Paying homage to her roots paid off for chef Mmabatho Molefe at the 2022 Eat Out Restaurant Awards. The chef-owner of Emazulwini at Makers Landing in Cape Town bagged the rising star of the year award at a glitzy ceremony in Cape Town recently.
Molefe’s maverick food pays homage to her heritage and represents an exciting new approach to South African cuisine. Emazulwini also bagged its first-ever Eat Out one-star rating.
Eat Out announced a new star rating system with restaurants being awarded either one, two or three stars.
“I am very proud of what we have been able to achieve so far and I just want to keep on doing my best. Emazilweni is a complete expression of who I am, how I want to portray myself and how I wish the world sees me,” she told Food For Mzansi.
A rising Star in Mzansi’s culinary landscape
The 40-seater Zulu-fine dining space overlooking the Cape Town harbour evokes an emotional connection to food with truly inspirational and distinctively clever recipes that transform favourite meals from her childhood into fine-dining dishes.
Emazulwini received its first one-star rating adding to a number of accolades it has accumulated in just two years.
“Everything about Emazulwini has been unexpected, from how it started as a five-year plan to getting someone who believed in the idea enough to invest in it has been good. Everything about it for me has felt like it is not going according to natural timing, it is more God’s timing.”
Molefe’s Zulu fine-dining experience also showcases African ingredients and proudly celebrates Nguni cuisine. With an all-black, all-women team, Emazulwini is also on a mission to improve racial representation in the professional kitchen while also promoting traditional, simple ingredients that have historically been dismissed.
Mzansi culinary giants shone brightly as the industry was celebrated in a spectacular display of gourmet food, creative drinks and top-notch entertainment at a ceremony at the Grand Arena at the Grand West Casino on Sunday, 20 November.
This year’s star-studded judging panel included chief judge Abigail Donnelly, Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, chef Karen Dudley, sommelier Moses Magwaza, food activist and cookbook author Mokgadi Itsweng, and food writer and broadcaster Anna Trapido.
“The new awards celebrate all kinds of establishments with the three-, two- and one-star system. This follows international trends and is the eating platform that South Africa needs right now,” explained Donnelley.
In a historic first since the Eat Out Awards were first introduced 24 years ago, the judging panel was not anonymous.
“I do believe that the restaurants will embrace this change. Having the panel of judges visit the restaurants under their own names allowed for a more transparent judging process, which we feel has been kinder to chefs. The quality of the food I’ve eaten has amazed me, especially as we’ve just come out of the pandemic. The chefs are cooking with their hearts and souls. Personally, it’s been wonderful being back at Eat Out and being able to introduce these new awards to the industry. It’s been very meaningful to me,” Donnelley said.
Meet the special award winners
The Eat Out Woolworths Restaurant of the Year was awarded to The Living Room at Summerhill Guest Estate in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
Chef Johannes Richter showcases the province’s culinary diversity from garden to plate, expressed through his fine French training and passion for Asian techniques.
“What we do has a very honest base,” said Richter. “Our agenda from day one has been to give South Africans a truly unbiased platform for their cultural identity. I am just so glad that this wave is picking up and people are understanding what we are doing. Our team lives it, we live it and there are a lot of actors in the back that makes this happen. I am in awe.”
Other recipients included:
- The Eat Out Woolworths Financial Services Chef of The Year: PIER chef John Norris-Rogers.
- The Eat Out Woolworths Financial Services Service Excellence Award: Forti Grill & Bar in Pretoria.
- Eat Out WCellar Wine Service Award: Victor Okolo from Salsify at The Roundhouse in Cape Town.
- Eat Out Retail Capital Best New Restaurant Award: Dusk in Cape Town.
- Eat Out Woolworths Icon Award: La Madeleine in Pretoria.
- Eat Out Woolworths Lockdown Innovation Award: Chef Liam Tomlin from Chefs Warehouse Group in Cape Town.
- Eat Out Valpré Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award: Rudi Liebenberg from Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town.
- Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award: FABER at Avondale in Paarl.
Get the Mzansi Flavour newsletter: A weekly serving of craveable recipes and handy lifestyle tips.