Working in Paris was a game changer for Mabaso, especially considering the city’s strong food culture. Mabaso also regards his year in Miami and five years in New York as being instrumental in igniting his entrepreneurial spirit, which is why he returned home and opted to go into business with his current concept.
What sets Mabaso apart is that he does not just produce a menu. For him, it’s a creative journey, as shown by his ideation process for creating the menu for the Bombay Sapphire The Grand Journey fine-dining experience. Johannesburg joins London, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Moscow for this experience, and Mabaso will be preparing a four-course meal with an arresting taste and narrative, paired with innovative gin mixes.
“The four-course meal is the grand journey. Each course represents the botanicals used to make the gin,” he says. “I wanted to make it look like the spice trade that started from Europe to Asia, but will do it in reverse. So the starters are from China. I’m literally cooking with all those botanicals and getting flavours from those regions.”
A crockery collection is in development, and an Asian food tour is on the horizon. As Mabaso peers into the future, he sees his restaurant changing the way we eat. The culinary club may not provide lush views nor offer an outdoor table or balcony, but it has all the ingredients of a convivial setting. There are also some novel propositions, such as cooking Fridays, when guests get to prepare their first course with the chef.
“I am not into molecular gastronomy, but there are a lot of things you can do naturally with food. I’d like people to start stepping into that. Gem ingredients transform meals,” Mabaso says. “I have considered reinterpreting South African cuisine. But this will happen further on: I’m still young in my career and maybe it is something I will end off with.”