SA’s best shisanyama search

E’Sociallink’s, Gift Mudabula and Zanele Dlamini looked on as Chef Benny Masekwameng tucked into the sumptuous meat. All images Jacob MAWELA.

They paid visits to prominent Soweto spots, Kwa Lichaba in Orlando West on Saturday and e’SocialLink at Doornkop, on Sunday – as the brewery, Windhoek continued its quest to identify eight finalists who would ultimately vie for R1 million in winners’ prizes!

Although “el kasico” [the latest marketing nickname the Soweto Derby has been tagged by] fever permeated the afternoon air about Vilakazi Street as Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates battled it out for bragging rights – kitchen staff at Kwa Lichaba purposefully went through their paces in an effort to impress Masekwameng with an all-round presentation which went beyond just the edibles.

“With R1 million in prizes to be won the stakes are high and we are looking for a perfect combination of great food and a great vibe,” Masekwameng was quoted in the challenge’s publicity agency’s press release, offering a hint of the ingredients he was looking for.

“We want to see how each owner embraces and understands their clientele. The concept of opening shisanyamas is creating an opportunity for entrepreneurs to start small and through good marketing, as well as offering excellence, this can evolve into a medium size business and create business expansion into different areas within the hospitality and food industry thereby creating more employment openings,” the statement had the celebrity chef further expounding.

Sunday having dawned and embraced the afternoon over Soweto’s westerly-most end with golden-prismed sunshine – even as fans of the vanquished soccer outfit at the previous day’s field contest nursed their collective sorrows – the Shisanyama roadshow then made its stop at the ambience-filled e’SocialLink venue.

With El Classico [the original Spanish grudge featuring FC Barcelona against perennial nemesis, Real Madrid] being beamed on a large screen, and sorrow no doubt again potentially on offer for whoever stood to lose, the imposing speakeasy’s kitchen troops led by chef, Gift Mudabula [who naturally expressed hope that his place of employment scoop the main prize] and manager, Zanele Dlamini, set about whipping up an appetizing presentation of pap, marinated beef, chicken wings, wors, vegetable chakalaka and sweet & chilli sauce.

A picture of health, with an orderly trimmed beard and donning swank Jordan sneakers, Masekwameng owned the space at the top 8 venue situated along the R558 towards the West Rand neighbourhoods of Randfontein and Mogale City, whilst surrounded by an eager media corps thrusting smartphones into his face for sound bite.

This fourth estate circle he gave a lecture on fundamentals of judging, insofar as the search was concerned.

Masekwameng expounded upon technicalities such as, “ease of access”, temperature within the social space, turn-around time on an order and hygiene issues.

Seemingly impressed enough to accrue category points to the joint, he expressed his pleasure with the place’s “sales mix” geared toward the minimization of cost, whereby its menu zeroed-in on what patrons preferred.  For instance, e’SocialLink’s food offering excluded lamb and pork – not by design but through what its return client want!

Some of shisanyama ingredients, accompanied by a cold thirst quencher Windhoek.

Having earlier gotten to sample the afore-mentioned dish [expertly presented on wooden platters] prepared by the resident chef, Masekwameng further gave a thumbs-up to the chicken wings and mentioned that the kitchen radiated a sign of good management.

Under the media glare, the spot’s young co-owner, Andile Khutshwayo [fielding the pack’s inquisitivity whilst clutching a certificate confirming his joint having made it into the final eight] offered that winning the competition would translate to the keeping of precious jobs.

Extolling great food and great vibe and where emphasis is about people, under the following payoff line:  Ibuyile! Great Food, Great Vibe, Perfect with a Windhoek – the stops in Soweto meant the search had now identified the nominees who would now battle it out for the grand prize at Nasrec Showgrounds on the 9th of December.

The event’s press release furthermore have on record as having also visited Busy Corner Imbizo Shisanyama in Ivory Park, Midrand and Meat Meet in Diepkloof Zone 3, Soweto.

The supplied information state that Imbizo Shisanyama was founded by Rita ‘Ma’ Zwane in 1997.  From humble beginnings in a shipping container in Ivory Park with a single 2 litre pot, gas griller and display fridge, the venue, commonly known as Busy Corner, is now world renowned as an official African food cuisine, offering the ultimate Braai experience to local and international clientele.

There is, the press release continued, also a butchery adjoining the venue and they offer outside catering to corporate clients, weddings, sports events and any other event they are asked to cater for.

“Cleanliness and excellence are the key core values,” Senzo Mhlongo, Ma Zwane’s son who now helps runs the business as the financial manager and entrepreneur is quoted as explaining.

“I started working in the business when I was still at school,” said Senzo.

“I would clean the floors and wait on tables before I progressed to working on the tills and then becoming one of the managers.  I went on to study finance and economics in Cape Town and now I am the financial manager and business entrepreneur. I have big plan to open something completely different next year which will attract a different clientele.”

Whilst on the other hand, Homi Mukhele opened Meet Meat in 1998 as a small butchery, assisted by her nephew, Nicolas Mulaudzi, who was proving to be a successful entrepreneur after running businesses in glazing, owning Telcom booths and importing clothing from China which he would sell door to door.

In 2008 he joined his aunt full time and opened a Bottle Store and Shisanyama after his friend, Joel Ramurai, funded his first stock.  Over the next 10 years the business has grown substantially, and it has allowed him to branch into property development as well as put his children through private education and college.

“The secret to our success is good marketing and spending money on top DJ’s playing music to attract the youth.  We also ensure that our costs are in line with the economy thereby giving back to the clients that have supported us through the years,” explained Mukhele as gleaned from the advanced information.

E’sociallink co-owner, Andile Khutshwayo fielded media enquiries pending the SA Best Shisanyama Search at the venue on Sunday.

“We wish to thank our loyal customers for voting for Meat Meet as one of the best Shisanyama’s in South Africa.

Hosting Chef Benny is daunting, but also exciting!  We hope that the experience he had with us will put us in the top four to battle it out at the Nasrec Showgrounds on 9th December where the ultimate Shisanyama will be announced,” concluded Mukhele.

Dana Katz, Windhoek Marketing Manager said: “The aim of the search for the best Shisanyama is to reward those who invest the same level of passion and craftsmanship into their Shisanyama as Windhoek does into their beer.”

Whilst Chef Benny reflected, “Selecting the final winner will be no easy task judging by what we have seen so far,” then continuing, “each shisanyama has its own unique selling point, business objective, customer base and they all serve excellent cuisine.

I am excited to see what the final four nominees have to offer.”

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