Montecasino’s Aarya welcomes top new chef

Aarya the renowned and upmarket fusion restaurant in Montecasino , Fourways has a new Executive Chef – Rodgers Mahasi – who joins the team with 20 years’ experience in leading hotels and restaurants in South Africa and other African countries. Aarya is the restaurant from South Africa’s first MasterChef winner, Deena Naidoo.

Mahasi started his studies in 1993 at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, achieving a certificate in Food Preparation and Production, and since then has gained skills and training in a wide range of culinary disciplines and cooking styles, including seafood, pizza, Chinese, Indian, and Mediterranean cooking, cold kitchen, salads, pastry, bakery, and as a saucier.

His love of all things culinary started at age 10. His father worked for one of the Kenyan game reserves and the family frequently travelled and visited lodges and ate in different restaurants. He suddenly became fascinated by how strawberry jelly was made, what it entailed and how it worked. His interest in cooking grew and he started visiting the chefs in the kitchens and trying his hand at cooking. At age 11 he baked his first cake – and was proud of how it turned out. “It was then I decided to join the world of chefs.”

After working in Nairobi for three years, he came to South Africa and worked in Sandton, and then at Emerald Casino Resort for four years. He joined Tsogo Sun in April 2005, working as a Senior Sous Chef at InterContinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers, Sandton Sun and Sandton Convention Centre until early 2006. He then spent two years at Southern Sun Emnotweni in Nelspruit before returning to Sandton, and working his way up from Executive Sous Chef at Southern Sun Grayston Hotel, to Executive Chef and Acting F&B Manager at Garden Court Sandton City, and Executive Chef at Holiday Inn, Sandton, in 2015. In 2010, he was the Team Chef for the SA Senior Side Soccer Team, and he has been responsible for planning and preparing nutritious meals for the SA Rugby team, Kaizer Chiefs, AJAX Cape Town, and Bafana Bafana.

Mahasi says, “My extensive experience in a wide range of cuisines and cooking styles, local and international, in kitchen management and disciplines, and my love of creating meals that please people, has more than prepared me for the challenge of maintaining the high culinary standards that Aarya has set, and more than meeting our guests’ expectations.”

He is thrilled to be working at Aarya, which he describes as “well-known around the country, firstly because of the win by Deena Naidoo, and secondly, for its excellent menu, delicious meals, and frequent wine tastings and other events. “It also represents African culture, and I think it’s one of the best restaurants in the market,” adds Mahasi.

His ideas and possible changes for Aarya and its menu will be based on what the guests want. “I always like to link any changes with guests’ preferences, and that will be the case at Aarya. The Aarya menu is well liked by patrons and we will maintain what’s working best. We will also consider modernising the menu a bit, making it a bit more accessible and uncomplicated, with new creations. I hope to introduce the option of a new dining experience to our regular and new patrons.”

Mahasi says his style has developed and evolved over the years, particularly as he started as a pastry chef and has since provided an eclectic mix of dishes for a wide audience, including sports teams. He is now partial to a Mediterranean influence, with its fresh approach, modern bistro style cooking, creating dishes such as beef cheeks, and ensuring dishes have texture as well as acidity and bitterness to balance the whole dining experience.

Among his signature dishes is a creation he’s proud of, which he says, always goes down very well on any menu – lamb loin wrapped in lemon-seasoned chicken breast, served with spinach, curried mashed potato, and a trio of sauces. Another is glazed pork belly with berry sauce and grilled apples.

He loves cooking for “everyone” he says, adding that his daughters, Neo (11) and Mmaitsi (8) are both his biggest critics and biggest admirers, and he enjoys their enthusiasm and appreciation when he “gets it right”. At this stage, both girls are dreaming of becoming chefs one day.

For relaxation, Mahasi enjoys golf, which relaxes the mind, and travelling and discovering new places and different cultures. He and his wife Tumi and daughters have travelled extensively in South Africa. He says his favourite places are Port Elizabeth, for its relaxed ambience, Johannesburg, because it is home, and Nelspruit, for its beauty and fresh produce.