He then enrolled at the Capsicum Culinary Studio, where he discovered his love for French cuisine, owing to its refinement and aesthetic. A few months short of his qualification, the aspiring chef was scouted for a programme looking for young chefs for different kitchens in the US. “I didn’t even finish, I just left but the school agreed,” he says of how he ended up as a chef at a golf resort in Miami. After a year there, having risen to the position of chef de partie, he sought a bigger dream and moved to New York.
Alone in the Big Apple, with no place to stay and only $500, Mabaso then spent three weeks looking for a job, while sharing a dorm room with seven other guys. “It was difficult. I had a specific plan that I wanted to train in French cuisine and at that time, New York was the culinary capital of the world,” he says, avoiding the fat spluttering from the chicken breast he is preparing. “I went door to door every day with my chef’s jacket and knives, ready to work. A French guy took me in — he was from Paris —and he was looking for a team.”
Since then, Mabaso’s experience has included working at a Korean fusion restaurant, and being the executive chef for the Maison Kay Group in New York, as well as being mentored by Olivier Reginensi. Mabaso has worked with world-famous Alain Ducasse, who holds 21 Michelin stars, at his Parisian restaurant, Le Meurice. Six months ago, Mabaso decided to return home. “It was time. I felt I was acquiring a lot of skills, and my name was getting out there, and there was an opportunity to do something that I owned,” he says. “Everything is about what I want to do: it would be difficult doing that under someone else.”