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In the Kitchen with Chef Absalom Kotsokoane

Launching Moeng South Africa and celebrating traditional cuisine

Chef Absalom Kotsokoane, who goes by the name “Chef Absa” – believes that the essence of all beautiful art; all great art - is gratitude. That’s in fact his approach to food exploration, not only as chef but as person living and working with people. To this culinary whizz, food preparation is always about a melody created through skills, passion, and art.

“I am a chef, restauranteur, content developer, food stylist and part-time lecturer,” Chef Absa says, adding that his humble beginnings as a landscaper are what paved way to experiencing a spectrum of different lights, energy and people, who then filtered into the heart of his kitchen in Rosebank.

Of humble beginnings

“I have always been delighted at the prospect of - a new day, fresh try, and one more start - with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere in the morning,” Chef Absa weighs in as he narrates how his journey towards exploring his gift began.

“It’s the love and patience of my grandmother that instilled the drive and desire for cooking and the spirit of entrepreneurship in a little boy from Kgabalatsane Village in the North West Province of South Africa,” he adds.

Chef Absa was always surrounded by family, largely his grandmother and aunts who were excellent cooks, and so his home was his first culinary school! Thereafter training filled the gaps, helping him explore things that he could not ordinarily explain from cooking at home, especially the science of it all. He does however credit his grandmother for the pivotal role she played in his career.

“My grandmother taught me to look at my talent as a business and my mother taught me my pastry skills,” cites Chef Absalom.

His first formal booking was for his sister Dr. Mpho Sehunoe. On this occasion, he was to cook for a group of women in Midrand, Johannesburg. With the help of his family, they successfully catered for this group and the snowball effect was more catering inquiries and bookings for weddings, private parties, and corporate events.

Inspiration being the catalyst to creativity

“I am inspired by everything and anything! From the odd and unusual, to the unpopular and small materials; be it art, a flower, a seed even! As long as it ignites that fire that gives birth to a concept, beautiful things happen,” Chef Absalom states enthusiastically. He describes his cooking style as a modern twist of African food, and often refers to it as ‘soul food’.

“I personally think our African ingredients are not celebrated enough in high profile gathering or events and so I took it seriously to show off, celebrate and embrace our ingredients in a way that our food is respected and appreciated beyond normal cultural functions. Africa is beautiful inside out!”

“I love cooking indigenous chicken; the free-range fowls, sweet potato and lentil curry (anything curry I will eat or cook any day), and chicken gizzards. Duck L‘Orange and Pangasius, a fish dish, are my other favorite meals I would gladly pick them off a menu when eating out,” he adds.

Moeng Restaurant – the new addition to the family

Chef Absa believes enjoying peace is one of the beauties of life. It is in enjoying the sunshine, the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, and most important to him - the togetherness of a family. And so, it was no surprise that the next part of his journey would include creating a restaurant business that celebrates the essence of family.

“That is what we are, a family of exciting and innovative chefs, waiters and barmen. Moeng meaning ‘visitor’, is our coming together to create something beautiful for us all. To us, it’s a victory of truth hence why we started this project,” states Chef Absalom as he shares more on his latest project - Moeng South Africa.

“Moeng South Africa is a restaurant that prides itself in embodying the pride of African soul food. We primarily focus on celebrating the African ingredients in a traditional yet sophisticated manner,” he adds.

The restaurant is situated at 199 Oxford Park Shop 3 Ground floor Rosebank, Gauteng, the center of business and tourism. Every dish served is an experience waiting to be explored, a conversation waiting to be had and a memory to take home as a keepsake. Part of their service ethos is to tailor each event hosted to ensure that clients receive nothing but the best.

“It’s important to us that we appreciate our guests, and they feel the love, hence our slogan ‘Moeng go roga re je ka wena’ meaning “we only share the best with our guest”.

“The restaurant is an African modern concept with different elements that symbolize the notion of home, culture and family spirit. Moeng was created to speak to its core name Moeng, which means “visitor”.

It is a celebration of the diverse culture of South Africa, but starting with what we know from the Batswana home,” says Chef Absa

“The idea is inspired by our childhood experiences, and where we come from - the North West Province of South Africa. It is really about how we view our relationships between people, the fusion of cultures, festivals and events that touch and speak to visitors coming home after having been away for a long time. The food and décor elements spark conversations and create beautiful and memorable dialogue. It’s really about creating a warm welcome for our guests,” he adds.

On Moeng Restaurant’s plans

“As Moeng Restaurant our dream is to curate a new narrative for African cuisine. It is more than traditional event catering. We aim to provide a touch of class, plenty of flavour, vibrant colours and textures all while delighting taste buds. We want to be seen as a place for sharing experiences with clients locally and from all over the world, especially through food.”

Chef Absalom is of the view that the culinary world continues to evolve, which is why restauranteurs should ensure that they are on the pulse of trends and food service and preparation techniques. He does however believe that while the landscape may be evolving, the role of the chef has not evolved much, as it is driven by the love of what chefs do, and fueled by passion, drive, and spirit.

“This thinking has also kept us going through different seasons. Cooking techniques will always change however, as chefs we are always geared at upgrading the final products. As culinary artists, we must adapt to trends in innovations, change and in the current times, especially considering the new phenomenon that is operating in the COVID 19 business environment,” Chef Absa chimes in.

But chefs aren’t limited to the love of cooking and entertaining only, and Chef Absa is no exception to this reality.

“I absolutely love collecting different spoons and collecting vintage cases! Strange to some but it’s one of my quirky little fixes. I am also into Netflix, largely for the documentaries! Because I love to travel and experience different cuisines, my top three African destinations are Ghana, Morocco, and Zanzibar – Tanzania. There’s so much to tap into for culinary inspiration in those countries, and it’s always exciting to see what new things I can learn!”

To connect with Chef Absalom, check out his social media pages

Instagram: @absalom24 and Twitter: @chefabsa

Moeng Restaurant

@Moengsa_rosebank on Instagram and Facebook

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