NEW BOARDWALK EXECUTIVE CHEF PROMISES FOOD WITH ‘PASSION AND SIMPLICITY’
Willie Mcotoyi, new Executive Chef, The Boardwalk Hotel
The Boardwalk Hotel and Casino’s new Executive Chef, Willie Mcotoyi, was born in iQonce, and always promised himself that he would end his career back in his home province of the Eastern Cape.
“I’ve never worked in the Eastern Cape and I’ve always wanted to bring the skills I have learnt around the world and share them with up and coming young chefs,” said Mcotoyi, who started work at the Sun International’s Boardwalk Casino, Hotel and International Conference Centre (ICC) in February.
The 49-year-old chef brings his unique style of cooking, infused with “passion, simplicity and thinking” to Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), where he aims to establish Kipling’s Restaurant inside the four-star hotel as one of the city’s best steakhouses. He is also redesigning the menus at the popular buffet and ala carte restaurant The Bayside Pantry inside the casino, aiming to introduce live cooking stations with “tastes from around the world – Mexico, Asian, Indian and South African”.
Prior to his arrival in the Friendly City, Mcotoyi, who is married with three children, was “part of the furniture” at another Sun International resort, Sun City. “I worked there for 15 years, at the Palace and Soho hotels, the latter was where I took up my first Executive Chef position in 2014.” In 2017, he was promoted to the resort’s ICC, in charge of banqueting.
Previously, he has worked in Germany and in Brussels while with the Radisson Hotel Group, The Table Bay in Cape Town and Emperor’s Palace in Johannesburg. “I’ve worked at about 13 or 14 hotels, but also in several restaurants in Cape Town in the 1990s,” he said.
Mcotoyi fell in love with cooking during his high school years in Cape Town, while assisting his late brother Moses, a chef at the Cape Sun, in the kitchens. “After school I completed a Professional Cookery Diploma at HTA Culinary School in Johannesburg, and after some practical training, followed this with a management coaching certificate at the University of Stellenbosch. This has helped me when developing and coaching young chefs.”
Bringing on new talent is a priority for Mcotoyi, who names Singaporean Chef Jeffrey Siew as one of his mentors.
His favourite dish to eat is umvubo, a traditional Xhosa meal prepared with maize meal, water and sour milk. “When my family hears that I am coming home, this is what they will cook for me.” “My favourite food memory is eating an eisbein in Germany; the way it was presented, with traditional sauerkraut. It was delicious.”
He dislikes eating avocado, but enjoys using it in his dishes, and says gelatine is the most challenging ingredient to work with. “You train your chefs but they often want a dish to set faster, so they use too much and when you taste the food, it is rubbery. Stick to the recipe,” he advises.
When it comes to catering, Chef Mcotoyi said he always advised his team to “get organised, get your prep done the day before, including your counting, and then double check. You cannot be short on items like lamb shank.”
Touching on how the pandemic had affected his domain, Mcotoyi said the health and safety regulations were “tough and costly, with a focus on strict hygiene”. “Management must be present, senior chefs guiding the youngsters. We are doing individual packaging for buffet breakfasts, with cooked items dished up by a chef.
Working in Europe in the early 2000’s left a lasting impression on Mcotoyi. “The way they prepare, the organisation that goes into running a kitchen – it made me grow up and realise I wanted to aspire to their standards.” It is this precision that Mcotoyi aims to bring to The Boardwalk’s kitchens, and he hopes guests will visit to enjoy “the Sun International experience which is the best in the Bay”.