Food entrepreneur and self-taught cook Neo Nontso is no stranger to South Africans. She's a much-loved cook and with 297 000+ followers on her @DineWithNeo food page, and a booming business, it's only upwards from here for Neo's career.
She chats to us about her journey with food, her career highlights, how the pandemic impacted her business and what's in store for her in the near future.
I joined the industry in 2016. I’ve been sharing recipes, hacks and tips on my platform since then. Tapping into the food industry wasn’t easy because of how sensitive and personal food is for everyone. Building a supportive audience that trusts me was not easy. But I have learnt that consistency is always key when it comes to building a strong brand.
I got my first paying campaign in 2019 where I was called to be part of the judging panel for the World Class Bartending Competition which took place in South Africa. This definitely put my name on the map and proved to me that consistency truly does pay off. Since then, I’ve been working hard to build a strong footprint in the industry. Over the years I have been blessed to have partnered with so many reputable brands!
In 2020, during the COVID pandemic, I launched my own spices and herbs company called DWN herbs & spices. Dine with Neo has grown tremendously over the years and there is still so much more that’ll come out of it !
The support I received when I started the platform Dine With Neo made me realise how important it was for me to make it profitable, and how it was important for me to keep sharing and helping no matter what the outcome would be. This was the moment that turned everything around for me.
In 2020, when the country was locked down, my audience challenged me to show them how to make fast food that they would’ve normally ordered or bought online from restaurants. Since everything was closed, they needed all the recipes so they could make them at home. So I took up their challenge and I ran a short fast food series on my page.
Here, I featured dishes like donuts, pizza and the iconic Kentucky fried chicken. Immediately after I dropped the fried chicken recipe on my platform, it went viral! We had millions of interactions from that one post. I remember even doing interviews from publications outside of South Africa.
- Travelling the world to taste and learn about different foods and cultures.
- Changing the narrative and elevating South Africa food.
- Being part of the judging panel for the World Class Bartending Competition 2019.
- Starting a foundation that helps the less fortunate with food supply.
- Partnering with Flying Fish as the head chef and menu curator for Flying Dish.
Cottage pie reminds me of my childhood! I grew up in a big family and my mother used to make this for us on Sundays after church. We’d all gather around the table to feast and catch up. It was these beautiful moments that made me fall in love with food. I always loved how food brought everyone together.
With the pandemic, I had to find new ways to market myself and showcase the art of food. My platform, Dine with Neo, has been consistent in sharing amazing home cooked recipes for South Africans to try at home while being confined to the new lockdown regulations. Uber Eats has also given me access to seamlessly deliver food within my area.
More and more people are opting for online deliveries and dinning at home rather than sitting down at a restaurants. Its all about changing the narrative, adapting to what to the new conditions are, and trying to find ways to make an income.
For the first time in South Africa, Flying fish has opened its very own kitchen on Uber Eats – The Flying Dish. I have collaborated with The flying dish kitchen as the head chef and menu curator. We want you to approach groove a little different. And by that we mean: eat now, drink later.
The science behind it is simple, the fat in food sticks to the stomach’s lining for an extended period while drinking, slowing the process of the alcohol flow into the bloodstream, therefore extending the amount of time a person is sober and can enjoy themselves to the fullest. Everything on the menu is a favourite but people seem to be enjoying our ribs, wings and kotas the most! We are currently open in Parktown and Sandton in Johannesburg.
In the next few weeks, my company, DWN Herbs and Spices will be launching a new collection dedicated to South Africa and our braai culture. I’ve been working on this for months now and I’m super excited about it!