“I struggled to find work when I graduated, so I worked in retail for a year before my husband, Andile, and I decided to open a pop-up restaurant,” she says. The pair opened The Social Hub in Shoshanguve, a space with great ambience serving gourmet food – all financed with their savings and her husband’s salary.
“I had the freedom to experiment with my food and it was wonderful. We’ve since closed the restaurant. The greatest lesson this industry has taught me is that location is key,” says Mbonyane.
The closure of the restaurant only encouraged her to pursue her passion in another way. Just over a year ago, Meals With Masego started as a food blog, but grew into a catering company. Her posted images of her work prompted people to request her services. While holding down a full-time job as the kitchen manager at a coffee shop in Villieria, Pretoria, she began catering for private events on the side, which included harvest tables with fresh, seasonal produce.
“Whenever the coffee shop hosts events, I offer to do the catering and the owner, Karolien van Berkel, allows me to use the kitchen for my big catering events. She’s been a great mentor,” says Mbonyane.
The business is still small and Andile is her greatest resource, helping her juggle work, her catering company and motherhood.
“I’ve learnt the hard way that being unprepared or not having enough can hurt your business. So I’m currently trying to source culinary students to assist me. It’s a great opportunity for them to gain hands-on experience while I get the help I need,” she says.
Her five-year plan includes owning her own cooking studio and restaurant, where she can host social cooking events.
“I’ve learnt to be unafraid to take risks and to remain agile in an ever-changing environment. I’ve also learnt that perseverance and loving what you do are key,” she says.