Celebrity chef Themba Gwejela goes back to his roots for favourite dishes

Sundays with Gwej back on the table

Masego Seemela Online journalist
Celebrity chef Themba Gwejela aka Mr. Gwej’s Kitchen talks food and bringing back Sundays with Gwej.
Celebrity chef Themba Gwejela aka Mr. Gwej’s Kitchen talks food and bringing back Sundays with Gwej.
Image: Supplied.

Seafood pasta, lamb chops with a quinoa salad and chicken soup are some of the succulent winter meals to warm you up, according to celebrity chef Themba Gwejela aka Mr. Gwej’s Kitchen.

Hailing from Peddie in the Eastern Cape, he grew up in a household that enjoyed freshly cooked homemade food. His mother enjoyed cooking while his aunt loved baking.

Despite his passion for cooking from a young age, Gwejela still obtained a degree in media and communication and an honours degree in brand leadership.

The 41-year-old spent over 14 years in corporate, heading marketing teams for some of SA's biggest food brands, while juggling it with some time in the kitchen.

What do you enjoy about cooking?

I used to get stomach cramps after having fast foods, part of that could be because back at home we only ate freshly prepared meals which were healthy. Because I was getting used to fast foods, I felt compelled to prepare my own food.

What meals did you love eating as a child?

My mom loved to cook and my aunt would bake… I used to enjoy eating my mom’s chicken with dumplings in one pot as well as her samp with beans. My aunt’s scones and coffee loaf that she used to make was to die for, it was full of flavour.

Image: Supplied.

What are the meals you love to cook?

As much as I may cook Western food, I still go back to South African food I grew up on. My favourite meal is sour milk with phuthu and my mother’s chicken with dumplings in one pot, this meal still reminds me of her since she’s late.

What's your favourite drink?

A G&T - on any day is easy. At the moment I’m experimenting with the new Tanqueray Blackcurrant Royale edition. I’m enjoying mixing it with half soda water and half toxic water with lots of ice for perfect balance.

The Tanqueray Blackcurrant Royale would be paired really well with duck or ostrich on the meat side, for a perfect balance of savoury with sweetness. I’d make duck stew or ostrich curry, served with basmati rice and salsa.

How did you enter the culinary space?

Food has always been a passion of mine, so being in the communications space, especially working with brands, grew my love for cooking. I would cook for my friends and some of them asked me why I didn’t host paid cooking sessions where people can come through and eat – this is how Sundays with Gwej came about.

How has your journey been in the culinary industry?

I’ve been truly blessed and fortunate where people have come to my table without any expectations but to have a good time. There are moments when I ask myself whether I was getting things right. I've also learnt a lot from my peers and the people who consume my food – they’d often give me feedback on the food I’d pair together, whether the recipe is a thumbs up or down. These people have truly helped the journey to be a lot smoother.

What can we expect from your brand?

People can expect Sundays with Gwej to be back. I plan to have these cooking vibes once a month. I also hope to partner with a bigger brand to help host these Sundays. I will be sharing new food and drinks recipes on our new website that one can enjoy this season.   

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