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How COVID changed life of a chef

A sample of the simple traditional family meals that Chef Liepollo Maraisane now cooks

April 20, 2021 3 min read

3 min read

DURING the height of the COVID-19 induced lockdowns when local restaurants and hotels were closed, most chefs who were shut out of their kitchens had time to pause, reflect and ponder the next step to take.

Maputsoe-based chef, Liepollo Maraisane says the time helped her explore other avenues of the trade which was largely threatened by the safety restrictions imposed.  

When she began cooking professionally in 2011 after she left culinary school, she had high hopes of developing her skills and taking the trade to the next level.

“While I was working for my former employer, I also used to cook good home-made pizzas during my spare time,” she recalls.

So as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country and food businesses were affected, Maraisane’s ex-boss immediately closed shop, leaving all his former employees out in the cold.

But that break gave Maraisane the opportunity to take advantage of her pizza-making skills and make a real living out of them.

Initially, she had expected to sell at least 10 pizzas a day but with time, demand for her unique product grew and her customers wanted more – the demand exploded to 30 pizzas a day.  

Her regular clients included residents of Maputsoe who used to enjoy her pizza while she was still working fulltime and others who joined in as her reputation also grew.

“The closure of the restaurant was a great shock to the system, making life difficult to everybody who depended on it,” Maraisane says.

In the midst of the pandemic, there was a renewed interest in cooking simple but best traditional meals, which was brought about by people generally having more time in their hands.

But Maraisane believes that the sudden hunger for simple food was awaken by a need many felt, to reacquaint themselves with forgotten means of sustaining and feeding their families, outside of broken commodity markets and frozen supply chains. 

Some of the responses she received from her customers kept her going, and it has been heart-warming to foster a sense of community in a time of physical isolation.

Along with sharing traditional meals, Maraisane started weekly meal service called family meals.

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The idea grew out of family tradition of cooking and sharing a meal every day and her love for the daily restaurant practice of preparing and eating a family meal.

It was also inspired by different cultures and cuisines each family enjoys and in the process; she produces a good number of various meals each week.   

She says she would however, still like to spend time working in restaurants again, as well as find opportunities to cook and collaborate with other chefs.

“But things are changing fast every day, so who knows what is to come. It has taken some time for me to process the impact and the reality of this pandemic. But I am grateful to be here right now and I am hopeful and open to all the possibilities,” she adds.

Her previous work offered wonderful opportunities to explore different recipes and she got the chance to really step into the role of assistant chef. Now she has another chance to learn the art from a completely different angle, not just from the kitchen point of view.


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