Chef Benny Masekwameng, an Executive Chef with the Tsogo Sun hotel group, became a household name earlier this year when he was appointed one of the three judges on the reality TV show MasterChef South Africa.
Born in Alexandra township, Masekwameng picked up his early cooking skills in his mother’s kitchen. From the age of 8 he busied himself as her helper. Formal studies took place years later, at the then Natal Technikon, where he studied for a Catering Management diploma. He went on to work for the Durban Hilton from 1999-2006.
Along the way he travelled to London, Turkey, Madagascar, Jamaica and Dubai, promoting South African food. He then joined Tsogo Sun, filling positions at Durban’s Elangeni Hotel, the OR Tambo Airport International Hotel and Montecasino.
Asked for his top restaurant selections, Masekwameng gives a wide-ranging choice, from fine dining feasts to casual eateries and township gems. Many of his choices will please dyed-in-the-wool carnivores.
Top five restaurants in Johannesburg:
Level Four: Located in the old Grace Hotel in Rosebank (now known as 54 on Bath), this sophisticated restaurant is garnering great reviews for its classical cuisine with contemporary influences.
The Local Grill: Renowned for its free-range and grained beef, this Parktown North restaurant has its own beef ageing cold room. The ‘field to fork’ signature lunch menu is comprised of the freshest of ingredients, sourced from local farms and suppliers.
The Butcher Shop and Grill: Something of an institution on Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, this steakhouse offers an upmarket dining experience. Aged and well-hung beef and lamb cuts are expertly cooked, and fish and poultry are also on the menu.
dw eleven-13: With its menu of modern international cuisine, this contemporary restaurant thrives on introducing new tastes and combinations to adventurous diners. Located in Dunkeld West, the name dw eleven-13 appears regularly on leading restaurant polls.
Turn 'n Tender: This chain of owner-operated steakhouses holds enormous appeal for families. Quality and good service have resulted in a long-held, excellent reputation. Besides steak, branches serve chicken, duck, game and fresh fish.
Favourite South African dishes
For Masekwameng, there’s little to beat the homegrown. 'I’m a big fan of local dishes,' he states, 'from pap and morogo to waterblommetjie bredie, bobotie and koeksisters.'
Township experiences (not to be missed)
15th Avenue Stoep: Located in the township of Alexandra, this is a hip and happening spot for traditional food and sundowners. It’s notably busy on Monday nights.
Soweto: In sprawling Soweto, Masekwameng recommends the restaurant and bars in the new and sophisticated Soweto Hotel, unpretentious Nambitha’s in Orlando West, and the vibey ‘pap and braai’ Panyaza in White City.
Mzoli’s Place, Cape Town: Butchery-cum-music venue-cum-braai restaurant, this Gugulethu spot is tremendously popular with locals and international tourists. It's unsophisticated, crowded and fun, fun, fun.
Max’s Lifestyle, Durban: Situated in Umlazi, this spot describes itself as the place to enjoy unique township culture in upmarket, trendy and safe surroundings. It is particularly known for its Sunday Sessions, where top DJs play. The menu is strong on traditional braai dishes.
Category: Food & Wine