Dining Out, People of Joburg

Chef of the month: Lebohang Mokoena

May 2, 2019, Author: Candice May

First inspired by his father who used to cook for him during school holidays while his mother was at work, Medeo Restaurant’s Executive Sous Chef now spends his days cooking up signature dishes like triple-cream Mediterranean burrata and veal tortellini doused in sage and butter sauce at the most stylish and sophisticated Italianesque dining spots in the city.


Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Sebokeng in the Vaal. After completing a Hotel & Catering Management Diploma at Boston College, I was given training at the exceptional inland resort, Riviera on Vaal. It was here that I fell in love with the kitchen and was taught all the basics of cooking under chef Warren Frantz. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work in every section of the kitchen, which led me to realise that I can be an all-rounder chef.

Is there a chef who you admire the most?

It’s impossible to choose just one! I admire how English celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and Marcus Wareing treat each and every ingredient that ends up in their kitchens with utmost respect, and how they never fail to turn any ingredient in a world-class dish made with love and passion.


What’s your favourite kitchen gadget?

A Thermomixer can turn even the simplest recipe into a fine-dining dish. Other kitchen staples of mine include a sous vide machine, which ensures that food is cooked to perfection at the right temperature, a juice dehydrator and, of course, quality pots and pans.

What’s an example of an autumn menu you’d prepare for me?

Hands-down my signature dish, which is a warm and comforting plate of braised quail complemented by squash puree, cranberry gel, sprouts and fondant quail jus. If you’d prefer a wine pairing, I’d serve a beautifully seared salmon fillet with a chenin blanc to cleanse your palate. I also love cooking all types of Italian and Asian dishes because they allow you to be inventive and to play with lots of different flavours.


Tell me about pairing food and wine.

One of the key factors in food and wine pairing is matching the flavour intensity and weight of the dish to that of the wine. For example, intensely flavoured, heavy dishes like game or roasted meat will overpower a light-bodied wine like Italian pinot grigio. Food and wine pairing is the most familiar formsof food and drink pairing, however, more foodies are seeking out non-traditional pairings that capitalise on a unique sensory experience – think gin, brand and cocktail pairings.

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