Meet young foodie Muako Maepa who has just published his first cookbook and is on a mission to inspire teens to follow their passions in life.

Muako Maepa is no ordinary 15-year-old. This ambitious young teen with a passion for cooking has just released his first cookbook, Tell Me What You Eat and I’ll Tell You Who You Are.

The Insider SA caught up with Muako and his friends and family at Muako’s recent book launch. We learn more about what has inspired this young chef to defy the norm and accomplish something very few his age have done.

Aimed at his peers, Tell Me What You Eat and I’ll Tell You Who You Are is more than just a collection of Muako’s simple, much-loved recipes. The cookbook shares a taste of Muako’s thoughts on his life, passions and love for cooking.

Muako has set out to challenge the status quo and encourage young people his age to enter the kitchen, turn up the heat and enjoy the process of cooking. He also hopes his story will motivate young people to try something new. Muako shares, “The mission of my cookbook is to inspire kids my own age. It’s about not just learning how to cook, but also inspiring them to chase their dreams and find their passion.”

Muako’s love for cooking started in the home, keenly watching his mom, Khanyisa Malabi, from a young age. Khanyisa is an entrepreneur, a cookbook author, and a keen food writer, who has encouraged her son to develop his own recipes. His grandmother also had a large influence on Muako and his development as a cook and they would prepare meals together often.

Muako’s best friend, Nkosinathi Kumalo, wasn’t surprised when Muako said he wanted to write a cookbook. Muako is always cooking at home, creating meals for his friends when they come over. Nkosinathi adds, “He is an exceptional writer. Now that I’ve seen the book, I don’t have the words to describe how proud I am.”

The support and encouragement from Muako’s family and friends have steered Muako forward. Khanyisa is very proud of the steps Muako is taking to shape his future and inspire people his own age to actively choose their own paths and challenge expectations.

“It’s not only about Muako. It’s a big celebration for this generation – they are ready to be heard,” adds Khanyisa.

Speaking directly to Muako, she shares, “My boy, what you have proved to me is that you could start and finish something. I’m your fan. You are my hero. The sky is the limit.”

Age shouldn’t dictate our dreams. Muako Maepa is a reminder of the talent of young South Africans and his career so far is a reassurance that the future of South African cooking is in good hands. All it takes is a pinch of inspiration.