Let The Maslow’s Chef Puleng take you on culinary journey with her cooking skills
Johannesburg - Free State-born Puleng Moshoaliba grew up eating hearty home-cooked meals with her mother Matlakala, and knew she was going to be a chef from a young age.
She attended Seotlong Agricultural and Hotel School in Phuthaditjhaba where “it was either economics and commerce or becoming a chef”, she says.
Today, the 34-year-old is the executive sous chef at Sun International’s The Maslow Hotel in Sandton, working under executive chef Hector Mnyayiza - responsible for the Lacuna Bistro, conferencing, banqueting, room service and the bar areas.
She works with a team of 17 chefs across hot breakfast, cold kitchen, banqueting chefs, dinner service, pastry, sushi and the staff canteen.
Moshoaliba holds a professional cookery diploma from the International Hotel School in Durban, during which time she gained practical experience in different environments, at city conference centres and game lodges.
She spent 10 years at a corporate company that specialised in events and weddings working her way up from chef de partie to pastry sous chef and then executive sous chef, running a team of 10 chefs and six cleaners.
She has attended food shows and conferences in the US and has a Chef of the Year nomination from the Institute of Culinary Arts to her name.
The executive sous chef is responsible for all aspects of the kitchen such as menu plans, operations, recipes, financial responsibility, portion and inventory control, food quality, and employee supervision, also providing leadership training and hands-on management of the kitchen staff.
“One of my passions is developing people, especially those who want to learn,” she says.
When Moshoaliba joined The Maslow last year, she admits she was nervous.
“I’d been away from hotels for 10 years, working in a corporate environment. I thought it would take me time to adjust but I was surprised how easily I fell back into it. I walked into a great team, who were very welcoming, eager and willing to show me how things are done here before I could make my own changes.”
At The Maslow, the way in which food is presented has changed to ensure Covid-19 health and safety protocols.
“Things have to be done in a more restricted way. Presentation-wise, impressive installations are no longer the order of the day. But we want people to enjoy themselves and forget for a moment we are living through a pandemic.”
Some of Moshoaliba’s favourite ingredients are thyme, paprika, wholegrain mustard, olive oil and black pepper.
Her workday starts at 5am and ends around 3pm, five days of the week on a rotating schedule.
She has a standing morning meeting with the front desk and team to discuss any feedback and the focus for the coming days.
“After that, it is turning around the kitchen for lunch, where if it is busy, you will find me on the pass again. I still cook every day - I feel guilty if I don’t grill a steak or make a sauce.”
While the chef admits that paperwork is the worst part of her job, she also says that being stuck behind a desk permanently makes one lose their touch.
In her spare time, Moshoaliba binges on series, and enjoys travelling and exploring.