Sandisiwe Mbhele

By Sandisiwe Mbhele

UX Content Writer

From Instagram to bookshelves- Dine with Neo’s rocket raise

Neo Nontso's story started as a makeup artist, however, her love for food never left her as she opened popular Instagram food page @dinewithneo in 2017.

Something should be said for self-made content creators who have expanded their reach outside their preferred platforms, one of them is Neo Nontso popular for her Instagram page @dinewithneo.

Food content creators have taken the cooking bookshelves by storm, from some of our favourite Instagram handles such as The Lazy Makoti, Cooking with Zanele and Chef Mbombi’s An African Bite, consumers as asking for more.

Neo Nontso’s story started as a makeup artist, however, her love for food never left her and she finally opened her food Instagram page in 2017, a decision that superseded her expectations.

Popularity on Instagram

Five years later with over 316 000 followers on the platform, Nontso can now place cookbook author next to her achievements.

Cover of @dinewithneo-my insta feast cookbook. Picture: Supplied
Cover of @dinewithneo-my insta feast cookbook. Picture: Supplied

During her cookbook lunch at Exclusive Books in Mall of Africa, Johannesburg, hosted by popular media personality Anele Mdoda, the young author was poised and clearly exuberant as her cookbook, @dinewithneo-my insta feast! was published on bookshelves across the country.

Nontso mentioned when she was a makeup artist most of her clients loved food, including friends such as Mdoda who shared restaurant recommendations she should visit and try.

Nontso said this helped her expand her palette, including travelling, and tips from clients as she gradually built her career in the food industry.

Letting go of the makeup artist industry wasn’t easy but she knew more of her passion was in food.

“I love it, it [was] never not going to work out. I love food, I am passionate about it, I speak it, it is who I am, I love cooking,” she said.

The East London native’s Instagram page grew rapidly particularly during the Covid-19 lockdown as some people have contributed @dinewithneo for improving their cooking, inspiring them to get back in the kitchen and revamp their meals.

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Nontso’s food style is home cooking, the food we grow up with but elevated, made easy and of course Instagram-worthy.

Dine with Neo’s cookbook

Her cookbook was developed at the beginning of the year and released several months later.

Her career has been assisted with building relationships around her and she has trusted her gut which has helped her to get where she is currently.

She recalls her mom’s cottage pie, which is not as traditional as she thought. The traditional English dish is a layer of minced meat, topped with mashed potatoes and then baked however Nontso’s mom’s recipe had extra carbs, an added layer of pasta.

Nontso informed the audience the layer of pasta was added because she comes from a big household and her mom felt they needed to have full bellies after a meal. So when she shared her mother’s recipe with her legions of followers she didn’t expect the backlash.

She jokingly said: “My followers were like, pasta? In a cottage pie? I then Googled what is cottage pie and I realise pasta is not part of it. I then changed the [recipe name] to my mom’s cottage pie.”

The home cook says from instinct she knows when the recipe is just right or not. Changes to a recipe come if she is not happy with the result. The recipe won’t change after Nontso posts it on the gram.

For her cookbook, readers can expect over 150 pages of recipes split into categories such as such Dirty Dining (fast food), Weekend Special (dishes for special occasions), Pasta la Vista (all sorts of pasta and of course traditional meals hearty meals that will please a crowd.

Think lamb potjie, prawn curry and as South Africans, we love a good curry and stew.

A hot-button issue amongst foodies, the food content creator does consider herself a chef, even though she is not classically trained.

A page from Neo Nontso's cookbook @dinewithneo-my insta feast. Picture: Supplied
A page from Neo Nontso’s cookbook @dinewithneo-my insta feast. Picture: Supplied

She explains she won’t correct someone if they referred to her as a chef, as she has spent several hours in a professional kitchen, including having her own dark kitchen in partnership with Uber Eats and Flying Fish called Flying Dish Kitchen.

The cookbook, @dinewithneo – my insta feast! was created for followers to have a physical reference to her recipes other than going online, including having new recipes.  

@dinewithneo – my insta feast! Is available at leading bookstores nationwide.

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