Petrus Madutlela wins Rising S

Petrus Madutlela wins Rising Star of the Year award [interview]

Petrus Madutlela started from humble beginnings and was awarded the South African Chamber UK Award for the Rising Star of the Year 2015 last week. We caught up with Petrus to see what’s next in store for him after this great accomplishment.

Petrus Madutlela wins Rising S

Petrus Madutlela grew up in Mothotlung, a township near Pretoria, cooking for his six siblings as his parents worked long hours. After school he accepted job as a kitchen porter at Peacanwood Golf & Country Estate, training to become a chef. In 2007, Madutlela represented South Africa in the ‘Concours International des Jeunes Commis Rôtisseurs’ where he came 4th.

In 2010, Madutlela won the title of “Unilever South African Chef of the Year” and in 2011 he won the coveted “By Invitation only South African Chef of the Year” award. Madutlela relocated to London a few years ago and began working at the Savoy as a Chef de Partie and competed in the BBC Masterchef in 2013: The Professionals. He is described by Michel Roux Jr as having a superb palate and the “ability to light up an entire room on entry”.

If that wasn’t enough accolades, Madutlela represented the World Association of Chefs Societies as a member of the international chef “Dream Team, presented recipes at the World Hospitality Competition in Dubai, and is head chef of The Hengist Restaurant in Aylesford. Madutlela was asked to serve on the judging panel of the 2014 The Ultimate Braaimaster reality TV series in South Africa and has recently been asked to join the team for the upcoming 2015 filming. He left London to film the day after the Awards.

Petrus Madutlela kindly shared a few moments with The South African and answered a few questions about how he got to where he is today and what his plans are for the future.

As a chef, what is your favourite dish to cook for yourself? Not for anyone else, just yourself?

I would make myself chicken. I love chicken. The next thing would be for fresh bread with butter and tea.

You are doing so many amazing things at the moment. You are doing the Ultimate Braai Master as a judge again.

Yes, we have done the first series already and tomorrow I am flying back to South Africa, which will be nice to see my mom and dad as I have not seen them all year. It will also be nice for me to bring an award back and say “Look what I am doing over there”.

Your parents must be so proud of you!

It is good. I am happy that it is not only for me but for them too.

You are going back tomorrow. How long are you going back for?

We are filming for two months all over South Africa, so we only chose the best spots in South Africa.

What has been your biggest failure do you think?

It’s funny because I don’t look back. I don’t do history. People say you have done amazing things. It doesn’t really click. I don’t see it. It is like I was born today. Tomorrow is a new day and I want to do something, I am always looking for something new to do. I feel that I have not achieved what I wanted to. It is not money. I don’t know what it is. It is not fame, it is something big that I think will come one day. I am happy that I can impart the knowledge. I can give back to the community at home.

Growing up, only now do I realise I didn’t have role models. We don’t have role models. If you look at television you have bad role models. We need to teach young kids, to go to university, study, become a ground breaker, and earn lots of money, but don’t just do that.

That is a very good point Petrus. You are right. There are not many good role models out there as many people who are successful are doing what they do to be successful just for themselves and they get to drive the Ferrari and wear the expensive clothes and it is not what it should be about.

If you think about the country South Africa, and it has so much potential. The people now seem to be selfish. Everyone wants to be rich, wants to have this and wants to have that. For me I am happy if I am working overseas. People who are doing what they are doing and doing it because they are so passionate and they want to change the world, or do something big, that’s what we need. Imagine if I was home [in South Africa] and I wanted to open a catering company and I want to be rich, I want to drive a nice car.

 Yes that’s true in your industry there are many ways you are able to brand things and make a lot of money.

Yes, there in this industry you can be rich, no problem. But for me, now, it has to come down. I want to be good at what I am doing. One day, I remember, I was home and I used to buy the Sunday Times. Inside they featured a story about top chefs. Marco Pierre White and all the big boys were there, and I looked at it and I said, one day I want to be among them. I am not there yet, but one day, I will say yes I am there. Now it is time to start working.

In the townships, there is not one chef that has gone out and done amazing things. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can be from a tin house. But if you really want something and have a passion for it you are going to have to go out and get it. You are going to have to go out, keep going. You are going to have research, read books, ask questions and learn from other people. Don’t be arrogant, you will always learn from other people. I learn from my team that I work with and we discover a lot of things. You also discover yourself. When you develop from other people it is a reflection of yourself.

Photo by Ronel van Zyl