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Kasi chef: No stumbling block too high for Innocent

Daveyton-born chef Innocent Makgwale (26) started his kasi food business amid the Covid-19 economic disruption to pay off his culinary dreams

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After more than a year living in a global pandemic it is safe to say that the game of life has changed. Now we live in a world where uncertainty reigns supreme and you must always have a back-up plan, kasi chef Innocent Makgwale (26) believes.

Before the lockdown happened, the Daveyton-born chef had plans to begin his culinary career in the professional kitchen. “I was supposed to get a job as a chef, then the lockdown happened, and I couldn’t continue with the contract. I had to look for another job.”

Chef Innocent Makgwale pays off his student debt with a food business he prooudly calls Chef Phuti’s Shesanyama Corner in Gauteng. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Makgwale is no stranger to setbacks. In 2019 he enrolled to the Capsicum culinary studio in Boksburg and has not been able to graduate due to lack of funding. “You can never lose hope on a dream,” Makgwale says, unperturbed.

“I did not graduate because I still have an outstanding balance of fees. So, I am still hustling until I can pay all of my fees so I can graduate and become like a proper chef with qualifications.”

Currently he works for a shipping company to save up money to pay off his fees. But not one to let slip his culinary dream, during alert level three of the national Covid-19 lockdown he started a food business he proudly calls Chef Phuti’s Shesanyama Corner. He sells kasi cuisine in Daveyton on the weekends.

“In the kasi many people sell amagwinya and shisanyama. I thought maybe it would be a better idea for me to set up my business on the street so when people are passing, they will be lured in by the smell,” he says.

RECIPE: Stovetop oxtail

Ngwana’ Ous Stella

Makgwale credits his late mother Stella as the source of inspiration behind his culinary ventures. He recalls that she baked the tastiest cookies and muffins.

“She managed to teach me how to bake, but I am not into baking. I am into savoury dishes. I love overseeing the grill.”

Chef Innocent Makgwale (26) manning the grill at his kasi cuisine corner in Daveyton. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Makgwale first stretched his cooking wings in Mike’s Kitchen restaurant in Boksburg where he was a scullery boy.

When a line cook fell ill, the manager offered him an opportunity to fill in in her absence. “That is where my real love for cooking started.

“I was asked to make the starter orders, I studied the menu and when I did my first order, I think I did quite well and for the rest of the month I was asked to fill in while my colleague was off sick,” he says.

This was the catalyst he needed to take the step toward his culinary qualification.

ALSO READ: Siki is bringing coffee culture to the kasi

Treasured kitchen memories

A memory on his journey he will always treasure is working in the kitchen of the Fortis Hotel in Pretoria. “On my second day of doing my practical the head chef asked me to grill some fish for him. I took a risk and decided not to do it the way that he normally did, I did it my way and it turned out delicious. Even he said so.”

You could never go wrong with preparing the many delights of our continent in your home kitchen, he believes.

Chef Innocent Makgwale (26) runs a shisanyama in Daveyton. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“Jollof rice from Nigeria or even ntochi bread from Malawi, which is a bread made with banana, I love cooking everything and anything that is African,” he says.

His dream is to one day see the door of his own farm-to-table restaurant opening, but first there is another item on his bucket list.

“I want to be a cruise ship chef. If I could see myself there, I would know it would be the end of my journey toward becoming a chef, I would have reached the end of my mission.”

He advises young chefs, home cooks and the foodies of Mzansi to always plan and take things step by step. “Trust your instincts, whatever you make in the kitchen will be delicious, you are magical when you cook from the heart, and you will enjoy cooking.”

RECIPE: Stovetop oxtail

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Noluthando Ngcakani
Noluthando Ngcakani
With roots in the Northern Cape, this Kimberley Diamond has had a passion for telling human interest stories since she could speak her first words. A foodie by heart, she began her journalistic career as an intern at the SABC where she discovered her love for telling agricultural, community and nature related stories. Not a stranger to a challenge Ngcakani will go above and beyond to tell your truth.
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