Rumblings

Charismatic SA chef trumps Jamie Oliver in local cookbook sales

'The Lazy Makoti's Guide to the Kitchen' by Mogau Seshoene has just been reprinted for the seventh time

21 May 2020 - 09:12
Chef Mogau Seshoene, author of 'The Lazy Makoti’s Guide to the Kitchen', is popular on Instagram, where she share her recipes by the handful - that’s her style.
Chef Mogau Seshoene, author of 'The Lazy Makoti’s Guide to the Kitchen', is popular on Instagram, where she share her recipes by the handful - that’s her style.
Image: Supplied/SowetanLIVE

When I heard the impressive news that chef Mogau Seshoene’s debut cookbook, The Lazy Makoti’s Guide to the Kitchen, was already in its seventh reprint, it got me thinking: had the fact that so many South Africans have been finding comfort in the kitchen during lockdown stirred up cookbook sales? 

Although books were only added to the array of items that can be purchased during lockdown a couple of weeks back, the latest sales reports still provide a good idea of what’s hot and what’s not.

The lists of top-selling cookery titles from two large local booksellers and Quivertree, the publisher of The Lazy Makoti’s Guide, among other recipe books, made for interesting reading, and I noted several common threads between them.

Chef Mogau Seshoene believes this chakalaka is the most popular recipe in her book.
Chef Mogau Seshoene believes this chakalaka is the most popular recipe in her book.
Image: Supplied/Quivertree

One of these is that people can’t seem to get enough of Seshoene’s cookbook, which was first published in 2018, and includes a generous helping of beautifully-styled recipes for often-neglected traditional dishes.

This is one of the reasons it’s so popular, believes Seshoene, a former auditor whose passion for food saw her leave the corporate world to spend a year at cookery school before embarking on a new career hosting popular cookery classes.

Unlike other cookbooks, she elaborates, The Lazy Makoti’s Guide caters to the appetites of the many South Africans who split their lives between the townships and suburbia.

The person who buys this book “will have a croissant on Monday and enjoy tripe in the township on a Sunday,” she explains.

“People tell me that my cookbook is the first cookbook they’ve ever bought - and that they never thought they would ever buy a cookbook.”

Seshoene's charisma, social media savvy and marketing skills have also contributed to her book's success. 

The Lazy Makoti’s Guide is currently ahead of some of the big guns in terms of local sales figures. This includes the likes of celeb chefs Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi, whose books - 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food, Veg and Simple are top sellers in Mzansi.

Between the stars there are some surprises. One of these is Kook en Geniet by the late SJA de Villiers. Available in English and Afrikaans, this book was first published in 1951 and holds a South African record when it comes to reprints.

Not trendy, this classic is rather like a good friend you can rely on for their repertoire of trusted recipes and good kitchen advice — just what's needed by a novice hoping to improve their cooking skills during lockdown, don't you think?