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Faces of Africa – Ska Moteane: Chef from the Mountain Kingdom

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Ska Mirriam Moteane was born in Thaba Tseka Lesotho. She’s an award winning Mosotho chef, cookbook author and entrepreneur in the Southern African mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Ska specializes in traditional local cuisine which promotes healthy eating by using local produce. She came to fame after winning the 2012 award for Gourmand Best African Cookbook.

Ska Moteane from Lesotho showing a kind of plant that is used as vegetable. She is an award winning Basotho chef for promoting traditional Basotho recipes.

Initially Ska wanted to study law but along the way she switched to cookery.
His father admits that at first they were astonished at her drastic change in career path.

“She was reading for a law degree at the University of Lesotho but she switched and went
for the food sciences. In the beginning I was not convinced but I let her follow her own
interests and I could see she was very passionate about it,” told Ska’s father.

Ska in her restaurant, Motherland Guest house showing how to prepare the leaves of a pumpkin

Ska went on to study cookery in Johannesburg, South Africa and worked as a chef and a
product development consultant. Her career was successful in South Africa but something tragic happened and Ska made her way back to her motherland.

“When I lost my mother, that was the biggest blow I have ever felt in my life, it was really
terrible,” she recalled.

After the loss of her mother she made a decision to not go back to South Africa.

“I think her death enforced that feeling, for me to reconnect with my roots,” told Ska.

Growing up, Ska loved her mother’s food. She avers that she was a great cook. Moving back home, she wanted to make such delicious meals that her mother made but she was shocked to realize there was no recipe book available for Lesotho’s traditional delicacies. She decided to come up with a recipe book.

Ska, right showing Lesotho’s queen Masenate Seeiso how to prepare some of the traditional dishes.

To start off, she traversed the length and breadth of the mountainous region collecting all
the traditional recipes that the people of Lesotho have. She got thirty different kinds of foods and was ready to compile the recipes. “In my lifetime I have never come across a recipe book for our traditional dishes and so when she came up with the idea, I thought it was a very brilliant one,” told Masenate Seeiso – Queen of Lesotho.

In 2010, she founded Motherland Guest House where she is the head chef and general
manager. In 2012, ‘cuisine of the mountain kingdom’ was published. The book documented traditional Lesotho recipes that had never been documented anywhere and would otherwise be extinct in years to come. The book won the Best African Cookbook in the World Award at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris, France. The judges praised the simplicity of the recipes and Ska’s appreciation of Lesotho food culture.

The book opened opportunities for Ska and the invites came flowing from all over.

Students planting crops. This is made possible through Ska and her friends’ organization, Flava Africa, a charity organization that promotes school agricultural programs.

“I love buying from small farmers because I believe if I don’t support them and I don’t buy
from them, their businesses are not going to be sustainable. The beautiful thing about
buying from them is I can always visit them and see where the things are planted. For me
that special bond of going and seeing ooh this is where it comes from is very special to me,” told Ska.

“Ska is known a lot in here about the work she’s doing, showing the products of Lesotho and the cuisines of Lesotho,” told Nthabeleng Makhetha – processing manager – Highlands
Trout. Despite her international recognition and accomplishments, Ska is happy to be in Lesotho and in her home town Thaba Tseka doing a lot in impacting on the traditional food culture.

“I believe people should hold on to their past. They don’t lose their true identity and where
they come from. I’m hoping that one day people will look back and still know those
traditional Basotho dishes and that’s what I’m trying to achieve,” told Ska.

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