Q&A With Chef Mbombi


We sit down with the king of African cuisine, Chef Mbombi, to chat about what inspires him, what makes him tick and where it all began.

What is the most valuable life lesson that you’ve learned while working in the kitchen?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learnt in the kitchen is, “stand behind your dish no matter what”. Think about it; if the food tastes good, you have happy diners. If it tastes bad – you learn to perfect it. You need to own what you made.

Do you think that social media has changed the food game at all? Especially when looking at Instagram.

Certainly, it’s done extremely well and changes the food game. The era has changed to include digital and social media, which gives people a platform to show what they do. Creating a place for our content to be seen, not only locally, but globally as well.

How did your collaboration with Nestlé come about? Tell us more about it.

Nestlé Recipes with Love (which is the food giant’s recipe platform) hosted a creative cooking class with their iconic brand, MAGGI LAZENBY and the Nestlé culinary solutions range, to celebrate healthy and tasty meals to showcase how these brands can be creatively incorporated and allow you to cook and bake delicious everyday meals. The partnership was exceptional… it came about through a previous collabo with a different brand I worked on; it was more of a recommendation. To work with a brand like Nestlé was amazing. The brand has a strong subconscious representation at the back of our minds. And hugely in my mind because I always felt it was part of my upbringing – every time kokwana (grandmother) would cook porridge, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to add a spoonful of Nestlé Cremora there!

Fast track to today, the collabo stripped down the versatility of the products in our modern day cooking, allowing me to prepare truly authentic South African dishes, while focusing on how MAGGI LAZENBY and the Nestlé culinary solutions range can be used in various ways in our everyday kitchen.

What’s the difference between a Chef’s Knife and a Sontaku, and is it really necessary to have both?

I enjoy working with either of these two knives. The difference between these knives is that the Santoku Knife originates in Japan. It’s very thin and light so chefs use these a lot, it’s also faster for a chef. The Chef’s Knife originates in France and these are widely used in homes and sold in retail, they really are known as the ‘cook’s knife’. It’s not as thin, but it does the job.

If you had to choose a single cooking style between Mozambican and South African, which would you choose?

Haha! I will try to answer without taking sides – and my answer is, I choose Africa!

I appreciate what the Portuguese cooking influence has done for Mozambique and it’s flavours today, the same as how French and Italian cooking have influenced the SA culinary world (hotels, restaurants and so on) and how U.S.A cooking is influencing SA’s commercial system – and that’s your franchises. We have an authentic style of African cooking which hasn’t been showcased for either of these countries. We need to discover these and develop them – how to clean tripe, we need to own our style. I would never tell an Italian how to make pasta. Equally, we need to own our cuisine.

Do you think reality cooking shows such as Master Chef and so on have given people a false perception of what it takes to be a chef or a line cook, for that matter?

I think reality cooking shows have painted the picture on what happens in the kitchen and it fuels the fire in chefs to mix, slice and be competitive and that’s great. It offers opportunity, above all.

View this post on Instagram

Eezy as @ericmacheru would say . 👔👌

A post shared by mbonani daniel mbombi (@chef_mbombi) on

You rock the title African Cuisine Chef. How did that come about?

I grew up with a French influenced way of cooking, because culinary schools’ modules are about that. Which created a lot of confusion for me, because at school I learnt how to cook a French filet mignon, then I’d get home and cook tripe. From my research, I concluded that maybe we don’t pay enough attention to what’s ours as a culture driven continent. For example, if you look at Asian countries, they are not apologetic about eating snakes. As Africans, we appreciate the masters of the game and those are French and Italian chefs. However, to create a legacy of our own, we have to fuse that influence and redefine African food in a modern way.

Do you think that African cuisine can give traditional French cooking a run for its money? Because we do!

I think it can and that depends heavily on whether the world is willing listen and learn our way of cooking!

Did you like this article? Then get more of the same from our weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox for FREE!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More from FOOD: