Last week Avani introduced their new executive chef, Melisa Ngoni, by gifting samples of her new menu tasted nowhere before in Botswana.
Chef Melissa’s culinary magic is such sorcery that induces tasteful sensations.
Meet Chef Melisa Ngoni, the new executive Chef at Gaborone Resort & Casino, born and bred in Francistown, Moroka Village. She was introduced to the culinary arts by her late uncle and developed a keen interest from a young age by trying out recipes she found in magazines. From there on, she became unbridled as the kitchen flames she now tames in pursuing her passion.
In five words, Chef Melisa describes herself as, capable, responsible, dynamic, magnificent, and observant. Her favourite dish, Carbonara is an Italian dish made from Rome that is cheese-laced pasta.
When she was 15, Melisa was introduced to cooking good food by her late uncle. She said he was passionate about cooking and he enjoyed cooking for himself. “He always wanted me by his side whenever he was cooking, teaching me the basics,” Melisa said. The green chef at the time managed to beat him at his game garnered favour from him as his dearest niece due to their mutual passion.
Asked what factors inspired her dream of being a chef, Melisa said, “I developed a love for reading and trying recipes from magazines at a young age.
Eventually, I got an opportunity to work voluntarily at Cresta Thapama Hotel, where I met my first mentor Chef Dominic Mazarura. I loved his attitude towards food and got really inspired by him and his work, that was when my passion developed, and from there, there was no turning back. I had to raise money to study words a certificate in Food Principles at the British Council, thereafter I did my Diploma at Hotel Trainers Associates in South Africa.”
For young girls aiming for Melisa’s heights, she said, “You need to be passionate about cooking if you want to be a professional chef. In order to be economically successful in a professional kitchen, you need to have undergone formal training. I would say that those aspiring to be successful professional chefs need to be determined, enthusiastic and embody perseverance.”
Chef Melisa was the first female executive chef at Masa Square Hotel and is taking her copious experience to Avani now.
Quizzed what the most memorable moment in her career was, Melisa said: “When I became a chef trainer in 2018 and receiving an award for the best mentor at the Young Chef Olympiad in India on February 2020.”
Chef Melisa said that the Gaborone culinary industry has grown amazingly. “I must admit we could be far if the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t affect our growth pattern. Before the pandemic I witnessed so much growth in culinary training facilities, young people choosing culinary as a career unlike in the olden days where a small number of young people were registered in culinary schools because being a chef was never regarded as a good career,” Chef Melisa said.
She added that: “Young people are fascinated about cooking and being creative in food preparation to food presentation. We see the senior chefs also trailblazing paths for the upcoming young chefs. The menu offerings in local and international restaurants are also pleasing and there is so much room for growth.”
Chef Melisa’s taste sensations range from Thai meatballs with rice noodles that instantly melt in the mouth, to Quinoa stir-fry.