A star on the rise: chef Mmabatho Molefe of Emazulwini


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We catch up with the award-winning chef of Emazulwini, Mmabatho Molefe, about the inspiration behind her exciting menu and how she is creating a voice for African stories through food.

Chef Mmabatho Molefe of Emazulwini was awarded the Eat Out Naked Malt Rising Star award during the 2022 Eat Out awards. This award is bestowed on an upcoming chef that is making a distinctive mark in the industry.


The judges noted that Chef Mmabatho Molefe evokes an emotional connection to food with truly inspirational and distinctively clever recipes that transform favourite meals from her childhood into fine dining dishes. Her maverick food pays homage to her heritage and represents an exciting new approach to South African cuisine.

“My intention has always been to create a voice for African stories through food,” shares Mmabatho. Under Chef Mmabatho’s vision, Emazulwini serves up Nguni-inspired traditional dishes featuring lesser-known cuts of meat like heart, tongue, offal and indigenous ingredients, that she then reimagines under a fine dining frame.


“The most important thing for us is to stay true to ourselves and the brand. It’s not always easy but we continue to strive to uphold the ingredients and dishes we believe in versus whatever the current food trends are out there.”

The recently updated menu at Emazulwini is a take on a Sunday lunch and features dishes like the starter dish ‘Ulimi noshatini’ (beef tongue and tomato relish). “I’ve always loved tongue and have always thought of it as a cold meat or a deli meat. I like the idea of serving it with that salsa you’re sure to find at a typical South African braai. It reminds me of home”, shares Mmabatho on the inspiration behind this dish.

For mains, ‘Isiklabhu’ is a hearty lamb dish accompanied by samp, butternut purée and chakalaka. “I wanted to be able to put up a dish that is all about flavour. Traditionally, samp is slow cooked with minimal additions, however, ours is creamy and pairs well with a grilled lamb chop, kidney and our flavour-packed chakalaka.”

Her current favourite dish is ‘Ujelly nocustard’, a dessert dish inspired by her mother, made up of custard, berry jelly and blueberry cheesecake ice cream. “Growing up, my mother was obsessed with the store-bought blueberry cheesecake-flavoured ice cream. It was a recurring Sunday dessert staple and so, much like most of my dishes, this one is inspired by my mother’s cooking and some of her favourite treats.” All elements of this dessert are made inhouse and Mmabatho is particularly proud of the blueberry cheesecake ice cream that her mother has since given her stamp of approval.

Emazulwini means “in the heavens” in isiZulu and is located in Makers Landing, Cruise Terminal in the V&A Waterfront.


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