We've got news for you.

Register on SowetanLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Thapelo Mafatshe’s culinary excellence brings curious taste for different flavours of the world

‘My passion for cooking at a young age’

Nombuso Kumalo Content Producer
Head Chef Thapelo Mafatshe
Head Chef Thapelo Mafatshe
Image: supplied

Chef Thapelo Mafatshe is bringing the fusion of exotic Mozambican cuisine accompanied with Mzansi flavours to the rest of the world.  

Nestled between Pemba Bay and Wembi Beach reclines the four-star Avani Pemba Beach Hotel, a stone’s throw away from port town of Pemba, Mozambique. It is at this picturesque and Instagrammable locale that Mafatshe’s appetite for culinary excellence was honed and fulfilled.  

During our interview, Mafatshe is interrupted, and politely recuses himself for five minutes before an assertive Portuguese voice is heard instructing the staff. It was during a busy lunch rush at the resort where he is head chef in two of the hotel’s seaside and quaint restaurants, Clube Naval and The Niassa Bar. Mafatshe has been at the hotel for eight years.  

The 41-year-old from Jan Kempdorp, in the Northern Cape has had a curious taste for the different flavours of the world. Mafatshe’s one in a million opportunity came when he was asked to step in as a sous-chef for an international golfing competition at The Palace of the Lost City, in Sun City.  

“It was during the Million Dollar Challenge in 2003 [now called the Nedbank Golf Challenge] I got to wear my first jacket and apron. I was so inspired that I decided then and there that I want to be a chef. I enquired about opportunities to start training, some without pay. I agreed and they said that I start Monday,” he said.

Mafatshe had found his passion and began knocking on doors for more opportunities. 

“I was working as a sous-chef at one of hotels in Sun City, and I applied to be head pastry chef at Avani Pemba Beach. A week later they contacted me to say I was shortlisted and then I became a part of the team,” he said.  

“My passion for cooking at a young age, I would watch my mom bake as she worked at the local bakery. I would sometimes help at the bakery during the June holidays or Christmas time when it would get busy. During the weekend when I was at home, I would make bread for the family.”

“On our menus we have a traditional Mozambican dish Beef Seswaa which is slow cooked pounded meat served with stemmed bread and tomato gravy,” Mafatshe explained the SA flavours and delicacies he introduced into the dishes he serves.

He added that should South Africans desire to introduce a cultural exchange into homemade dishes, they should substitute or add a splash of coconut milk and cashews in cream spinach.  

Prawn Matapa dish
Prawn Matapa dish
Image: supplied

Matapa & Prawns  


  • 500g prawns, peeled and deveined 
  • 1 large bunch cassava leaves, washed and finely chopped 
  • 1 onion, finely chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 cup coconut milk 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, crushed 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 


  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  
  • Add the onions and garlic and sauté until they become translucent and fragrant. 
  • Add the tomatoes to the pot and cook for a few minutes until they soften. 
  • Stir in the cassava leaves and cook for another 5 minutes, allowing them to wilt. 
  • In a separate pan, dry roast the crushed peanuts over medium heat until they turn golden brown.  
  • Remove from heat and set aside. 
  • Add the prawns to the pot with the cassava leaves, stirring well to ensure they are coated with the tomato and onion mixture. 
  • Pour in the coconut milk and water, then season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cover the pot.  
  • Let it cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the prawns are cooked through. 
  • Stir in the roasted peanuts and let the dish simmer for an additional 5 minutes. 
  • Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. 
  • Serve the matapa and prawns with rice or pap.
Suncoast Avani Pemba Beach Hotel.
Suncoast Avani Pemba Beach Hotel.
Image: supplied
Suncoast Avani Pemba Beach Hotel.
Suncoast Avani Pemba Beach Hotel.
Image: supplied

Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.