Chef Moses Moloi brings Gigi to life

05 Mar 2024
Chef Moses Moloi is a name you'll want to remember. He has just been awarded Best Chef for 2024 by the inaugural South African Restaurant Awards, which took place at Hotel Sky in Sandton. His much anticipated new restaurant Gigi was cited by Condé Nast Traveller late last year as the place to visit in Joburg, and that was months before it even opened. We tracked him down for an exclusive first look (and taste) after Gigi's soft launch on Feb 8, 2024, and had a chance to hear about his Gigi journey, and his vision for this impressive new space at Waterfall Corner

We meet Moloi at Gigi, in a light and airy space transformed by design boy-wonder Giorgio Tatsakis (he also designed the interior of Ethos). The restaurant is spacious with a generous outdoor area on a covered patio. Its fresh and inviting indoor space, replete with creamy tones to create a sense of romance, makes it a standout spot in a part of sprawling, mall-centric Joburg. There are gorgeous, whitewashed oak tables and custom-made chairs that embrace you as you sit. We loved the herringbone wooden floors, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and a centralised glass cellar showcasing a superb collection of wine. It all adds to an atmosphere of 'extra' (in a good way), because being at Gigi no matter what time of day, feels like an occasion.

Moloi recently returned from Mexico where he was one of 100 nominees from around the world taking part in The Best Chef Awards. It’s big, and turns out that he won. The line-up included Michelin Star greats like Chef Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck in the U.K.; Chef Rasmus Munk from Alchemist in Copenhagen, and Chef Fernando Adrià of El Bulli in Spain. When Moloi asked Adrià about his recipe for success, he responded, "Cook who you are, and cook where you’re from." Moloi took these words to heart.
The interior at Gigi at Waterfall Corner. Photo: Kate Liquorish.

Moloi is refreshingly humble, he’s worked from the bottom up, giving recognition to every opportunity he’s been afforded and, more importantly, having risen to every challenge. He tells us he’s "a Free State boy" from Botshabelo near Bloem, but he also makes a point of telling us that his story is not one of ‘rags to riches’; he wasn't poor, but he also didn’t start with a lot.

Like most venerated chefs in South Africa, his journey to culinary fame started in Cape Town, at FYN restaurant, under the guidance of his mentor, Chef Peter Tempelhoff. Moloi speaks of Tempelhoff with such admiration and affection that it’s clear his impact goes far beyond the kitchen. Moloi then smiles as he mentions Chef David Higgs and the opportunity he afforded him at Zioux, with similar gratitude.
Chef Moses Moloi in front of his exquisite kitchen at Gigi. Photo: Kate Liquorish.

It was Higgs who brought Moloi to Joburg. Moloi’s wife fell pregnant, and he was offered the Head Chef position at Zioux, the timing was right. But Joburg’s dining scene is very different to Cape Town’s, and it’s proven a difficult transition for many a chef. The Cape Town dining culture of eight-course, fine-dining tasting menus isn’t easy to sell here. Moloi smiles as he talks of "the one-plate wonder" that Joburg patrons tend to prefer. After all, time is money here and, let’s be honest, we're more accustomed to a quick wine, dine, and dash. 

In creating Gigi, Moloi has taken this on board. He gets his Joburg audience and has created a refined a la carte menu with a little something for every palate. It’s an elevated global offering, with a South African beat. As Moloi tells us, "We’re using a lot of indigenous ingredients, especially grains, seeds and nuts."
The 'Chef's Table' at Gigi. Photo: Kate Liquorish. 

But he’s not giving up on the idea of a fine-dining tasting menu; they’re working on an exclusive tasting menu that will be available to only 10 patrons per night, served front and centre at the helm of the open-plan kitchen. In Moloi’s words: "That’s where we are going to push boundaries." The tasting menu will be a chef’s playground of sorts, where the talent from Gigi's kitchen will take personal stories and experiences and reimagine them through the dishes they create.   

At his side is Chef Wesley Van Wyk, whom he met at The Greenhouse in Cape Town, who was his sous chef at Zioux, and is now his head chef at Gigi. Moloi explains, "There’s no other chef in the world that I would have wanted to do this with, I’m not the same without him." Van Wyk’s Cape Malay routes tell a completely different culinary story to Moloi’s, and the duo is hard at work giving these stories life in their experimental kitchen.
Seabass ceviche at Gigi. Photo: Kate Liquorish.

While we wait with bated breath for an invite to the tasting table, Moloi presents us with one of Van Wyk’s creations: a beautiful seabass ceviche dish with citrus and a kelp red onion dressing. It's a delicate, delicious taste of the Cape served alongside a little taste of what's local in Joburg: locally farmed beetroot carpaccio and macadamia nuts, with Moroccan spice and goat’s cheese… just yum.

We ask Moloi about other standouts on his a la carte menu and he tells us the oxtail and vetkoek dish is a must. It’s an ode to his childhood, one filled with meaty bone and cabbage stews that he has reconsidered and elevated. Then there’s a coal-fired, deboned baby chicken with a corn custard and corn parmesan salsa that Moloi says is simple but on point.

Moloi needs to get back to the kitchen, it's lunch service, and Gigi is packed even though they didn't take any bookings. He tells us there’s one other dish we have to try before we go, a trio of ice creams: mageu, amasi, and popcorn. And wow, he’s right, a taste of home, but without trying too hard, just childhood memories given life through food. And that's what Gigi is. It's Moloi's chance to share, celebrate where he and his team are from, and offer the people who walk through the door a taste of the good life.


Connect via social media
google sign in button
Leave a comment using your email This e-mail address is not valid
Please enter your name*

Please share your location

Enter your message*
Put our app in your pocket
This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more here. AGREE