By Miliswa Sitshwele
When he was growing up, Peter Langa wanted to be a geologist. But, due to financial constraints, his mother advised him enrol for a hospitality course at Pretoria College instead. Today, Peter is a head chef at Maropeng.
Being a chef, says Peter, is like being a child with clay in your hands. “Playing with food is like playing with clay – you create something different every day,” he explains.
Peter has been working at Maropeng for a year and seven months now, and he’s loved every minute of it. “I am enjoying myself a lot and I am becoming more and more creative. I started out as a sous chef and I am now head chef.”
What Peter loves most about Maropeng is the way the staff is treated.
“Our bosses give us the opportunity to be who we are,” he says. “They see the potential in us – that we are capable of doing whatever we put our minds to.”
Being part of Maropeng’s “A-team”, for Peter, is a huge honour and privilege.
“We have all improved so much since we first came here. We are innovative, vibrant and young, and we are producing good results.”
Peter’s favourite dish is a fillet steak with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. When he is at home, though, he doesn’t cook much and prefers food that is made traditionally. “I only cook when I have guests coming,” he says. “On a normal day, I have pap with chicken that doesn’t have anything but curry powder in it.”
One of his most memorable moments at Maropeng was the 2008 Heritage Day event, which drew a huge crowd. “That day was my day to shine. I had to prove to my colleagues that I could succeed,” he says. “From that day, people believed in me.”
Itumeleng Mtombeni, senior restaurant supervisor at the Tumulus restaurant, is one of those believers. “Peter Langa is an understanding man,” says Itumeleng.
Whenever they are planning a big event, Itumeleng makes sure to ask Peter’s advice. “When we have a conference he sits down with me and we discuss what to do,” he says.
Peter, who hopes to further his studies and manage his own hotel one day, says aspiring chefs need to be passionate about what they do.
“Being a chef is personal,” he explains. “One needs to have a heart for it; you must do it with love, because as much as it may look easy, it’s not.”