Building a brand that scales the kitchen through teaching, training and empowering
Naledi Toona, affectionately known by many as Chef Naledi, is a mother of two (a daughter and son) and wife to who she describes to be the most supportive husband. Originally from Botswana, Chef Naledi relocated to South Africa for school in 2005 but never went back home. South Africa was seemingly bursting with opportunities she and her family wanted to explore, and so they chose to settle in the country.
Chef Naledi’s culinary journey began informally in 2013. She started with cooking for small events and when corporate clients started approaching her for catering services, this became an opportunity to register her company – Amara Catering, which has since evolved into a bespoke catering business. Since become fully licensed to operate her food-service business, Chef Naledi witnessed exciting prospects for growth, especially given how her culinary prowess didn’t come with any formal training. As time would progress, she decided to enroll into a culinary arts institution, later attaining her a Certificate in Culinary Arts with HTA in 2016.
Her certification is what led to her realisation that her passion for teaching and empowerment was really her calling. She began teaching housekeepers how to cook, tying in some educational tips on maintaining household cleanliness and hygiene. Her path was going to be nonconventional to a degree, as pursuing a career in the hotel and restaurant industry just wasn’t something she wanted to do.
Today, her following continues to grow within her community and even across social media as she showcases her enjoyment of experimenting with food and serving up sumptuous platters and buffets spreads for all to enjoy.
Chef Naledi’s favourite dishes to cook:
“Mostly anything lamb. But my summer fav is lamb chops and winter favourite is lamb curry. I also enjoy chicken served with a brown rice casserole. Most recently, any whole fish…from sardines to salmon to yellow tail. I love them whole.”
Favourite dishes to eat:
“Sushi, especially rainbow rolls. I also love a good plate of prawns and well-cooked succulent oxtail.”
Top 5 African Destinations:
“Kasane in Botswana. I love its location because you can quite literally travel from Botswana into Zimbabwe and then Zambia within a matter of hours. I also enjoy the wilderness in this region. The opportunities to view a range of animals and the big 5 in this area are many. Kasane is definitely one of my favourite little towns in Botswana.
Second would be Maun, also in Botswana, which has garnered regional acclaim as one of the Botswana’s tourism hotspots. It’s home to the Okavango Delta and is a spectacular attraction especially after the rainy season.
Victoria Falls also falls on my top 5 list. I’ve been there several times and cannot get enough of it. The falls are just so relaxing and breathtaking to view.
Durban, I enjoy because it’s such a child friendly holiday destination. We go there as a family at least every second year. Lastly, I’d like to add Zanzibar to my bucket list. Admittedly I haven’t travelled a whole lot across Africa and was looking forward to experiencing Zanzibar, but we’ve had to postpone this trip due to the pandemic. I’m definitely looking forward to being able to go though!”
What down time looks like
“I sleep during my downtime. I know it sounds strange, but I genuinely enjoy taking some much-needed rest and sleeping. In my busy seasons I can get as little as 2 hours of sleep – a quick nap really, just to help me reboot for the next barrage of tasks.”
Looking ahead for Chef Naledi
The past 5 years have seen Chef Naledi grow from being an entrepreneur in the catering business to a culinary educator. She enjoyed the teaching and training opportunities so much that she eventually received her accreditation as a facilitator, assessor, and moderator, engaging with her wider network under the self-titled Chef Naledi brand.
While her catering business has been hard-hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic, Chef Naledi’s passion for cooking keeps her inspired to try new things in the kitchen while she waits for things to take a turn for the better. Like every entrepreneur trying to ride out what seems to be a prolonged economic season, Chef Naledi believes in the importance of having multiple streams of income to keep one afloat during more challenging times. Chef Naledi also runs a Property Investment Company alongside her husband and business partner, so credits the time she spends at their business Lenayatla Property Solutions as one of her enjoyable moments outside of the culinary space.
To connect with Chef Naledi, you can find her on Instagram as @chef_naledi. For enquiries contact