If you told a young Mpho Nogueira that she would grow up to cook for a former head of state she would most likely not have believed you. But nonetheless, the Gauteng-based home cook did in fact take the reigns as the official caterer for the birthday celebration of former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe this year, an honor she says was almost surreal.
“It was an amazing and the best experience of my life and I’ll never forget it, but it also made me feel like I needed to push more,” she says.
A proud Sowetan girl, Nogueira remembers growing up in the Gauteng township as “one of the best times ever”, as she could spend a lot of time with her friends and “there wasn’t as much crime as there is now”.
Overcome with nostalgia, Nogueira thinks back on how her grandmother, Julia Mokoena, loved to cook up a storm in the kitchen. Mokoena used to work as a domestic worker and would go home and try out whatever recipes she learned from the people she worked for.
“My grandmother was definitely my inspiration, but do you know funny enough at that time I didn’t really care about food. I didn’t even think that I was ever going to cook or anything like that,” says Nogueira.
It was only later on in life when she decided to start taking her cooking more seriously. Especially after the first meal she prepared for her husband 20 years ago completely failed. “I remember the first meal that I actually cooked for my husband. He said, ‘it was so oily’. It was so horrible,” she laughs.
But her 20-year-old blunder paid off. Nogueira realized the need to hone her craft and has since managed to gain a combined following of over two-hundred thousand followers on Facebook and Instagram. Through her business- Noguiera’s Home Cooking she prepares lunchboxes by order and caters for events.
Armed with newly acquired food preparation techniques from her Portuguese mother-in-law, the foodie has managed to create a thriving catering business in 2016. “When I met my husband I used to watch my mother-in-law when she was cooking, and I would just be like ‘how does she do it?’. So, I also wanted to learn because I obviously wanted to keep my man,” she adds before bursting out with laughter.
In 2017 her taste bud-teasing business saw her add cooking classes to her services. Apart from managing a catering company, Nogueira also offers cooking classes to food enthusiasts throughout Mzansi eager to learn new tricks about food preparation.
“I was so nervous, but it went so well that after that I was hosting classes almost twice a month. It’s only this year that I have been so busy that I haven’t been hosting so much, but I have one last one coming up this year which is a Christmas class.”
Through her delicious meals and recipes Nogueira has also caught the eye of Grain Fields Chicken. She now serves as their brand ambassador.
Noguiera says one of her biggest highlights this year and as a cook is when she was asked to cook for former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe on his birthday. She adds her dreams would not have been reached had it not been for a friend who pushed her to post the meals she makes on social media.
This foodie will soon add author to her title, as she is working on a cookbook. She says the theme of the book is “all about taking you all around the world, because with me that’s how it is. It’s all about travelling around the world; places where I’ve been to and the food that I love”.