Chef Wandile Mabaso on his culinary journey, expertise in food pairing and partnerships

Published Oct 5, 2023


Family influence and his rich heritage have shaped Wandile Mabaso into the esteemed chef he is.

Having shown his knack for cooking since an early age, Mabaso pursued his culinary dream and achieved great success in the field.

He told “The Star” that one of the things that ignited his love for cooking was preparing meals for his mother, who often worked late.

“My culinary journey began in my early years due to a unique set of circumstances that ignited my interest in becoming a chef. At the age of 10, I started cooking because my single mother often worked late, and I had to prepare meals for our family. While I enjoyed cooking as a young boy in Soweto, I had no inkling that it could be a career, especially because I had no exposure to chefs, particularly black chefs, at the time. I remember how much fun we used to have catching and cooking pigeons, and how that still forms part of the core memories of how my passion developed,” said Mabaso.

He said he is grateful for the unique circumstances that guided him towards a culinary career, enabling him to approach cooking with authenticity and dedication.

Speaking about memorable moments since his journey started, he said certain experiences have profoundly shaped his philosophy and perspective on food.

“The influence of family, heritage, travel, and formal culinary training, I was fortunate to receive training under some of the world’s best chefs, which gave me the opportunity to harness my skills and learn essential cooking techniques,” he said.

Mabaso is also the owner and head chef at Les Creatifs in Sandton.

Not only has he recently partnered with the newly launched Johnnie Walker Umami to create taste notes, but he has also had the honour of catering for influential figures on the global stage, such as President Cyril Ramaphosa, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Chinese President Xi Jinping (the BRICS).

He further shared details about his partnership with the alcohol brand, highlighting that it has been a thrilling experience.

“I am thrilled to be embarking on this partnership with Johnnie Walker Umami, as it explores the uncharted territory of umami, the fifth taste, enhancing the tasting experience in their whisky. It’s a canvas to showcase the versatility of umami-rich ingredients and their synergy with whisky flavours. This collaboration aligns with my culinary ethos of creativity, innovation, and tradition, inviting individuals to explore taste complexities. Overall, it’s a chance to venture into new flavour realms, craft unique dining experiences, and expand culinary boundaries, which I eagerly anticipate sharing with fellow food and whisky enthusiasts,” he said.

He emphasised the importance of hard work, dedication, perseverance, and continuous learning for aspiring chefs.

“Embrace failure as a learning opportunity and remain humble. Be open to feedback and new knowledge. Always respect your ingredients and keep challenging your creativity levels. For me, being a chef is not a career, job, or hobby. It is a way of life, and I am grateful to live and share my passion,” said Mabaso.

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