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Unisa confers honorary doctorate on renowned restaurant mogul, Natasha Sideris

Unisa conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) on Natasha Sideris at a graduation ceremony held on 7 May 2024. Sideris is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder of Tashas Restaurant Group. The degree recognises her substantial and unique contributions to the fields of hospitality and consumer science, as well as her relentless pursuit of excellence in creating dining concepts that combine culinary art with exceptional customer service.


Honorary doctorate recipient Natasha Sideris

Presenting her degree, Dr MaseTshaba Mantepu, Acting Executive Dean of the College of Economic and Management Sciences, said Sideris has distinguished herself as a ground-breaking force in the restaurant and hospitality industry. She continued: "After recognising a significant market gap for a simple, un-themed, daytime dining concept, she launched the first Tashas café in Atholl in 2005. Her vision was to create venues where customers could enjoy good food in beautiful environments, served with special care."

The concept flourished and expanded over eighteen years, including fifteen locations in South Africa and six in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). "Each Tashas café reflects a unique theme inspired by various places and times, showcasing her commitment to creating distinct dining experiences," explained Mantepu.

Furthermore, Sideris' entrepreneurial journey extended to developing other sophisticated dining concepts like Avli by Tashas, Flamingo Room by Tashas, Bungalo34 and the internationally acclaimed Galaxy Bar. Her ventures emphasise a blend of cultural homage and innovative cuisine, enhancing the global dining landscape. The Galaxy Bar has been recognised among the world's top 50 bars in 2020 and 2021, a testament to her exemplary leadership in conceptualising and managing world-class establishments.

Mantepu said: "This honorary degree recognises not only her transformative impact on the hospitality industry but also her visionary leadership that continues to inspire and shape the global standards of dining and guest experience. Her lifelong commitment to elevating the consumers' hospitality experience, her innovative contributions to the industry and her ability to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs make her eminently worthy of this honour, aligning perfectly with Unisa's mission, vision and values."


Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula, conferring the honorary degree on Natasha Sideris

Accepting the degree to resounding applause, the emotional Sideris expressed gratitude to Unisa, the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula, and South Africa. She said: "It is an honour to receive this degree. I am truly humbled and would like to thank my staff, who have stood by me every step of the way." Sideris added: "Like Unisa, at Tashas, we watch individuals flourish and grow. People like Precious are now the general manager of some of our restaurants in Dubai. Others now run our restaurants in the United Kingdom. All these young South Africans came through our restaurants in South Africa and worked their way up. Today is about celebrating them more than me."


Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula

Affirming Sideris' accomplishments and contributions to society, LenkaBula said: "The world is always looking for individuals who overcome their fears to create beautiful initiatives and outputs that serve society and create employment, and Sideris' contributions in hospitality and consumer science are worth noting."

To the rest of the graduates at the ceremony, LenkaBula said: "I wish to extend my heartfelt congratulations to you all for completing your studies at Unisa. Your success is a pointer to your initiative, persistence and resilience, which, through your graduateness, will hopefully contribute to the national priorities." She added: "Unisa has armed you with the requisite knowledge and skill set to enable you to thrive anywhere in the world with good prospects. You will not only seek employment, but even more importantly in our day, you will surely provide employment to others and, by the same token, anchor your participation in socio-political, economic and other contexts."  

"As a graduate of Unisa, you are encouraged to transfer your knowledge to transform life to better yourself, family, community and society, with a local and global outlook. I wish you success in your journey ahead as you hoist the Unisa flag high as our proud alumni," LenkaBula closed.

* By the Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2024/05/10

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