MEAT MEET scooped South Africa’s best Shisanyama [braai] status when the Soweto buy and braai butchery joint triumphed over three other contestants at the 2018 search’s finale held at the Nasrec Showgrounds, the weekend past.
Operating out of Diepkloof, and in existence since 2001, the family business, run by the trio of founder, Homi Nyakale and her daughter, Khothatso and son, Khunou – proved to be the most popular eatery at the event presented by beer brand, Windhoek.
In the lead-up to their moment of victory, the entity had gone tong-to-tong against other buy-n-braai venues such as fellow Soweto’s Chaf Pozi, Tembisa’s Imbizo Shisanyama [otherwise known as Busy Corner] and Margate, KZN’s Senzi’s – in an event launched by Windhoek with the aim of rewarding those who invest the same level of passion and craftsmanship into their Shisanyama as Windhoek does into their beer!
Scenes of unbridled jubilation spilled out on a stage in front of a crowd of some thousand as the search’s judge and host, Chef Benny [Masekwameng] announced the winner surrounded by representatives of the four contestants.
The mention of her joint’s name immediately prompted Khothatso Mokhele into a celebratory trance as she raised her arms in acknowledgement, simultaneously as green confetti rained down upon her! She was shortly thereafter presented with a trophy of a framed long fork – symbolizing the victor’s spoils. Her mother and brother, who were still attending to a winding queue formed in front of their stall, soon joined her on the stage to savour the moment of achievement.
“I’m happy, don’t know how to express myself”, gushed a visibly elated Homi, at the same time thanking new customers to had made it possible for her business. Asked what she believed it was from their offering presented at the finale which clinched the deal for Meat Meet – the elderly Nyakale ventured that it must have been their in-house sausage.
According to the man whose judgement also counted, along that of the voting gourmands, namely, Chef Benny – Meat Meet proved to be the winner on the day purely on their hospitality and food!
The moment was the culmination of what had been a truly long Sunday for the Zone 3 establishment which delved into the Shisanyama space when the concept was relatively new, back in 2001. Then, initially operating a butchery with only a small braai stand whilst privy of the popularity and demand for chargrilled meat, Nyakale’s children had to help out after school and varsity, in the long and tough hours she had to put into the shop, daily.
Ahead of battling it out with the other Final 4 competitors, Mokhele was quoted in the event’s press release as being overjoyed at being presented with a national platform where people could be able to experience her place’s amazing food and vibe – promising to bring their unique touch into the competition and intending to tantalize the taste buds of the crowd and leave behind delightful faces! Meat Meet’s motto, Mokhele stated, is: Consistency, Hard work and Ethics.
On that early December sunny weekend at Nasrec, it appeared food lovers recognized those values enough to vote with their feet as an unending queue winded its way to their stall from midday up to early in the evening when the grand announcement of the R30 000 winner was made.
Both the front and back of house was a hive of activity as guests handed in food vouchers at the counter and cooks attended to the heated grill at the preparation station – with inviting aromas wafting in their stall’s vicinity.
Wooden food boards lined up and exchanged hands as they progressively became laden with pap, sausages, brisket, short rib, chuck – in addition to chakalaka and salsa!
Run on an even format for each finalist, Windhoek supplied the contestants with meat, fruit and vegetables.
Masekwameng, a judge in the first season of MasterChef SA, hinted that on the day, each finalist had to select their meat from a range which included all types of steak, ribs and boerewors – with allowance made for those fancying bringing their own secret sauces and marinades to cook with. “In this way”, offered the quintessential people’s person, “we ensure that the playing grounds are level, and it is up to the way the food is cooked that will determine the winner.”
At the Imbizo Shisanyama stall, erstwhile Free State Stars striker, Boitumelo Sekgobela, was spotted slotting a voting token into a tall glass beaker. Having cleaned up his board of pap, chilli wors, short ribs, coleslaw and salsa, and in addition to have already sampled the offerings at two other competing stalls – his palate was made: the Tembisa-based caterer, otherwise going by the household name, Busy Corner, resonated with him, with their chilli wors and natural pap deciding it for him!
They are old hand in this business, Imbizo, with branded serviettes and catalogues and business cards being dispensed by the operations manager, Senzo Mhlongo – who formed the synergy between the flow of service in the kitchen area and the dishing up section. They also offered a wider choice than some of the competitors, with dumpling as an alternative to pap and lamb, chicken, plain boerewors, spinach, chakalaka, coleslaw and salsa in the mix. What more – you could also have every meat variety on your food board!
At the opposite flank separated by a huge stretch tent housing a back-to-back bar effecting a roaring trade in the sponsor’s beverage, was situated the sole out of Gauteng finalist, viz-a-viz, Margate’s Senzi’s – also commanding a substantial queue to its counter.
Thereat, with DJ Mo Flava’s sounds issuing forth from the adjacent stage, manager, Zwelihle Dlamini alternatively worked the front-of-house area whilst frantically venturing into the back-of-house to ensure that the gas and briquette-powered stoves had the beef blade, short rib, chuck, plain wors and chicken cooked in reasonable enough time – so as not to stall the queue’s flow.
This aspect, of ensuring that every meat on offer was served all in one go and within a reasonable enough timeframe, was a constant challenge for all the finalists – with customer intermittently having to wait for other meats to cook.
That apart though, the four serving stations were more than satisfied with the incredible amount of people who turned out to be fed – with everyone claiming to have served around a thousand stomachs. Which was feasible, since the voting format allowed for the gathered epicureans to devour all the fare offered by the finalists, if they so wished or had the capacity for – in order to arrive at informed decision, came the time to doing so.
Situated at the converse end to Senzi’s was Soweto’s tourist destination pivot, Chaf Pozi, whose owner, Steven Mpete was at the helm of easily the most staff in attendance. The back of his stall had a buzz to it contrary to the order of things by the counter area, where patrons waited patiently for the readying of the meat.
Here, the queue stretched to the verge of a media hospitality area, whilst flames went up in a race to meet meat demand! With regard to the meat offerings, Mpete’s place served pretty much the same of what the others did except that a delicious tomato relish was applied atop the pap and the presentation garnished with sprinkling of shallots!
The beer, served in draught, lager and light, flowed within the festival setting and with just over a fortnight to go ahead of Christmas, guests were clearly in a festive mood as they boogied to a feature performance by Lady Zamar and her energetic female dancers – all the while circles of acquaintances fraternized in the space.
For Alexandra raised and Natal Technikon graduated, Masekwameng [Tsogo Sun’s very own celebrity chef instrumental in the recent upgrade of SAA’s First Class and Business Class menus] this is close to home for him because it will help grow small businesses and encourage small businesses in South Africa.
This initiative will help him leave a legacy as someone who has helped others achieve their very own goals.