Placing conventional meals again on mainstream menus with…
Khaya Kepe is a really busy girl. Meals ambassador, entrepreneur and former MasterChef SA contestant, she is a champion for conventional meals.
Her plans to launch her ready-made conventional meals vary in Spar supermarkets had been interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. However she was undeterred and now provides meals to Gqeberha’s residents by way of Uber Eats.
“And so they find it irresistible,” the 39-year-old mom of two says. “We even have clients who dwell outdoors of Uber Eats’ [delivery] vary however are prepared to pay for an Uber Join to choose up their meals and produce it to them.”
At 10am, the kitchen within the Werk 2 complicated on the financial institution of the Baakens River continues to be waking up. “From about 11am when the Uber Eats orders begin coming in, issues get loopy right here,” Kepe says.
On the menu is dombolo (dumplings) filled with lamb curry or beef stew, sheep head “smileys” (delivered in a pizza field, Kepe laughs), hen livers, chakalaka, umfino (maize meal cooked with conventional greens), samp and beans in addition to her grandmother’s apple pie with custard.
“I used to be born in a village referred to as Mlamli in Sterkspruit. For me, village life meant being surrounded by household and meals.
“Meals performed a really large half in our household. My grandparents had a giant backyard the place my grandmother had all her crops, her pumpkins, her marrows, good large chunky ones. My mother raised chickens…
“I grew up surrounded by all this meals. We produced all the pieces at dwelling… Again then, purchasing meant going to city, shopping for 50kg of maize meal and 50kg of flour. That’s how we shopped.”
Lots of people hear about village life, she says, and consider poverty and lack of assets. “However we by no means skilled that. I by no means felt prefer it. There was all the time an abundance of all the pieces. It was only a lifestyle.
“We didn’t have operating water. We had been used to going to fetch water and firewood. However it’s [about] the group … coming collectively. If there’s a funeral, everybody comes collectively. If there’s a celebration, everybody comes collectively.
“I believe that’s the factor that formed me relating to loving meals.”
Falling in love with meals
When she was 10, Kepe moved to Cape City to dwell along with her paternal grandmother as a result of her mom “wished to ship us to good colleges”.
“Strolling into my grandmother’s kitchen was the primary time that I actually fell in love with meals. I had pasta for the primary time. I didn’t know what pasta was. I skilled spices for the primary time. She had this rack of Robertsons spices. I had by no means seen spices earlier than. Within the village spice was beef inventory and salt. Or perhaps curry powder.
“My grandmother labored for a resort … in Constantia. She used to take advantage of scrumptious meals and she or he used to bake… I nonetheless make her scone recipe to at the present time.”
It was not her plan to make a profession out of meals. “The dream for a lady from the village was that you’ll change into a health care provider or an accountant, that form of factor. I went into advertising and communications. However I nonetheless had that zeal for meals.”
When auditions opened for the primary sequence of MasterChef in South Africa, Kepe determined to provide it a attempt.
“I stated to my mother, ‘I’m quitting my job to enter meals full time’. ‘What?’ she instructed me,” Kepe laughs. “‘You’ll be able to prepare dinner. Why should you go now and prepare dinner for a residing? You’ll be able to prepare dinner at dwelling. You’ll be able to prepare dinner to your mates. Why should you permit your job to go cooking?’.”
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A number of profitable tasks later, she has made her love for meals right into a profession, having edited meals pages, catered small jobs and appeared on tv and radio programmes about meals.
After she had her second youngster, the household moved to Gqeberha and began an organization referred to as Dainty Bites, making bite-sized conventional African-inspired meals.
“After I first bought right here, I didn’t have the identical consumer base I had in Johannesburg. However I had heard of the Valley Market. That’s the place I met the blokes from Spar. They used to sponsor the market.”
Kepe wished to do a meals programme on Umhlobo Wenene, the isiXhosa radio station, and was in search of a sponsor.
“So once I walked into [Spar’s] boardroom, the MD stated: ‘However aren’t you the younger girl I purchased meals from yesterday?’ I stated sure. They sponsored my radio present and I began freelancing for them, coaching the women who work within the Spar kitchens.
“I noticed how in nearly each single retailer you’d get samp and beans, you’d get tripe, conventional meals. Nevertheless it wasn’t handy. You needed to stand in a queue. That’s how Khaya’s Kitchen was born.
“I believed, ‘What if you happen to can prepack conventional meals for comfort, however make it modern?’ Not the stuff that I grew up consuming [but] tripe spring rolls, samp risotto, hen toes with ginger Asian glaze, issues like that. I used to be attempting to see how we are able to make it modern, for as we speak’s market as an alternative of creating it village fashion.
“I additionally love the truth that conventional meals is so undervalued and missed for the well being advantages. Individuals go all gaga over sourdough bread, however we grew up on it…
“I really like fermented sorghum porridge for breakfast. Now we all know that fermented meals is de facto good to your intestine. Umfino, these wild greens, is scrumptious and, by way of vitamin and mineral content material, it’s higher than spinach and kale. However we don’t speak about these issues.
“That’s once I stated let’s embark on this journey as a model, educate and in addition make it modern, extra accessible for individuals to purchase umfino, take it dwelling and reheat it.”
However then Covid-19 occurred simply as she was on the brink of launch her product line.
“Our plans had been to launch on 27 April 2020. Then the announcement got here in March that we had to enter lockdown. We couldn’t commerce.
“We solely got here again in August. Then the pilot part in Gqeberha didn’t try this effectively as a result of “individuals had been extra serious about cooking at dwelling than going out and shopping for meals”.
She then determined to go to the general public immediately and registered her meals on Uber Eats.
“Individuals had been very . The one place the place you should buy conventional meals is if you happen to drive to the township. So we had been bringing them comfort.”
Kepe partnered with Ubuntu Pathways to coach younger individuals from a few of Nelson Mandela Bay’s poorest areas — New Brighton, Zwide and Veeplaas — for 12 months.
“A few of them are breadwinners. The little stipend that they get from us is the one earnings in the home. Not less than after they go away after 12 months they’ve a talent. They will go work in a kitchen or they will begin their very own little factor, in their very own neighbourhood.”
That is her first consumption and so they have simply catered their first large occasion. “I’m already seeing that they’ve such nice potential.”
Her long-anticipated roll-out to Spar would require about 60 individuals working two shifts a day to satisfy the demand of 100 shops.
Kepe needs to maintain the dialog about conventional meals going. “We should dissociate poverty from the worth of meals — our grandmothers didn’t feed us umfino as a result of they had been poor however as a result of they knew the well being advantages — then we are able to begin celebrating it.
“We should always begin introducing it in mainstream eating places and feeding schemes. We have to change the dialog from poverty to diet,” she says. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Each day Maverick 168 newspaper, which is out there countrywide for R25.