When local choreographer and television personality Somizi Mhlongo-Motaung attends a red-carpet event, he pulls out all the stops. He brings out those famous red-bottom Louboutin heels covered in shiny studs, a skin-baring suit with 6m OTT train, and a bold hairstyle to match. He is the king of over-the-top, of course.

This time around, Somizi puts the king-sized effort into something else: cooking – on his new lifestyle show Dinner At Somizi’s. Each week, he’ll be hosting a celebrity guest at his lavish house, where he’ll prepare a mouth-watering meal followed by juicy conversations that are filled with laughter, Somizi sass and witty punchlines.

“This isn’t your typical cooking show,” says Somizi. “I’m not a chef and I don’t necessarily teach viewers how to cook. I just happen to love cooking and food brings my guest and I together. We chat about anything and everything while we’re enjoying the meal,” adds the host. To round off the feast rather than a dessert, he mixes a SomGaga cocktail to end the evening.

Spicing things up

With over 3 decades in the entertainment industry, Somizi has rubbed shoulders with A-listers and he’s also made friends with a long list of celebs who’ll be making an appearance on Dinners At Somizi. The guest list includes Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi, the country’s World Cup-winning national rugby captain Siya Kolisi, and even local rap superstar Cassper Nyovest.

In the first episode though, Somizi will be hanging out with his husband, Mohale Motaung-Mhlongo, as well as actress and author Rami Chuene. While Rami left The Queen early this year, fans can see her playing Jumima in BET’s (DStv 135) brand-new telenovela Isono, which launches later this month. But she’s not there because she has a new show to parade. “This is what separates my show from a lot of cooking shows that only host celebrities because they’re famous or relevant,” says Somizi. “I have a personal relationship with all my guests. I thought that it would be a great idea to have viewers listen in on the conversations I’d have with my mates during our dinner dates.”

Spilling the beans

Somizi isn’t one to shy away from risks and he won’t be any different on his cooking show. “I make a chicken gizzard and heart pie. There’s also my blue cheese mogodu (tripe) and chicken stuffed bread. Everything has a Somizi twist,” he reveals. For the choreographer, real African cuisine is simple, hearty and warm. “It’s full of flavour and colour. You don’t need a spoon or a folk and knife to eat the meal. You can just dig in and enjoy it with your hands.”

The source of inspiration

Besides his international travels, Somizi’s recipes are inspired by his childhood. He recalls his late actor father, Ndaba Mhlongo (choreographer for the Broadway run of Sarafina, but best known for his comic role as Mshefane in the 1977 film Inyakanyaka) cooking up a storm while his recently deceased mother Mary Twala (very much beloved for her role as MaKhambule in Skwizas and more) was sitting outside. “In their 30 years of marriage, my mother had never cooked. My dad was very dramatic while he was in the kitchen, I guess that’s why I fell in love with cooking, because it looked fun and easy,” explains Somizi.

The work never stops

During the nationwide lockdown, Somizi and Mohale launched their non-profit organisation called Somhale Foundation, through which they donated food vouchers to over 50 families. “My husband and I love putting smiles on people’s faces,” says Somizi. “It’s our way of saying that although you’re in need, you shouldn’t be forced into eating food that you don’t like. That’s not all. Every month, we’ll ask 10 to 20 people to send us their number and we’ll e-wallet them money and food vouchers to enjoy with their families.”

During the premiere of Dinner At Somizi’s, Mzansi Magic will pay tribute to Mary Twala with a special on-air message.

Watch Dinner At Somizi’s S1 from Friday, 10 July at on 1Magic (DStv 103) at 19:00

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