Born in Soweto, Semenya grew up in a suburb of Johannesburg and trained in commerce before becoming a chef. ‘Dijo’ translates as ‘food,’ and Semenya writes about his life through food, from township to city, from fine-dining chef to advocate for his trademark generous, colorful style of cooking that honors South Africa’s traditions, ingredients, and past, but that looks to the future.
“Wow, you don’t look like a chef!” This statement is something Chef Lesego Semenya has heard many a time over the years. His response is always: “So, what does a chef look like?” With his bulging tattooed upper arms, soft-spoken nature and obvious passion for South African cuisine and giving it his unique twist, Lesego probably doesn’t fit the generic look of a self-made top chef. It is his unconventional personality and approach to food that has kept South Africans coming back for more over the years. Having cooked for billionaires such as Richard Brandson, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, starring on the judging panel of foodie programme Top Chef South Africa, being the resident chef for various newspapers and radio shows, and then building his successful culinary brand LesDaChef, he finally brings his foodie fans his first cookbook, Dijo – My Food Journey. Every dish that will be featured in Dijo has a story that speaks of passion and nostalgia. Sharing both the recipes and their history will give foodies a way of getting to know Lesego’s food background while growing up in Soweto, as well as the fine-dining techniques he learned at chef school and a few hot chef secrets, too. Divided into three sections that span his food journey, Dijo is an affirmation of South African cuisine, its heritage and its unique flavours. Readers will go on a journey through the simplest yet most-loved of township dishes, to the more complex fine-dining molecular gastronomy creations he has become known for. It truly is a reflection of his life lived through food. Lesego is also very active on social media and has used this platform to not only build his brand, LesDaChef, but also to educate, inform and, sometimes, challenge his followers to learn and understand exactly what they’re consuming – whether it be food or beverages.