Food

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9min8923

Koketso Rakobela is a chef, but a look at her Instagram account would have you thinking she’s a foodie influencer. She has a mouth-watering sense of style, a good taste in art and comes off authentic as a plate of pap and inyama ye ntloko. But in the culinary streets, she’s christened herself with a moniker which gives more insight into who she is-The Brown Chef.

“Brown Chef came about when I realized just how much I love the colour and tone of my skin. I wanted to make it known somehow that I love being brown, and I’m a chef. So, that’s how Brown Chef came about,” Rakobela tells me.

Koketso Rakobela. Photo by Dimpho Mmotlana
Koketso Rakobela. Photo by Dimpho Mmotlana

While the Dorah Sitholes, Gordon Ramsays and Nigella Lawsons utilized traditional media to grow their brands through TV shows and print publications, today’s cooks use social media to promote their work-which gives them more authority in the curation of their content- and are seemingly more mindful about being brands.

“I’ve always been a creative person, but I think I wasn’t quite sure as to where I was headed with the creativity. I don’t want to limit myself to just being in the kitchen. I want to see myself do everything that I’m passionate about i.e. photography, modelling and a whole lot of other things which I won’t reveal just as yet,” says the ambitious chef. “If I’m not in the kitchen, I’m in front of the camera shooting pictures of myself that have a conceptual meaning of some sort to them- depending on how I’m feeling.”

KOS FOR SUNDAY: A Sunday lunch by The Brown Chef. Photo by Kokee
KOS FOR SUNDAY: A Sunday lunch by The Brown Chef. Photo by Kokee

Rakobela’s appreciation for art is palpable in her dishes and her photography. “I love colour and vibrance [sic], so yes, art does have a huge influence on my craft. Art is everywhere, and almost everything is art its own form. As much as an artist can show emotion in a song/painting, a chef can evoke the same feeling or tell a certain story on a plate. My most favourite part of cooking is plating-and that’s the best way to showcase food/cooking as an art form”

THE CHEF IN HER SEAT: Koketso being interviewed about her culinary skills. Photo by Rearabetswe Ntuli.
THE CHEF IN HER SEAT: Koketso being interviewed about her culinary skills. Photo by Rearabetswe Ntuli.

Italian cuisine holds a special place in her heart-any type of pasta with a lot of cheese go down very well with her. But her palate isn’t colonized by “sophisticated” foods. True to her rich melanin, she enjoys bogobe ka mašotša le morogo or simple beef stew with pap, morogo and some atchar on the side. Her cooking skills are varied as her taste.

TAKE ME HOME: A dish prepared by the Brown Chef. Photo by Kokee
TAKE ME HOME: A dish prepared by the Brown Chef. Photo by Kokee

“I’m an all-rounder in the kitchen! In culinary school, I studied both Food Prep [hot kitchen] and Patisserie. Both of them have different moods they give, but because I love the rush and work well under pressure, I’d say I’m a hot kitchen chef.”

After completing her studies in 2018 at Capsicum Culinary Studio, she was fortunate to bag an internship in the US. “I left my home country on pure intent of just going to cook and learn about everything that has to do with just cooking,” she says. While there she lived in Boston and then later went to Phoenix. “But, it turned somewhat into a personal adventure. I got to meet kind people; got to learn and experience other cultures; and I somehow got to ‘find myself.'”

HER SERVING: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Photo by Kokee
HER SERVING: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication here. Photo by Kokee

As beautiful as it’s been to see people cooking up a storm in their homes during the lockdown, it hasn’t been so nice for actual chefs who do this for a living. Like most industries, the culinary space has also been dealt a hard blow. “It’s a tough and competitive industry in itself, so to see businesses close due to the lockdown is just putting more strain on the industry. Taking into consideration, also, the fact that South Africa is still growing in the culinary industry, the lockdown has just suppressed the growth,” says Rakobela.

Bleak as these times are, The Brown Chef still has dreams of owning a boutique hotel someday. “Being able to groom and teach young and upcoming chefs the principles and lessons that I would have learned in my years of being in the industry, in my own kitchen, would be the pinnacle of my career.”

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7min20130

IT’S no surprise that the West considered Dr. Sebi a health fraud because he stood firm against the pharmaceutical industry, but it’s unsettling to see Africans reject the natural way of healing. But four years after Sebi’s passing, and being caught in a certain pandemic Noni Godole is bringing about a change in the relationship abo darkie have with healthy eating.

“I feel like our Creator/ Umvelinqange would move the earth just to get our attention, we are by birth attached to The Mother and She will do anything to get us to connect to our true selves. Somehow this has brought [us] closer to home than anything. We got to cook more, get to taste ginger, trust nature much deeper than we ever have. I was raised with umhlonyane, I still give it to my kids and I have it in the garden. For the first [time] our people actually believed in nature and trusted nature to heal them,” says Godole.

Noni doing her thang. Photo supplied
Noni doing her thang. Photo supplied

Godole who is a chef and an untiring advocate for herbal healing hosts the Indigenous Food and Herb Expo this Heritage day at Betty’s BnB in Sharpville, in the Vaal. “I know our people are the hardest hit, we’re always the hardest hit where identity is concerned, we are given a day to celebrate who we are and a piece of our truth is slowly being wiped away by the ever evolving world and of course convenience with that comes self-destruction and we tear pieces of our DNA while at it.” Godole tells me.

Noni's dish. Photo by Native Rebles
Noni’s dish. Photo by Native Rebles

“This Expo hopes to reclaim our heritage and start eating right again, reclaim our relationship with the soil, with nature. The food we are consuming and claimed to be our own is a lie and it’s here to move us even further from our truth.”

The importance of this being hosted in the township should not be downplayed because too many times these expos- be it cannabis, wine or sex- are hosted in the burbs by Caucasians. It also dispels the notion that abantu can’t organise themselves. Godole says the Expo will go from hood to hood, to preach the gospel of eating healthy. They plan to hit the Ekurhuleni after this.

Eating healthy seems daunting, not only for the taste buds but also the pocket. It’s a stigma attached to eating well, that it’s expensive.  “That healthy eating is expensive and it’s for white people. I can’t deal!!!” exclaims Godole.

Mama in tha kitchen with her greens. Photo supplied
Mama in tha kitchen with her greens. Photo supplied

“Social conditioning is what’s killing us, we are told good food is expensive, and for you to be healthy you must spend. How much is a seedling, how much is one seed? A veg combo compared to a meat combo? By choosing veggies or growing them yourself over buying meat every day, meat which is killing you while you at it. We’ve been wrongly programmed, go to the Yeoville market and see the excuses we create for convenience.”

The Expo will also include performances and presentations by Noni and her guests. “It’s time we became ourselves, it’s time we lived our truth openly because that is what will save us. We have natural born, gifted healers among us and it’s like having a team of super heroes that were chosen to carry and spread light. On this day we will be sharing the knowledge that we were trusted with by what and who we are, we are suggesting much friendlier ways to live and save our world.”

Something Fishy. Photo supplied
Something Fishy. Photo supplied

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