I popped in for a brief period only, but let me tell you the pressure was relentless at the Unilever Food Solutions Chef of the Year regional finals Mystery Basket Cook-off in Joburg on 26 July!

Lesego Sibanda from Sun International Time Square and Hanno van Eeden from Diep in die Berg took the top spots in the Senior Category; while Kabelo Molosiwa from Protea Hotels by Marriott OR Tambo Airport and Terror Molebeli Lekopa from Saxon Hotel were the Junior Category winners.

All four chefs will battle it out against finalists from the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal at the Chef of the Year finals in Durban on 6 September.

In the Team of 4 category Coovashan Pillay from Protea Hotels by Marriott OR Tambo Airport and Liza Strauss from Ivory Manor will lead their teams in the Chef of the Year finals.

In this category the teams consist of a manager, two chefs and a waiter – the chance to change up their daily routine and show off their team skills and spirit for a chance at sharing the R20 000 prize money which will be awarded to the winning team.


The annual Unilever Food Solutions Chef of the Year competition, this year themed ‘Where Legends are Born’, is the oldest culinary competition in the country and has contributed to launching the careers of many of South Africa’s leading chefs, as well as providing excellent experience and recognition for past winners.

Entrants in the Senior and Junior categories created recipes using Unilever Food Solutions products for a starter, main course, and dessert, with the best entries making it through to the regional finals.

The other Senior competitors at the Gauteng Regionals were Coovashan Pillay from Protea Hotels by Marriott OR Tambo Airport, Dayn Kruger from Tangaroa, The Strawberry Farm; and Carl Francois Human from Sierra Hotels, Randburg. The junior finalists were. The chefs competing in the Junior category were Natricia Panayis from African Pride Irene Country Lodge, Timothy de Villiers from Protea Hotels by Marriott OR Tambo Airport, Monaheng Moloinyane from Black Bamboo Restaurant, Tshepo Mbeazi from Sandton Sun Hotel and student, Blessings Makoka.

Esteemed Tasting Judges in the Junior Category in the Junior category were Adrian Vigus-Brown (Chairman of the SACA Junior Forum), Kelvin Joel (owner of Johannesburg Culinary & Pastry School) and Jelele Mokhine (Executive Chef Protea Midrand) with Siya Kobo as Kitchen Judge.

Judging in the Senior category were seasoned chefs Martin Kobald (Vice President of WACS – World Association of Chefs Societies) and Philippe Frydman (Restaurateur and past chairman of SACA) with James Khoza (Executive Chef at Sandton Convention Centre) as Kitchen Judge.

Congratulating the regional winners, Remco Bol, MD of Unilever Food Solutions SA, says, “Our Chef of the Year entrants always deliver something special, highlighting the exceptional standards of South Africa’s vibrant culinary industry. Well done to the Gauteng winners – and best of luck in the finals. We trust you enjoyed the experience of the mystery basket cook-off and that we will see you back in the competition next year.”

The Unilever Food Solutions Chef of the Year finals, taking place on 6 September in Durban, will see the top chefs in the Senior, Junior, and Team of Four categories take home a total of R110 000 in prize money, with an added bonus for the top Junior Chef of the Year – a trip to Nice on the Côte d’Azur in France, to apprentice with Chef Jan Hendrik in his Michelin-star restaurant – in addition to a R10 000 cash prize.

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