Chef Naledi is a chef and cooking instructor offering private lessons in the student's home. Photo: Stroopsoet Photography

Naledi Toona, better known as Chef Naledi, has set the bar high with everything she does. She is not only an entrepreneur, but also a chef and cooking instructor. Her mouth-watering creations will leave you craving for more and yet, despite all her achievements, she remains a farm girl at heart.

Born and raised on her grandparents’ farm in Botswana, Toona became a permanent resident in South Africa when she married her husband, Lesetja, in 2009. As the second eldest of four daughters, Chef Naledi says the majority of her fondest childhood memories are of her being forced to spend time in the kitchen as a chore.

Today, the kitchen is a place where she lives her passion, enjoying and expressing herself through the food that she prepares.

Chef Naledi has been cooking since a she was young.
Chef Naledi has been cooking from a young age.

Chef Naledi, who matriculated from Maru A Pula High School in Gaborone, remembers spending time with her late grandfather whom she describes as a great man who loved his grandchildren dearly. “My grandfather used to make us go shopping at the nearest store with a wheelbarrow. He would write a list in his ‘grocery book’ and we would go and get the groceries from that shop. He always included milk, mageu (sour milk) and sweets and biscuits as treats.”

Growing up as one of the older sisters, Chef Naledi had to learn how to cook for the family from a very young age. Today, the mother of two can cook anything she sets her mind to.

Working with food every day, it is no surprise that she does not have a specific favourite dish.

Chef Naledi does confess, however, that she loves to nibble. “My friends always say, ‘Naledi, the nibbler’. So, any easy nibbles really do it for me.”

Climbing the stairway to success has not been easy, but Chef Naledi is proud of the fact that she’s not only living her dream, but also employing seven people. “Apart from the Chef Naledi brand, I have a catering and events company called Amara Events. This is actually where my entrepreneurial journey sort of started. I have two full-time employees and a pool of five part-timers. These are students who I call as and when I need extra hands.”

As a cooking instructor she offers private lessons to, amongst others, domestic workers, in the student’s home. Her decision to offer lessons to domestic workers arose from seeing the value her household received from her own domestic worker’s kitchen skills.

She firmly believes in celebrating the little achievements, and sees herself as an emotional, loyal and family-orientated person.

Naledi’s a farm girl at heart

Chef Naledi prepared one of her mouth-watering meatball recipes.
Chef Naledi prepared one of her mouth-watering meatball recipes.

Chef Naledi reckons although she loves fresh ingredients, she doesn’t quite have “green fingers” – despite coming from an agricultural family.

“My grandparents owned a farm in Botswana that had over 100 orange trees, and they supplied quite a number of shops. Most of my uncles and cousins are farmers too (vegetables, fruits, cattle and sheep).”

“Naledi, the nibbler” shares her favourite recipes across Facebook and Instagram through her page Chef Naledi – From My Kitchen To Yours. 

She has prepared an all-time favourite dish for Food For Mzansi readers: meatballs. It is simply yummy, filling, only requires six steps and nothing is stopping you from trying it out as well.

Here’s Chef Naledi’s step-by-step guide to making your own homemade meatballs.