Eight years ago, chef Khosi Mpiti (39) made a vow to himself, following the passing of his mother. To live out her legacy, he would finally become a qualified chef living their shared cooking dream in the professional kitchen.
He boasts that his mother, Makhosi Dilatolo Mpiti, was an excellent cook and inspired him to make a career in food. They shared the dream that one of them would one day be able to dress in chef’s whites as a professional in the culinary industry. Her passing made him resolve to actively pursue his dream.
In March he obtained his professional cookery qualification from the Capsicum Culinary Studio in Johannesburg.
The Lesotho-born chef is also the proud owner of Pele Pele Monate chilli sauce and Pele Pele Monate biltong sticks.
In 2016 his chilli sauce came to life when he realised that he needed an extra, distinct flavour that would make meals he served stand out.
“Growing up one would think certain things were only meant for a specific group of people. Having been in this field, I have realised that is not the case, you must believe in yourself first.
“I have started both products from scratch and I must say that I’m very proud of them and hope to have more ranges soon,” he says.
Culinary love began as a young lad
His passions for cooking started while attending boarding school in Wepener, Free State. “I would really miss [my mom’s] dishes when I was at school as we would be fed horrible meals.
“Every time I went home for an out weekend, I would request her to prepare nice meals for me to make up for all the time when I was away.”
As a young boy growing up in the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho, he would often play designated chef amongst his group of friends.
“I remember back in the days my friends would contribute to celebrate Christmas or Boxing Day during December holidays. It was traditional that we do braai meat.
“This other year I proposed something different, a Lesotho fresh mountain trout and potjie, and everyone was slightly uneasy. I vividly remember taking out the foil and margarine for the fish preparation, and they questioned what the foil and margarine was going to do.
“Remember we were still young, and most boys then were not exposed to such. On that afternoon after eating, everyone just came and complimented me. My meals came out well and it was my very first time doing those two dishes. I felt so proud of myself,” Mpiti recalls.
Mpiti later worked full-time running a tendering business supplying office supplies.
He quickly grew tired and ditched the corporate world of office supply sales for a shisanyama he called Cibo Squisito, (delicious food.)
“I decided to give it Italian name simply because I love the passion Italians have for food,” he explains.
“I was specialised in chicken dust (flame grilled chicken). I had a backyard full of broilers where I would be growing and slaughtering the chicken for my business,” he explains.
He then decided that he would study the culinary arts to better his knowledge on the food business.
“I decided to study in my thirties because I have seen potential of financial freedom in this field. I want to retire in the very near future and pursue this journey full time.”
Mpiti also catered for small events including baby showers and birthday parties.
Some of his favourite recipes include ox liver with traditional tomato gravy, mince and spaghetti, lasagna, cheese and tomato toast, steak with fries and garden salad, grilled chicken with fries and deep-fried baby hake.
Journey of hope
His advises hopeful chefs and home cooks to keep the faith as every journey has its own difficulties and hiccups. To make it in the professional kitchen you need passion, he says.
“If you work in a commercial kitchen, you must be flexible. Even when you are running your own show, you still need to go the extra mile. Learn new tricks every now and then to always be on top of your game,” he says.
Each day provides another opportunity to learn, he adds.
“Whatever you do, do it like it’s your last chance. Take all critiques coming your way and learn from them to better yourself,” he says.
Mpiti hopes to see the doors of his own pub and grill open in honor of his late mother. With this business he also hopes that the next generation of chefs after him will be inspired by his career.