SA chef Mmabatho Molefe named one of the world’s gastronomy game-changers

2022’s 50 Next has been announced and one of South Africa’s shining culinary talents, chef Mmabatho Molefe, has made the list as one of the exceptional young people who are making waves in the culinary world. 

50 Next, which was launched in 2021 by 50 Best and the internationally renowned Basque Culinary Center, is a list celebrating and honouring 50 extraordinary young people who are shaping the future of gastronomy. The list aims to inspire and empower younger generations who are trailblazing their way in the industry, rather than being a ranking.

Mmabatho, who is the chef-owner of Emazulwini Restaurant at Makers Landing at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, made a name for herself through The Long Table Experience, a gourmet pop-up restaurant that aimed to turn strangers into friends. From there, the KwaZulu-Natal-born chef made her way into the kitchen at Salsify under Ryan Cole but was made redundant in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This didn’t stop the chef, instead, it’s what gave Mmabatho the motivation to celebrate traditional ingredients and recipes in her interpretation of modern Zulu cuisine with her all-black, all-female team. 

Mmabatho, who attended and spoke at the second annual edition of 50 Next awards ceremony in Bilbao, Spain was dubbed one of the Hospitality Pioneers in their Class of 2022 and “the chef empowering Black women and challenging misconceptions of indigenous cuisine”.

mmabatho molefe

Mmabatho is quoted on the 50 Best website explaining how she is striving to change local perceptions of Zulu cuisine and how it is as deserving as any other cuisine to be named “fine dining”. 

“What we are trying to achieve is inclusivity and it’s the perfect time for that. For a while, traditional African cuisine in South Africa was seen as something that couldn’t be fine dining but in the past two years, I have had the honour to meet a lot of young black creatives passionately sharing their food and stories”, says chef Mmabatho.

Eat Out chief judge Abigail Donnelly says, “Mmabatho is the uniqueness on the plate that South Africa has needed to celebrate for many years. There’s sincerity around who she is, where she’s come from and what she wants to do.”

Some of her signature dishes include chicken feet terrine (amaquna nenkuku), ulimi noshatini, a slow-cooked, thinly sliced corned beef ox tongue served with tomato puree, amasi, chillies, tomato jelly and crispy onion. Her igwinya nopholoni – vetkoek with homemade chicken polony, white cheddar catalan, roasted parmesan and crispy chicken skin is a dish, like so many, that was inspired by her childhood in Kwazulu-Natal.

What’s next for the chef? While Emazulwini continues to keep her and her team busy as they shine a light on African ingredients, Mmabatho has hopes to open Ikhayalethu, an empowerment and rehabilitation home for black youth experiencing homelessness, in the next few years.

Congratulations, chef! We cannot wait to see where this takes you next on your inspiring journey!


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