How The Lazy Makoti is Making South African Cuisine Sexy
Mogau Seshoene, aka The Lazy Makoti, is shining a spotlight on traditional cooking through her cooking classes and successful cookbook.
It all started when Mogau Seshoene’s friend asked her to teach her how to cook. Terrified at the prospect of being a labled a bad or lazy makoti (daughter-in-law) who didn’t know how to make traditional dishes, the friend tried to find cooking classes to help her, but there were none. Thus, The Lazy Makoti was born.
‘My friend came to me, and said, "You know how cook this food, please show me",’ Seshoene recalls. ‘I did. Then she recommended my "classes" to friends, who recommended me to others, and before I knew it, I was doing classes every weekend.’
Cooking was engrained in Seshoene from a young age. She hails from Polokwane, where her mother and grandmother taught her how cook. Cooking was something that was expected, but it was also more than that for Seshoene: it was something she loved doing. So it was strange for her when she arrived in the city to study and discovered that many people didn't know their way around a kitchen. And when her cooking classes started taking off, she realised that around her, people had a real desire to embrace their culture.
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‘I was so overwhelmed by the demand for my cooking classes. I realised that heritage has become so important. People are embracing where they come from and want to know more – including in the kitchen,’ Seshoene says. She was working in a corporate job at the time, but soon decided to follow her passion and pursue cooking full time. She quit her job, got a culinary arts qualification from Chefs Training and Innovation Academy in Centurion, and hit the ground running with The Lazy Makoti.
‘I started to evaluate how I felt in the office versus teaching,' she says. 'I was so much happier teaching, so I decided to pursue it full time. There was a bit of conflict in me when making the change – the practicality of it worried me. There were a lot of people asking me what I was doing. It’s a very unconventional path, but I shut out the voices and decided to go for it.’
The Lazy Makoti has now transformed from an inside joke to a successful brand that Seshoene uses to champion South African cuisine. In addition to her classes, she has released her first cookbook and is on a mission to highlight and preserve South African culture.
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On the state of South African cuisine, Seshoene says, ‘I stumbled on the United Nations Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices, which is a list of things like art, music and food that need to be preserved. On the food front, there was Italian, French and Japanese [cuisine] – nothing African was featured. I didn’t understand why we had to protect pasta, but nothing from my continent or culture was represented. I decided that we are the ones who have to do the work to protect our heritage. It is up to us.’
For Seshoene, the only way to do this is through educating people about traditional cuisine, starting with black people.
‘Lots of black people don’t want traditional food in commercial settings, because they think that it’s not fancy enough. They would rather "upgrade" and have Italian or French food. This must change. But there are people who are pioneering the way in changing this, like Chef Coco from Epicure in Joburg who creates fine dining dishes with traditional food.’
Seshoene knows that we're living in a time when Black Panther is an Oscar-nominated film, more people are transitioning to natural hair and African pride is at its highest – and when it comes to South African cuisine, The Lazy Makoti is at the forefront of this great new wave.