Chasing dreams may be the greatest risk one could take, especially during these trying times. But the risk wasn’t great enough to keep Katlego Suze from pursuing her dream. The chef prides herself in finally gathering the courage to start a journey in food technology.
Having quit her job as a sales administrator in 2020 at the start of the coronavirus crisis, Suze knew her dreams had enough fuel to drive her to culinary success.
The 29-year-old Suze hails from Mahikeng where she grew up watching her grandfather crop and harvest the freshest produce on their family farm.
“My grandfather had his own plot where he kept livestock and crops. We had mealie meal, peanuts and green beans and at time he would load me in his tractor to harvest. From this experience I learned when harvest season was, and how the harvest was stored and supplied to the nearby towns, so my care for food and how it’s prepared from grassroots level emanates here.”
Learning from family food affairs
Her interest in food was further cultivated by her mother and aunts who would cook up a storm to celebrate family events.
“Growing up, my mother had seven sisters and every time there were ceremonies, they used to come together with other women to bake, grill chicken and make salads, according to their strengths in the kitchen.”
“And I became an all-rounder, more than happy to help in any of the departments.nRice was the first meal I ever cooked,” the chef says.
It was not until 2011 after matric that she realised that her interest in food is more than she imagined. She studied hospitality management but was forced to hit the brakes when the opportunity to join a financial services company presented itself.
Still believing in her dreams almost a decade later, Suze resumed her journey in the culinary arts when she began studying towards a culinary qualification in 2020 to “upgrade myself and gain knowledge about a career in the food business”.
New skills meet an old passion
This time around, she had acquired skills and knowledge in business management to fuse with her passion and finally build an enterprise in the food industry.
“That’s where I gained my experience and strengthened my knowledge in terms of how to manage my business and finances,” Suze admits, thinking back on her time in financial services.
After sending a number of unsuccessful job applications to established food manufacturers in an attempt to get her foot in the door, she finally resigned and turned the lemons thrown at her into lemonade by starting her own food manufacturing company.
“I drew inspiration for LemmeChew products when rejection looked me in the eye and I knew that I was business-minded and had skills in the kitchen. I didn’t see anything stopping me from trying to build my own thing.”
Just a year later, LemmeChew now boasts a range of sauces – from lemon and herb to mild and hot chilli, one of which is prominent for its name: “O betha top”. The name derives from a Pretoria dialect called S’pitori and technically means the blowing up of a motor’s cylinder head when a vehicle overheats. In the context of the condiment though, “O betha top” connotes the explosion of the chilli flavour that one should expect to taste when adding this sauce to a meal.
Substantiating this when asked what her favourite recipe is, Suze says, “My favourite simple recipe is adding a LemmeChew sauce to enhance flavour in all my meals”.
A quick fix for busy cooks
She believes she has created a quick fix to flavour food of all kinds, especially for mothers who are also entrepreneurs and have little time to spend in the kitchen like her. The organic sauces are draped in modern, eco-friendly packaging.
Operating largely from a factory in the heart of Pretoria, LemmeChew has an extended service offering including consultations in food manufacturing while also catering and teaching home economics to kids of all ages.
“LemmeChew products will be introducing protein shakes, instant porridge, noodles and fruity drinks under the ‘Kiddies to Chef’ segment of the brand.” She reveals that this will happen once the sauces penetrate the market and are on as many shelves as possible across the country.
With her crown fixed tightly on her head, Suze does not plan to stop knocking on more doors until her products are known and available to the world as an original African condiment range that brings out the best in meals of all sorts.
‘Go above and beyond’
Drawing from the fact that her journey has been uniquely filled with lessons, Suze advises, “Do not limit yourself to anything. Always think outside the box and be creative, especially in the food business because food is tricky. Beetroot will always be beetroot but how you make the beetroot can tell a generational story.”
She further urges aspiring chefs to invest in their creativity by infusing unique ingredients into traditional recipes to transform taste experiences and foster a new eating lifestyle for their generation.
“My goal is to transform every single taste bud in every single African home so they can be open to trying out new dishes and shy away from not exploring foreign flavours, especially as there is a looming food insecurity problem that would push for new ways of farming alternative produce.”
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