By Thandiwe Kubere

MASERU – Lesotho’s international and multi award winning Chef Donald Bokang Moletsane is calling young people to the culinary industry for there is so much that comes with it. He encourages them to study culinary arts because there is a fine line between chefs and cooks, mostly people often confuse the two.

Worldwide, culinary art has gained the recognition it deserves and its contribution to the economy. However, Chef D is concerned whether the profession is given the credit it deserves in Lesotho. The country’s renowned chef and president of Lesotho Chefs Association Donald Moletsane emphasizes  the importance of the career and studying culinary arts as food brings people of different classes together and the preparation brings a whole new sense.

“A chef is a trained professional who prepares meals for customers and supervises their kitchen staff. For one to be called a professional chef, they need to have years of study and have received intense training to meet their profession. A chef is someone who holds a Diploma and not a certificate”. He added that being a chef is a rewarding career to a creative and innovative person who enjoys continual learning in the kitchen- who is able to explore.

Chef Donald wears many hats for his achievements and for this he urges young people to pay attention that food business is sensitive and very unique. With the knowledge he acquired in the seven years of culinary arts study, he wanted to groom and help Basotho by equipping them with knowledge. So he opened a chef school- Dona@Balos, in 2013 and later a high class restaurant. He emphasizes the idea was inspired by the realization that something as minor as delivering different course meals and food testing skill remained a challenge in Lesotho. 

Food preparation beyond reasonable doubt goes further than eating to fill the stomach. It goes to as far as health, tourism and sports to mention a few. Dining establishments exist all over the world, so one can work nearly anywhere as a chef.  A chef manages all aspects of food preparation and ensures that all team members perform their jobs adequately and meet the kitchen’s quality standards. They enforce safety in the kitchen relating to food preparation and sanitation.

“We need young people to take seriously this industry as they are the future. We need chefs in all parts of business. To be a chef is not a hobby but a career,” Donald adds.

In health, because food is sensitive and plays a vital role in the well-being and healing progress of patients, it is necessary for health care services to have professional chefs who will ensure that patients get the appropriate diet, taking into consideration the illnesses their battling with as well as making sure that they are properly prepared.

“If you go to hospitals, you will find the common mistake made is that a person with oral sores is given a greasy hard to chew meals, which further aggravates the pain. A nursing mother is sometimes provided the same diet as other patients whereas attention should be taken for her to have a diet aiding with breastmilk production,” he said. 

He adds that in his view, local national team athletes are poorly considered when it comes to basic healthy diet suitable sportsmen. Most times they are served according to the available food budget not relative to their sporting needs, in the end they are expected to perform great yet their bodies are not in good form. He therefore urges young people to take this matter up, to advocate for better conditions as they are the future athletes of this country.

“They must learn the science of food and the important role a well-cooked diet plays in a person’s life. As a sportsman you cannot eat certain heavy foods prior to exercise. Our nutritionists may do their part recommending the type of food suitable however they don’t end up cooking,” clarifies Donald the chef.

Furthermore Chef Donald is anxious to see school feeding programs and hostel managers engage the services of Chefs as they know the right meals and the amount of nutritional value recommended for students to learn properly from a preschool age right up to tertiary level. He echoes his frustration towards the masses who disregard the necessary role Chef play in the food chain.  

Lastly Chef Donald is worried that VVIPs in the country particularly the Prime Minister and the King are never traveling with private Chef who take the responsibility to ensure the safety of food and facilities the food is prepared. This goes to show the need for chefs and young people to come through because chefs are required for all fields.

According to Donald, there are so many businesses that tried the tourism industry primarily the food sector but they failed. Having made their research and to their surprise the food costing was in various cases wrong. Chef services were ignored and in the end costing was so low the owners of the very businesses could not go further when the shock of food prices kicked.

“Just because the restaurant next door and the one in town sell their fish and chips meal at the same price it does not mean it is the market price for fish and chips combo. You have to engage the right food professionals to help you cost according to your supplier prices and factor your other business running costs!” says the chef advising that youth unemployment is on the rise and the young graduates fall in the trap of operating fast food outlets.

Culinary arts is a field which requires creativity, skill, and knowledge of food and cooking techniques.  “The demand for professional chefs is on the rise, authorities must hold accountable those who prepare food without caution and respect likewise and also they must take responsibility if they are not delivering them in a manner not appetizing to the consumer,” ends Donald.

DONA@BALOS Chef and Hospitality School provides certificate where students from all walks of life learn the art and science of food. The school has partnered with other Chefs School to provide an Advanced Diploma in Culinary Arts which produces qualified chefs necessary to uplift culinary arts in the country. The school is based in Thetsane Office Park Maseru.