STAPLE FOOD brand ACE invited renowned chefs, Dora Sithole and Nti, caterers, entertainment industry celebrities and the media corps to join in on its CSI bit to cook and feed an estimated 3000 people in need from the community of Orlando East and surrounding Soweto neighbourhoods at the township’s Communal Hall, recently.
Under the clarion call of 30 moms 3000 meals, #30 minutes well spent – the logistically huge event was in the expression of the maize meal brand’s belief that cooking a nutritious and tasty meal for one’s family shouldn’t take all day.
ACE took the challenge to feed and educate communities on how to cook a well-balanced meal that is nutritious and tasty – in just 30 minutes!
The event also served as the launch of ACE’s new quick cook samp, said to cook in 30 minutes with the brand’s same great taste containing neither additives nor preservatives and in the process saving time and electricity – with the familiar payoff line that: You can’t beat an ACE taste, the taste of a Moms’ love.
This was the start of a countrywide roadshow in introducing the product to communities.
On an unseasonal scorching midday, a winding queue of young and old community members had already formed around the cook-off venue stretching from the main Mooki road diagonally opposite Orlando Stadium, and right around Ballendin Street – in anticipation of being fed on a grandiose scale.
Celebrities such as Masechaba Ndlovu, Buhle Samuels, Penny Lebyane, Phinda Matlala, Thembisa Mdoda and Vuyo Ngcukana – to name but a few – kicked off proceedings by lining up at a table inside the hall chopping and slicing ingredients such as red peppers, spring onions, and garlic, in front of the glare of television and press cameras.
That taken care off, the group were then directed to the various workstations situated outside the hall, where they were paired with teams of cooks to prepare at least three meals of samp, meat and vegetables in large pots fired up by gas stoves – in precisely and strictly-timed, 30 minutes! A clearly visible electronic board manned by a timekeeper ensured that teams adhered to the rule of the challenge.
Chef Nti enthusiastically skipped around the cooking tents followed by the media entourage whilst checking on preparation progress.
Culinary notary, Dora Sithole followed in tow engaging cooks by inquiring after ingredients used in dishes.
A renowned gourmet Sithole had been roped in by ACE to oversee the delivery of the cooking process executed with precision. A consultant on the initiative, she was also responsible for the styling of the new samp package which depicted an image of an inviting bowl of samp and meat and vegetable stew, with a cloth and a shiny silver serving spoon laid out next to the packet.
Inside the workstations the likes of Muvhango actress, Buhle Samuels impressed the exacting chef Nti, resplendent in a white chef top, by applying the innovation of pressure cooking to their meat pot – probably to expedite the process, in meeting the tight time limit.
This they did by simply placing cans of Koo atop the pot’s lid. There and then nicknamed Team Buhle, Samuel’s team prepared chicken curry and spinach, in addition to the mandatory ACE 30 minute samp.
Seemingly restricted to mainly a meat dish of either beef or chicken, teams prepared beef stroganoff or stew and variations of chicken breast fillets or drumstick stew.
Yet with the base dish, the product appeared to prompt liberty with imagination as the likes of Protea Glen-based Lapologa Catering Dish conjured creamy samp brought about by adding cream of mushroom soup to plain samp and introducing Koo red kidney beans into the promising mix.
In the blazing spring sun, it was a dehydrating affair, but logistics support countered any demotivation by distributing chilled quenchers all around the cooking stations.
But as would likely occur at operations of such scales, some teams couldn’t thoroughly cook their meat offerings owing to either heavy duty pots causing slow penetration of fire and thus reducing the process to not meeting the set duration.
Eventually delivered upon, the focus then switched inside the appealingly festooned hall where numerous serving stations awaited the lengthy queues of hungry folks who got to learn about the event through pamphlets distributed around the neighbourhood.
Marshals in reflective jackets guided pensioners and schoolchildren to be served generous helpings of steaming fare and the procession seemed to have no end as it went on right into the late afternoon.
Near the serving points a VIP section was buzzing with excitement as Chef Rellington’s industrious team served plates of croquet and meatballs garnished with parmesan cheese and coriander.
The dish was accompanied by samp salad made of Dijon and honey mustard, lentils, red cabbage, avocados, lettuce, samp and parmesan cheese grated on top of the layers.
Presented inside a Mason jar, the essential trick to consume the salad was by first having to shake the jar in order to infuse the flavours contained therein and then – bon appetite! An innovative inventor, Rellington conjured a self-made lemonade of water, lemon slices, mint leaves and pomegranate seeds in a glass tap jar – to wash down the food presentation with.
Her time and attention in demand whilst hosting the guests, ACE marketing manager Neo Dikamotse pronounced her satisfaction at how the day had turned out, offering that ACE achieved what it set out to do, whilst lauding the celebrities input and thanking the community at large for turning out in numbers.
Viewing the scene in another light, one couldn’t help but wonder in seeing the grateful souls who filed through for takeaways, about the extent of documented malnutrition and hunger prevalent in our communities.