Award winning chef Wandile Mabaso is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with. His passion, creativity and determination all form part of his recipe for success as he continues to make waves in the culinary arts. Also a restauranteur, Mabaso owns Les Créatifs restaurant in Bryanston which is known for its unique food artistry and fine dining experience.
Reflecting on his journey and upbringing, the chef shared how his culinary creativity began during his childhood in the streets of Soweto. “It was common for us to roam the streets and discover certain things on our own. As a result, we started catching pigeons and cooking them with spices for fun. Therefore, I started cooking at age 10,” he said.
Mabaso later started cooking to sustain himself and his brother as his single mother worked long hours. Since then, cooking has become a pivotal part of his life, moving from just a hobby, to a burning passion and ultimately an inspirational career.
When asked if owning a restaurant had always been a childhood dream of his, the Les Créatifs owner agreed without hesitation.
“I remember giving my mom a layout drawing of what my restaurant will look like. I was 11 years old. I wish she would have kept that drawing”.
Although the layout of his restaurant may not be in accordance with the drawing he presented to his mother years ago, much thought, creativity and intentionality have gone into each element of Les Créatifs.
“Together with interior designer Donald Nxumalo, we wanted to create something that has never existed. I imagined an all-round sensory experience by using art, ceramics, sculptures and an open kitchen which resembles a broadway theatre show that I frequented during my five years cooking in New York,” he explained.
An abundance of creativity also exists on the menu of the fine dining establishment. Since 2018, close to 500 different dishes have been created. Each dish stays on the menu for approximately 2 weeks, after which new dishes are introduced, altered and improved.
“I like to push myself to discover new things. This is a strategy to keep myself learning and discovering new things. Comfort is the killer of progression,” said the chef.
As a well-travelled individual who has explored different cuisines in various countries, Mabaso’s biggest lessons have been to always observe and be open to learning.
“Always look deeper into the history and culture of the people and area you are in. Absorb everything. This will be your advantage over others. Travel is the best education that you won’t find in any textbook,” he advised.
When he is not coming up with new dishes and running a successful restaurant, Mabaso can be found travelling, enjoying the great outdoors or simply immersing himself in acts of self-care.
With great accolades to his name, the culinary creative shared that his greatest achievement was being part of the Chef Alain Ducasse team at Le Maurice, Paris in 2016. The team won 2 star Michelin, something which was beyond Mabaso’s culinary dreams. Although his success and international recognition easily place him on the culinary mountaintop, the humble chef believes there are plenty more mountains to climb, both as a chef and restauranteur.
“I still believe that I haven’t reached the height of my career and that there’s a lot more to come. I’d like to see Les Créatifs evolve and reach its full potential. I’m a huge advocate for empowering other chefs and hope to do more of that in the coming years”.