Inside The Kitchen Of Chef Phillip Nthai

Phillip is one of the reasons why guests come flocking back to Makweti, time and again.
Chef Phillip Nthai - Head Chef At Makweti Safari Lodge
He’s a visionary in the kitchen and expresses absolute delight for his work. Khalil Gibran said, “Work is love made visible”, and where Phillip’s dishes are concerned, this couldn’t be closer to the truth. Every detail, every flavour, every perfect placement is a work of art; a work of love.

Phillip was born to a family who are avid crop farmers in his home village of Tshifudi, in former Venda homeland, now the northern part of Limpopo, 250km away from Makweti. When he’s away from home, his mother and daughter busy themselves planting new crops so that on his return he has plenty of ingredients to work with. It’s become an expectation that as soon as he arrives, he must come up with a new recipe based on what they have growing in the garden. As his daughter always says: “We plant, you cook.” No pressure at all! But perhaps this is what keeps his creative juices flowing! For this, we are eternally grateful!

How Chef Phillip Found His Sweet Spot

From as young as 12 years old, Phillip was creating experimental dishes in the kitchen. He would constantly hang around his mother when she was cooking, taking mental notes and waiting for her to turn her back so that he could taste the variety of flavours. His critical palate made him unpopular in the household from time to time, when he would express his distaste with food his sisters had prepared.

He recalls once asking his mother why she used so many little pots to cook one meal, instead of using one big pot for everything. Experience is life’s biggest teacher, so it was only once he had tried this method of cooking for himself that he realised his Chef Phillip Nthai prepares an African braai in the bushmom actually knew what she was doing! To this day his family still remind him of the “delicious” rice, mixed vegetable, beef stew and tomato soup concoction he created. He probably won’t ever live it down!

Thankfully he has evolved from his “one pot” tactics, but it was this enquiring spirit that would eventually lead him to the career that he is now renowned for. His mother saw it in him, and he was already telling all his classmates and teacher in his final year of high school about how he would become a professional chef.

Fast forward to today, and Chef Phillip is living the dream. Working in one of the world’s most idyllic locations, managing a small, talented team, and creating versions of his passion every single day. Each dish is a showcase for his skills, so he makes 100% certain that is nothing short of perfection.

Favourite part about his job: Working in nature and preparing everything from scratch, from the freshest ingredients
Favourite dish to eat: Cape Malay beef with bean salad, served with garlic and coriander croutons
Favourite dish to prepare: Grilled kudu steak on honey-glazed, roasted sweet potatoes, served with a lightly curried brinjal pesto

Can we have a taste?

When Phillip is not making magic in the kitchen, he loves reading books and spending as much time as possible with his wife, Yolanda, and his gorgeous kids, Patience, Mukhethwa and Tumisho, no doubt treating them to some of the most delicious flavours known to humankind. We hope they realise how truly fortunate they are!

Stay tuned for some of Phillip’s most delectable and delightful dishes, each a labour of love created right here in Makweti’s kitchen. We might even share a recipe or two with you!

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