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A tribute to Lesdachef, the chef who took snobbery out of food

South African celebrity chef Lesego Semenya.The Soweto-born chef, better known as LesDaChef, is renowned for his best seller cookbook, ’Dijo: My Food, My Journey’, which was released in 2018. Picture: Supplied

South African celebrity chef Lesego Semenya.The Soweto-born chef, better known as LesDaChef, is renowned for his best seller cookbook, ’Dijo: My Food, My Journey’, which was released in 2018. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 12, 2021


The passing of Lesego Semenya has left his fans devastated.

Social media was filled with the outpouring of grief, with the celebrity chef’s friends, fans and colleagues, paying tribute to him.

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The award-winning chef’s passing was announced early on Monday afternoon, by a next of kin.

Semenya had revealed to his followers that he had been diagnosed with Covid-19 and had been doing his best to get back into full health.

He updated his followers on his health until Friday July 9, which was when he shared what we didn’t know what his final tweet.

Semenya’s passing comes after he had just shared that he had bought the rights of his best-selling book, Dijo and would be going the self-publishing route.

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LesDaChef, as he was known, was loved by many and the outpouring of grief, following his passing, has shown just how much he appealed to people.

He was also a reminder that you can always follow your dreams, no matter how late you may think it is. He did just that when he left the corporate world in 2008, after six years, to pursue his business goals.

He travelled around the country for a year, before enrolling at the famed culinary school, Prue Leith Chef's Academy, in Centurion, to study towards becoming a chef.

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In a 2015 interview with IOL Lifestyle, he revealed that he pursued a culinary course because he wanted to understand the industry.

“I was 20 years old when I started working in the corporate world. I left Wits University while doing my first year and, based on my aptitude and IQ, happened to, be employed as a process engineer while completing my studies. I came to realise that I was just working for a pay cheque and not for the love of my career and profession.

“I honestly didn’t go to chef school solely because I wanted to become a chef, but more to understand chefs and the industry, so I could have a successful business … Life just decided to make me fall in love with the uniform and the job itself. I’m now a proud qualified chef and I embrace the title,” he said.

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He qualified with a Grande Diploma in Food and Wine and five other international level diplomas in wine and patisserie in 2010, where he then went to work at The Westcliff, under renowned chef Nicky Gibbs.

That same year, he took part in a soccer World Cup pie designing competition, run by the British High Commission, where his pie, based on a Kota, won and was named the official pie of the visiting British football fans for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Until May 2014, Semenya worked at Richard Branson's private game reserve in the Sabi Sands, before returning to his native city to begin focusing on building his business.

He judged Top Chef South Africa in 2016, alongside chef Neill Anthony and celebrity cookbook author Lorna Maseko.

He signed a book deal with Jacana publishers in 2018 and released Dijo, which became a best-seller.

Brands were also clamouring to work with him, making him one of the go-to content creators and influencers, for numerous whisky and food brands.

His use of social media endeared him to many. His various threads about food, restaurants and the culinary industry, shared insights that many appreciated, including food writers.

His zeal for sharing even something one would think was common knowledge, made him different from other chefs. He humanised an industry that was seen by many as haughty and impossible to penetrate.

His blog, LesdaChef, chronicled his journey to the upper echelons of the culinary world, while still appealing to the masses. Plus, there’s a treasure trove of recipes that so many people have been inspired by.

He broke down walls that allowed chefs to be accessible. We have seen many chefs follow in his footsteps and use social media to get clients and influencing gigs.

He was a champion of indigenous cuisine and he actively made sure that he would champion South African food, which was rare for an industry that always looked to France for what to serve at fine-dining establishments.

He brought food to the masses. He, as his social media bio stated, was all about taking snobbery out of food. And that is exactly what he did.

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