Placing conventional meals again on mainstream menus with…

Placing conventional meals again on mainstream menus with…

Khaya Kepe is a really busy lady. 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 through Uber Eats.

“They usually like it,” the 39-year-old mom of two says. “We even have prospects who reside 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 advanced on the financial institution of the Baakens River remains to be waking up. “From about 11am when the Uber Eats orders begin coming in, issues get loopy right here,” Kepe says.

Khaya Kepe traditional food
Khaya Kepe getting ready meals in Khaya’s Kitchen, Gqeberha, Jap Cape. (Photograph: Deon Ferreira)

On the menu is dombolo (dumplings) filled with lamb curry or beef stew, sheep head “smileys” (delivered in a pizza field, Kepe laughs), rooster 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 massive half in our household. My grandparents had an enormous backyard the place my grandmother had all her crops, her pumpkins, her marrows, good massive chunky ones. My mother raised chickens…

“I grew up surrounded by all this meals. We produced every thing at dwelling… Again then, buying meant going to city, shopping for 50kg of maize meal and 50kg of flour. That’s how we shopped.”

Khaya's kitchen traditional food
Grade 12 college students studying and growing their cooking abilities in Khaya’s kitchen, Gqeberha on 31 August, 2022. (Photograph: Deon Ferreira)

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 every thing. 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 neighborhood … coming collectively. If there’s a funeral, everybody comes collectively. If there’s a celebration, everybody comes collectively.

“I feel that’s the factor that formed me in terms of loving meals.”

Falling in love with meals

When she was 10, Kepe moved to Cape City to reside along with her paternal grandmother as a result of her mom “needed to ship us to good faculties”.

“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 he or she used to bake… I nonetheless make her scone recipe to today.”

It was not her plan to make a profession out of meals. “The dream for a woman from the village was that you’ll grow to be a physician or an accountant, that form of factor. I went into advertising and communications. However I nonetheless had that zeal for meals.”

Khaya's Kitchen traditional food
College students getting ready conventional delicacies at Khaya’s Kitchen. (Photograph: Deon Ferreira)

When auditions opened for the primary collection of MasterChef in South Africa, Kepe determined to offer 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 may prepare dinner. Why should you go now and prepare dinner for a dwelling? You may prepare dinner at dwelling. You may prepare dinner to your buddies. 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 baby, the household moved to Gqeberha and began an organization referred to as Dainty Bites, making bite-sized conventional African-inspired meals.

“After I first received 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 fellows from Spar. They used to sponsor the market.”

Kepe needed to do a meals programme on Umhlobo Wenene, the isiXhosa radio station, and was on the lookout for a sponsor.

Khaya's Kitchen traditional food
College students in motion at Khaya’s Kitchen in Gqeberha, on 31 August 2022. (Photograph: Deon Ferreira)

“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 virtually each single retailer you’ll get samp and beans, you’ll 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 when you can prepack conventional meals for comfort, however make it up to date?’ Not the stuff that I grew up consuming [but] tripe spring rolls, samp risotto, rooster toes with ginger Asian glaze, issues like that. I used to be attempting to see how we will make it up to date, for right now’s market as a substitute of constructing it village fashion.

“I additionally love the truth that conventional meals is so undervalued and ignored for the well being advantages. Individuals go all gaga over sourdough bread, however we grew up on it… 

“I like fermented sorghum porridge for breakfast. Now we all know that fermented meals is basically good to your intestine. Umfino, these wild greens, is scrumptious and, when it comes to 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 up to date, 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.

Khaya's Kitchen traditional food
College students working at Khaya’s Kitchen in Gqeberha, the place Grade 12 college students are taught to grow to be cooks. (Photograph: Deon Ferreira)

“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 section in Gqeberha didn’t try this properly as a result of “individuals had been extra taken with cooking at dwelling than going out and shopping for meals”.

She then determined to go to the general public straight and registered her meals on Uber Eats.

“Individuals had been very . The one place the place you should purchase conventional meals is when you 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 revenue in the home. Not less than after they depart after 12 months they’ve a ability. They’ll go work in a kitchen or they will begin their very own little factor, in their very own neighbourhood.”

That is her first consumption they usually have simply catered their first massive 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 desires 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 will 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 Every day Maverick 168 newspaper, which is accessible countrywide for R25.

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