hole Nicklaus Design Championship golf course, recently began a new chapter under the ownership of Michael Holenstein. Michael managed the Clubhouse, bar and restaurant, originally known simply as Nineteen (XIX), on behalf of Steyn City for three years before taking full ownership last year, so he knows the venue and its clients well.

The subtle updates that he and sous chef Mpotseng Modise have brought to the menu and overall offering ‒ including a Graham Beck bar, sushi bar and events offering ‒ have taken the estate’s flagship destination to the next level. We spoke to Michael and Mpotseng about seasonal inspirations, global influences and refined local culinary heritage.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career before 19 by Michael.

Michael – After school in South Africa, I went to Switzerland (where I was born) for four years and studied cheffing. When I came back, I worked at the Johannesburg Southern Sun Towers at St James, which was a Paul Bocuse-endorsed restaurant in South Africa. [He worked at several other five-star hotel restaurants in SA, too.] I opened my first restaurant in Windsor Park, called Papa Gigi Trattoria, in 1991. Later, I moved out to Magaliesburg and I opened a small hotel called De Hoek Country Hotel. We built it up from seven to 32 rooms, four conference rooms and two restaurants. I sold my share in 2017, and started at Nineteen (XIX) Restaurant in 2020.

Mpotseng – I’m from Qua Qua, a small town in the Free State, and I studied at Capsicum Culinary School in Gqeberha. After that, I came to Johannesburg and worked at the Maslow Hotel Sandton, [after which] I had a bit of an international experience in the US in Naples [in Florida] and Boston… [When I] came back home, this was my next home.

What initially sparked your passion for cooking?

My grandmother worked for a Chinese couple and used to bring home ingredients like noodles and sauces that [sparked my] interest as a child.

Michael – My grandmother was a very good cook, and she always prepped the most amazing meals… whatever she made came from the heart. And my dad was quite adventurous. He would take us out to restaurants. [W]e lived in Hillbrow, so we were exposed to all the different continental cuisines.

What’s the kind of experience you can expect at 19 by Michael?

Michael – One of the exciting challenges that we have here is the combination of clients. We have golfers looking for a quick service sit-down. And then we’ve got the ladies who spend four or five hours [over lunch]. We’ve got the family that comes in and wants a snack platter when there’s a soccer game on. But we’ve also got people that like the fine dining. So, it’s like a bit of a juggling act, but I think we’re innovative when it comes to the needs of the residents. Steyn City [offers the] ultimate lifestyle. It’s a special place, so we want to be as good as we can and [create] a sense of occasion. I have a vision that 19 by Michael should be the best clubhouse/halfway house/residents’ facility in South Africa. That’s my goal.

Mpotseng – We also want to be inclusive. If you look at our menu, it’s very diverse. It’s all about producing beautiful, fresh food, but ultimately we want our guests to be happy.

How do you approach sourcing ingredients? Is there a particular emphasis on seasonality or locality?

Michael – Yes, [working with] fresh seasonal ingredients is an important part of our philosophy.

Mpotseng – We work with a good supplier that delivers fresh produce for us from the farm every day.

Michael – Our wagyu, for example, comes from Cradle Wagyu in [Hekpoort at the foot of the] Magaliesberg, and it’s organic, it’s free range [and has] no added hormones. Because of the limited supply, we sometimes run out, but at least we know we’re getting fresh ingredients.

When creating a dish, what inspires you the most?

Mpotseng – For me, it’s always been the seasons. And we have quite a few students in our kitchen, and they’re excited and they want to learn, and [I find] that also keeps me on my toes!

Is there a specific cooking technique you find yourself drawn to, and why?

Mpotseng – I love Asian and Japanese cooking methods… [Techniques that] take me back to the wok.

Michael – I’ve been experimenting a little bit at home with grilling on an open fire. Even vegetables. You get that sort of smoky flavour from the charcoal. I’d love a Josper [charcoal oven] in this kitchen. It’s on my wish list.

How do you balance tradition and innovation in your menu?


Michael – Mpotseng has refined traditional dishes beautifully. One of our most popular dishes is shisanyama. We call it ‘Mpotseng’s Mixed Grill’ on the menu. The ingredients are similar [to traditional shisanyama] ‒ tasty and well prepared ‒ but the presentation is more refined. One of the other popular nibbles we offer is lamb tails, braised and served with a nice thick sauce. It’s an interesting addition to our menu, and people love it. We’re also introducing Izimbambo, salted lamb ribs, and we think that’s going to be popular, too.

Mpotseng – I think South Africa makes beautiful food. It’s amazing how much the culinary [field] is evolving in South Africa. It’s a really interesting time to be a chef.

What is your ultimate goal when creating a dining experience for your guests?

Michael – What [originally] inspired me to go into hospitality was simply making people happy. Because when you cook, you make people happy. Making people feel welcome for me is key. That for me is [the definition of] hospitality. At the end of the day, if I can make a customer happy, it makes me happy.

Book a table at 19 by Michael and experience this special brand of hospitality for yourself!

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