“Ndi ready!” Chef Lelo’s journey

When I started on this rather insane journey about 8 years ago I had no idea some of my madness would be contagious. One of the people who reached out to me for advice and a bit of a rant or two was Lelo. We met through social media, worked a function together and I knew from the start that we could make an awesome team. Both stubborn, both believers in dreams and both huge 90’s music fans (if you know me then you know I’m obsessed with 90’s music). I can be very stuck in my ways and it often takes someone who is equally as forthright to get me to see things in a different light. Lelo and I have been chatting for a few weeks now, there are awesome concepts and ideas on the way (one of which will be revealed just next week) but as an introduction to the LesDaChef brand I asked Lelo to write a short blog post. Herewith her words… – Lesego


Ah, first blog post. I have so much to say but I do not want to end up rambling aimlessly. Haha! So here goes….

I was five years old, daddy’s little princess and one day my dad randomly bought me this wooden shed, he placed it at the back of the house and filled it with life size toy kitchen equipment. It had a play stove (with multi-coloured tops), a breakfast table with 4 chairs, cupboard to store my “food” and plastic tea sets and plates. I would invite him over for tea. Having stolen real biscuits from the house, however I would pretend I had made those biscuits myself and I would constantly ask him to wait until they were ready and he’d play along. Little did I know that would me my reality.

I am finally a Chef, something I had wanted to be my whole life but some journeys take way longer than others.

My mother’s first job was at a restaurant, so we grew up having amazing meals. I spent so much time with her in the kitchen, everything she made would literally make your taste buds dance, she worked so swiftly, so effortlessly and could whip together a decent meal in under 40 mins. I have 4 sisters & 1 brother and we had to divide our chores equally, they hated to cook and I hated to clean, so our arrangement was that I would cook on most weekdays and they would clean. I loved the praise that came after everyone had a good meal prepared by me. I made my mom lunches for work, one day she gave one of her lunches to her boss and he started paying me to make him frozen dinners and I would also bake and sell cake slices at school, fun times.

I went to TUT after high school, I hated it and went to work. I held several positions over the years (Client Services Exec, Business Administrator, Financial Officer) and took up studying again on a part time basis. I was working to fund my life and for 10 years I was okay with that. Switching lanes was a push from the universe for me, it came in the form of retrenchment. One morning I called my older sister in tears because I had received notification of possible retrenchment and she calmly said, “I understand that you’re about to lose your job but why are you sad?” I couldn’t believe that she could possibly be that insensitive, then she proceeded to say, “that dream you’d put on hold all those years ago, we’re going to make it come true. Go, become a Chef, I’ll help you do it all.” No one had done anything that big and selfless for me, it felt like my world was brand new. I was getting all things new, a chance to start all over again.

I had been following LesDaChef for a while by then and he had blogged and tweeted about his journey on a few occassions and his branding was fast gaining momentum. I was really intimidated by him and to my surprise, he assisted me in every way possible. He gave me the harsh realities of the industry and the growth potential, managing my expectations so I didn’t enter into a world I was completely clueless about.

I applied to one of the most recognized Culinary Schools in the country, Prue Leith Chefs Academy, even application process was a rather daunting task. You fill out an 11 page questionnaire, interview, do a taste test and wait, the longest wait of my life.  On the day I was accepted felt like I had already won, the dream was starting to materialize. I had to snap out of that zone really quick, hahahaha! Culinary School is all about discipline and 30 year old me was struggling with all those rules, I was too set in my ways. I managed to adjust and settle in fairly quickly and I knew I had to treat myself like an 18 year old blank canvas. Once again LesDaChef was guiding, helping, motivating and continuously propelled to go forward and not give up. There were so many times I wanted to quit, where he told me to keep my head held high going. Now my first blog is going up on his blog and he has officially taken me under his wing. So much good fortune and so much God….

I am Nompumelelo Manoto, a Chef, a mother and a student who will never stop learning. I am ready to hit the ground running, totally overwhelmed by the positive feedback, filled with so much gratitude and bursting at the seams with pride. I am going to make the best of this opportunity and I will not stop working on perfecting my craft.

Lastly, I could not have asked for anyone better to put me through the fire and shape me, making me the best I can possibly be.

Ndi Ready…

Chef Lelo

8 thoughts on ““Ndi ready!” Chef Lelo’s journey

  1. This is absolutely beautiful Chef Lelo. The universe forced you to your passion so that you can never work a day in your life but rather do what you are passionate about. Go out there and soar. 😙😙😙. Your story is going to change so many lives. Shout out to your biggest cheer leader Tshiamo he surely did amazing in being mommy’s inspiration and support. And then your sister, i have no words for her. May God increase and multiply everything for her. She showed you the kind of love many rarely experience in a lifetime.

    1. I am so grateful because this journey was a team effort. My family knew this was my passion even though I did not say it out loud. Thank you very much for your kind words and I really look forward to this marvelous venture. XO

  2. Lelo
    Continue to dream in broad day. Food is like music, it’s a language spoken and understood by all. It unites people and you are blessed to be a part of that movement that not only nourishes people but unite them. Soar

  3. 👏👏 super excited for this union. Congratulations Lelo, you deserve nothing short of amazing. Les is an amazing chef and person. I can’t wait to see what y’all are cooking up

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