Dreaming of Siba's Kitchen: Eziko Community Cooking School

Wednesday, 16 August, 2017
Elizma Myburgh
Elizma visited Eziko (a not-for-profit cooking school in Langa township) and asked the culinary students about their roots and aspirations for a career in food and wine. She also interviewed the school's founder Victor Mguqulwa, about his vision to help young people from disadvantaged communities gain the skills required to enter the Cape's prosperous hospitality industry.

Wine educator Cathy Marston recently presented WSET level 1 to the culinary students at Eziko. The course was sponsored by The International Wine Challenge. For many of the students it was their first introduction into the world of wine.

Victor Mguqulwa, a teacher by profession, founded Eziko in 1996 with limited donor funding.
"A cooking school because people in these communities are not skilled, but they expect to be able to get a job. You cannot get a job unless you are skilled."
Victor believes that wine education can unlock careers for students from traditional black communites in the Cape's world class hospitality industry.
"Wine is the thing in our country. We are one of the best (wine producing countries in the world). We need more people who can appreciate and understand wine."
He also believes that more wine awareness amongst a rapidly growing black middle class will also benefit the industry by creating an attractive new domestic market for wine.

Langa is the oldest black township of Cape Town. Late morning the streets are filled with friendly chatter amongst pedestrians, in between the hooting of taxis and loud music from shebeens and passing cars.

I spoke to some of the current students at Eziko between classes and wanted to hear from them about their backgrounds, hopes and dreams for a career in food and wine.

Qumani grew up in Langa, even though his family is from the Eastern Cape. He described it as a place full of the spirit of Ubuntu.
“Langa is a vibrant place. It is the first township in Cape Town ... most of the people know each other. People are full of love, you know, like everybody is friendly in Langa..."

Irene comes from Zimbabwe. Her dream was to become an air hostess, but her sister being a chef convinced her to come to South Africa a year ago and attend Eziko's cooking school. As a person who has always enjoyed cooking and decorating, she loved the course. She has also realized that being a chef could also open doors for her to travel the world.
"When I came here I saw that, if you are a chef you can travel the world. So that really motivates me to become a chef. I do it with all my heart, because I want to see the world."

Esona was born in the Eastern Cape, but grew up in Cape Town. In high school she decided that she wanted to become a chef.
"My mother said to me that to become a chef is a lot of work, you work too hard. Then I said I don't mind - I want to be a chef. She wanted me to follow in her footsteps, to be a nurse, but that's not my thing."

Lorna is 27 years old and mother of two. Through Eziko she has secured an internship at Cape Town's prestigious Cape Grace Hotel.
"It is a great experience... Cape Grace Hotel is one of the top five star hotels..."

In high school Qumani dreamed of becoming an architect. He dropped out of college and is now attending Eziko with the hope of one day establishing his own catering business.
"I was studying civil engineering. Plumbing wasn't my thing, like fixing toilets, that was kind of nasty for me..."

Olwethu studied marketing and the electrical trade before deciding to instead pursue a career as a chef, as she has always loved cooking. Her inspiration for cooking was her grandmother who raised her and her sister. Olwethu's favorite meal is Umqa, a combination of mealie meal and pumkin. Her granny is now 94 years old and still prepares Umqa in a cast iron pot.
"Especially when it is cold and raining outside, when she cooks that meal, it brings back all the memories..."

Irene on the other hand loves the Italian food she has been exposed to during her studies. Risotto is her favourite.
"It is very good for a chef to know wines, because you can't serve a person food without knowing what kind of wine you can serve with it."

A number of the students dream of one day being a celebrity chef with their own cooking show, like Siba's Kitchen or J'Something.
"I wish I could be like Siba, having my own kitchen and doing things like that..."