Chef Richard Baloyi's recipe of hard work and dedication pays off

Mkhacani Richard Baloyi is the owner of La Mama Restaurant after working there for 30-plus years.
Mkhacani Richard Baloyi is the owner of La Mama Restaurant after working there for 30-plus years.
Image: Mduduzi Ndzingi

After more than a decade of washing dishes and about two of being a cook, Mkhacani Richard Baloyi is now the owner of a restaurant.

"It was a dream come true," said Baloyi on finally owning La Mama restaurant in Randburg.

Affectionately known as Chef Richard, Baloyi had worked at La Mama for over 36 years.

He bought the restaurant on December 18 after years of saving a portion of his salary.

Baloyi, who was born in Malamulele in Limpopo, came to Johannesburg in 1979. He started working at La Mama restaurant in 1982, which was then known as La Bite, making only R96 a month.

La Mama serves traditional Italian cuisine such as pasta dishes, seafood and pizza.

The father of five started off washing dishes in the kitchen at the age of 24. He built a relationship with the Italian chefs because they were also unable to understand English and Afrikaans.

Mkhacani Richard Baloyi is the owner of La Mama Restaurant after working there for 30-plus years.
Mkhacani Richard Baloyi is the owner of La Mama Restaurant after working there for 30-plus years.
Image: Mduduzi Ndzingi

The dedication to his craft paid off because he became the head chef in the 1990s.

"They started to teach me how to cook and I fell in love with it," he said.

However, working at La Mama was not always easy because of the entrenched racism during those years.

"It was hard to learn how to use the pizza oven because it was in view of the main restaurant. And we [black people] were not allowed to be seen. They would even make sure the kitchen door was shut. There was a hole in the wall where we put through the food," he said.

Joseph Ndlovu, 60, who worked side by side with Baloyi for over 30 years said he was proud of him.

"I feel very happy for him. We spent our youth together," said Ndlovu, who is a waiter at the eatery.

Baloyi said the restaurant was a legacy for his children and he hoped they would open other restaurants.

"Owning a business is hard because I have to pay suppliers, staff, rent and other things," he said.

Baloyi's dream is to own the restaurant's building so that he doesn't have to pay rent.

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