Moud Kgomo from Bafokeng Liquor Store in Vosloorus and Pebetse Molefi from Maling’s Inn in Pretoria smoked the competition to each claim first place in, respectively, the Central and Northern region Mzansi Tavern Chef Cook-off in Centurion.

Kgomo served up a delectable dish of lamb shanks with creamy mashed potato, with chives and asparagus, covered in bacon, while Molefi cooked spinach, samp and lamb knuckle with a salsa relish to come out tops in the Inland regional competition, which was divided into two pools representing the Central and Northern provinces of Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West.

Kgomo said before the win she had considered looking for another job after a tough year.

“I’ve been doubting who and what I am, the judges and Heineken don’t understand what they’ve done for me today, the feeling I feel. After today I know that this is what I’m meant to do,” she said.

With the regional title under her belt, Kgomo’s ambition is to open her own restaurant in the township and give free rein to her love for cooking.

Molefi said winning felt like a sign from God that cooking is her purpose in life.

The IT specialist and mother of three said she learned to cook from her mother, who shares her passion for food.

“Even at home I enjoy cooking, my husband says I shouldn’t be cooking every day, but I enjoy it, so it’s not even an effort. I like playing with food, and I’m not scared to try something new,” said Molefi.

She hopes the win will set her on the path to becoming a full-time chef.

The 22 tavern chefs taking part in the Inland final got taste buds tingling with a mouthwatering variety of dishes. Competitors from towns across the Inland provinces, including Mankweng, Seshego and Bela Bela in Limpopo, Nkomazi in Mpumalanga, Brits in North West and Soshanguve, Vosloorus and Tembisa in Gauteng, had one hour to conjure up their best efforts in a sizzling competition for top honours.

The Inland regional final was the fourth leg in the Mzansi Tavern Chef Cook-off competition, following the opening events in the Coastal provinces of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

The competition is a partnership between Heineken Beverages, Nederburg and the National Liquor Traders, with each provincial winner scoring prizes to the value of R30 000 towards food serving in their outlets and the right to compete in the national grand final for the chance to win the ultimate prize of a tavern makeover to the tune of R100 000.

The Tavern Chef competition is the apex of a campaign by Heineken to promote food serving in taverns as one of the measures to address binge drinking.

Eating food before and during alcohol consumption is a practical way to regulate consumption and avoid intoxication.

Food serving in taverns has the dual benefit of helping to moderate consumption and promote a responsible, more sociable atmosphere, while also creating an additional revenue stream for the outlet which can drive township economic development and employment.

Master chefs Pete Goffe-Wood and Benny Masekwameng, along with Drinks Federation of South Africa Chairperson Monhla Hlahla were the judges, and kicked off proceedings with a briefing and handover of the competition aprons, before the competitors got down to business.

“We’ve enjoyed some phenomenal cooking from the contestants today and their passion for their craft shone through in the flavours,” said Goffe-Wood. “This competition has uncovered some exceptional talent and we hope it serves as inspiration for more tavern chefs to dream big and develop their skills.”

Jolene Henn of Heineken Beverages Corporate Affairs said the competition builds on the company’s food-serving campaign through its Bansela customer rewards programme, in which taverners are rewarded with prizes and incentives for serving food and water, as well as complying with liquor licence trading principles.

“Our aim with this competition is to amplify the message to drink responsibly and in moderation. From the talent on display here today and the standard of cooking we have seen, I can only say that the Grand Final in Cape Town is going to be a real battle for the ultimate prize of a R100 000 tavern makeover.”

Hlahla said she was excited by the impact the competition was having in encouraging taverners to think differently about trading responsibly.

“Giving patrons the option to enjoy a meal at the tavern can really drive change and build a more responsible culture that is about the social occasion and relaxing in the company of friends. Good food is the key to achieving that and the pride in their cooking shown by these tavern chefs is a wonderful example of the kind of positive, uplifting and responsible environment we want to promote.”

Olivier said Nederburg was proud to support the Tavern Chef competition.

“As one of the country’s most known and awarded wine brands, deeply entrenched in South African wine and food culture, Nederburg is a passionate advocate of local flavours as well as the responsible consumption of wine and other alcoholic beverages. 

“We’re so excited by the interesting food the Tavern Chef participants have dreamt up to serve in their taverns! We have been inspired by their culinary creations as we continue on our Taste, Learn and Discover journey, enabling our valued consumers to get to know our range of delicious wines and how well they pair with a wide range of local South African flavours,” said Olivier.

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