Abigail Mbalo-Mokoena

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Abigail Mbalo-Mokoena
Woman in chef whites seated in front of microphones and cameras
Mbalo-Mokoena during media interviews
Culinary career
Cooking styleSouth African

Abigail Mbalo-Mokoena is a South African chef and restaurateur. She is the chef, owner and creative director of 4Roomed, also called 4Roomed eKasi Culture[1] or just eKasi,[2] in Khayelitsha township, 30 kilometres (19 mi) outside Cape Town, South Africa.[3][4] In 2019 4Roomed was named in a combined project by Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure magazines as one of the 30 best restaurants in the world.[3]

Early life[edit]

Mbalo-Mokoena born in Gugulethu and grew up in Khayelitsha.[5][6] She worked as a dental technologist for 17 years before opening the restaurant and in 2014 was working at Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Dental Sciences department.[2][7]

Culinary career[edit]

Chef plating food
Mbalo-Mokoena in her food truck

Mbalo-Mokoena is self-taught.[6] The restaurant opened in 2014 as a food truck parked next to a shisa nyama[8] and three years later moved into a four-roomed house.[9] The restaurant is named for the four-room, multi-family[4] bungalow typical in South Africa's eKasi (townships[10]).[9][11] Mbalo-Mokoena was raised in this type of home.[3] In the house where she grew up, "every room was a bedroom, the kitchen, the lounge."[4]

The restaurant specializes in modern interpretations of traditional African dishes, and especially South African dishes.[2][3][12] 4Roomed serves a five-course tasting menu at a single communal table.[4] Customers are approximately 30% local residents and the remainder tourists.[4] Saveur called it "backyard fine dining."[2] The Sunday Times said it was "disrupting the South African food scene with its re-imagined township cuisine that challenges notions of what constitutes fine dining."[13] Mbalo-Mokoena also has a casual restaurant and carryout a few blocks from 4Roomed.[4]

In 2014 Mbalo-Mokoena competed on the third season of MasterChef South Africa,[3][5][8] where she reached the top six.[2] In 2019 4Roomed was named in a combined project by Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure magazines as one of the 30 best restaurants in the world.[3] It is one of only three restaurants in Africa to make the list; the others are Johannesburg's Le Wine Chambre and The Ruined Garden in Fez, Morocco.[3]


Mbalo-Mokoena and her husband, who were living in the Cape Town suburb Melkbosstrand,[6] moved back to Khayelitsha because they "realized that by moving out of the townships when we got our qualifications and our degrees, we were actually depriving the economy of the townships."[4] They believed that when educated members of the community leave for the suburbs or urban centers, "the kids have no one to look up to."[4]

She decided to open a restaurant because she felt that South Africa wasn't celebrating its own food heritage.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Mbalo-Mokoena trained as a dental technologist.[4] She is married to Sam Mokoena.[14] The couple have two sons and one daughter.[1][4][15] She is of Xhosa heritage and her husband, South Sotho.[6]


  1. ^ a b c French, Laura (14 August 2019). "Abigail Mbalo, Masterchef contestant and restaurateur". Travel Weekly. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Schwartz, Alyssa (5 November 2018). "This Chef is Returning to Her Roots—Literally—With Her South African Restaurant". Saveur. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Rodell, Besha (20 August 2019). "These Are the World's Best Restaurants: North America, South America, Africa and Middle East". Food & Wine. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Yagoda, Maria (20 August 2019). "The One Cape Town Restaurant You Can't Miss Isn't Exactly a Restaurant". Food & Wine. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  5. ^ a b Peterson, Tammy (8 March 2017). "eKasi cuisine from Khayelitsha to the world". News24. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d Funk, Rebekah (12 December 2018). "The Marvelous Mrs. Mbalo-Mokoena". Issuu. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  7. ^ "4Roomed eKasi Culture Food Truck in Cape Town". Cape Town Magazine. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Former MasterChef contestant's eatery reinvents traditional African food". CapeTalk. 13 March 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  9. ^ a b Around the World in 80 Food Trucks. Lonely Planet. 2019. ISBN 9781788684965.
  10. ^ Pietilä, Tuulikki (21 October 2015). Contracts, Patronage and Mediation: The Articulation of Global and Local in the South African Recording Industry. Springer. ISBN 9781137562326.
  11. ^ "Promising tourism businesses rewarded in the Cape | IOL Travel". www.iol.co.za. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Afrique du sud : un chef réinvente la nourriture traditionnelle". Africanews (in French). 4 April 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  13. ^ Zingithwa, Zola (13 September 2018). "Khayelitsha chef gives Switzerland a taste of eKasi cuisine". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  14. ^ Booysen, Joseph (1 June 2019). "EKasi eatery serves up culture". Weekend Argus. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  15. ^ Baadjies, Megan (27 March 2017). "Fine fare is only 4Rooms away here". Daily News. Retrieved 23 August 2019.