Chef Mahle Vellem finds his niche at Sun City Resort restaurant

Chef - Mahle Vellem - Sun City Resort restaurant
Chef - Mahle Vellem - Sun City Resort restaurant


Chef Mahle Vellem finds his niche at Sun City Resort restaurant

As a child, Mthatha-born Mahle Mihlali Vellem would sit on the counter for hours, watching his mother prepare meals, little knowing that her passion would become his, and that he would one day be doing the same for thousands of guests at Sun International hotels.

“After school, I enrolled at the HTA School of Culinary Arts, where I had an opportunity to polish my skills, graduating two years later with a Diploma In professional Cookery,” said the 29 years old Sous Chef. 

Fresh out of cooking school, Vellem was hired at Time Square in Pretoria in 2017 as a Chef de Partie. “I was the part of the opening team of Time Square, which was a huge opportunity for someone just starting out in their career to be involved in such a humungous opening.”

At the hub of Pretoria gaming and entertainment, Mahle worked his way up to sous chef and ran two restaurants under the guidance of chefs Adrian Vaughan, Nonkosi Vellem and Jaco Truter. “They taught me a lot about how an operation works and how to deal with staff and set me on my leadership path.”

“In 2022, I was asked to head up the kitchen at an old colleague’s new restaurant. I believe this role prepared me for when the call came, asking me to head to Sun City Resort as one of the leading members of the Leloko team.”

“To be Sous Chef at the new Leloko Bistro at Lefika Villas was an offer I could not turn down, even if it was a tough call because it meant leaving my wife and two-and-a-half-month-old baby girl, but it was for our greater good.”

Leloko, derived from the Setswana term for family or community, embodies unity and communal joy. The menu reflects this warmth, showcasing a selection of homestyle meals crafted for sharing over breakfast, lunch or dinner, with an inviting poolside view.

Mahle said Leloko had given him the opportunity to the expand his creative juices. “I had to create the menu from scratch – playing around with flavour profiles and touching places in me that I did not know existed. When I look at the menu, I can proudly say I've done well, and I'm pretty sure that my mentors would agree that they have done their job - now it's my time to spread my wings and fly, showcasing what they taught me.”

Leloko’s ambience is inviting and homely, and Vellem said he always looked forward to coming to work. “I was given an opportunity to hand pick the team, and I am passing on the knowledge that I have onto them, teaching and guiding them as much as I can, as they are the chefs of the future. As someone who is new to Sun City, they have made me feel welcome and we work in a respectful environment.”

Since February, he has been the Sous Chef at the Sun City Hotel, the original hotel for the resort that has been welcoming guests for 45 years. Mahle is spreading his wings wide across the Sun International group, and clearly gaining valuable culinary experience.

Mahle is proud to be succeeding on his journey that started with his mother and hopes to one day pass his passion for cooking on to his own children.

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