The three-star Fortis Hotel Highveld offers business and leisure accommodation in Witbank, with spacious rooms and easy access to the town’s recreational attractions. Heading up the kitchen is Chef Langa Machika, who shares his story with us below.
Tell us about your career as a chef? It’s been exciting and challenging, but I have loved every minute of it. I started working at 13 after my parents were divorced – my father left our family and it then became my responsibility to provide. At 18 when I finished school, I wanted to study but there was no spare money for that. Sadly, I was desperate and started selling drugs to survive which I look back on and really regret. But that bad time didn’t last long as I started working as a waiter at the local Spur. I approached the Executive Chef at my next employer, Protea Hotel Port Edward and pleaded with him to give me a chance in the kitchen as I had always loved cooking. When he heard my story and saw my real desire to be a chef, he agreed to give me a position in Food Prep and I never looked back. I was then promoted several times in different Protea Hotel kitchens until I made it to Executive Chef. That was one of my happiest days, when I was given this title! I knew I had worked really hard to get there and this gave me such satisfaction and a real sense of pride.
Tell us what you do each day? I cook as well as monitor and motivate my staff but sometimes I have time to myself which is great. We have just launched our bespoke brand of Fortis Hotels so moving from Protea Hotel branding to Fortis Hotel branding has had to take place across every department and I have carried out this training in our kitchen at Fortis Hotel Highveld. I love to google food trends and look for menu inspiration online when I can.
How long have you been with the hotel? Four years.
Why did you want to become a chef? My grandmother was a well known chef who worked internationally on cruise ships. I learned to cook with her when I was six. She got me into cooking and taught me about many ingredients and special recipes. She predicted that I would be a great chef one day and I hope I have made her proud.
How would describe the food in your restaurant? It accommodates every culture and is always fresh and tasty.
What are some of your signature dishes? I love to do extravagant seafood dishes and vibrant traditional food, but also appreciate the simple flavourful recipes such as oxtail or a good carrot cake.
How often do you change your menu? We change up our menu often and in fact prepare different dishes daily.
What are your key ingredients? It’s all about the herbs and spices that you use. Each chef has his favourites!
What would we find in your fridge at home? Meat, vegetables and plenty of wine!