It is true that the nature of chefs is one fuelled by passion and an innate urge to create, says Gauteng-based chef Lesego “Barry Smooth” Moetse.
But with this comes a constant feeling of insecurity. In fact, says Moetse the 28-year-old culinary creative, there is no finality or fulfilment in what you put on a plate. You are only as good as your last dish, always filled with an insatiable appetite to ascend in the industry.
“I judge myself, even after I have finished my service successfully and my clients are satisfied,” he says.
He adds that things can get quite tense in the professional kitchen. It takes, grit, blood, burned fingers and sweat to pull off a high-end service.
“You can never idle in the kitchen; you must be on your toes. Everything in the professional kitchen is intertwined, if you fall out of place, you risk messing up the entire service.”
However, Moetse does not dwell on the pressure and channels his insecurity towards his avid need to grow.
“Growth opportunities are everywhere, I used them to further my skills and extend my reach in the culinary field. I am confident in my abilities at the end of the day,” he says.
In 2018, after a number of years gaining experience in professional kitchens, he opted to spread his wings and started his own business, Yum Tart, offering his fine dining services in and around Johannesburg.
He admits that not an evening goes by when he is not tossing and turning and dreaming up menus to keep up with current food trends.
“Our passion is the reason why we do what we do, and people can tell from what you serve if you are being genuine. If you love what you do, you put everything into it,” he says.
‘Black chefs especially are always being undermined in the professional kitchen, I just decided to do my own thing.’
Not too long ago, Moetse was in his late mother, Angie’s, kitchen in the township of Vosloorus preparing his own meals after school waiting for her to return after a long day at work. She was an avid cook who taught him to always trust his instincts in the kitchen.
“I have always had a love for cooking, I have always had an appetite. Early on in my childhood I just learned to cook what was in the fridge and to cook for my mom to ease the stress of feeding me,” he says.
“If I could find the ingredients at home I would just mastermind it and learn by trial and error.”
While attending the Vosloorus Comprehensive Secondary School he grew fond of the home economics he took as a school subject. This would later lay the foundation of an eight-year journey into the culinary world.
In 2009 he matriculated, but Moetse opted to take a break from education and instead assisted in the family business. It was only five years later that he says he could no longer ignore the call to the culinary arts.
In 2013 he enrolled at the Capsicum Culinary Studio in Rosebank where he completed his qualification in professional cookery. A year later and he started his cheffing journey at the high-end Michelangelo hotel in Sandton.
Moetse gained extensive experience in the industry and has worked as a charter and private chef in multiple hotels in the Gauteng area. The professional kitchen, however, could never stimulate his growth. He says that the constant abuse by senior chefs and the undermining atmosphere in many kitchens led him to branch out on his own in 2018.
“Black chefs especially are always being undermined in the professional kitchen, I just decided to do my own thing.”
He now takes his experience and invests it in teaching young chefs the dynamics of the professional kitchen through his private cheffing business.
“My morning routine involves checking on preparations from yesterday that have been packed by my juniors, I then begin setting up my stoves, pans, chopping boards and knives, check my menu and what needs to be done and attend to the business of the day.”
The private cheffing business has its fair share of shocking requests. “I was once so gobsmacked when a client asked me to make calamari, chakalaka linguine pasta,” he laughs.
The young culinary maestro advises young chefs to “love what you do and believe in yourself. There is no room for insecurity, stand firm.”