It had been a big gig at the castle the night before, and leaping around to the pumping sounds of Prime Circle while downing vodka shots had seemed a good idea at the time. Less so now as I found myself rinsing large chunks of raw meat under an industrial tap in a converted container.
It was Pam’s fault. She had told me that this would be a fun and interesting way to spend a Saturday morning, and what with Pam being a bit of a gourmet and wine-buff and a thoroughly knowledgeable and engaging person to boot, I was inclined to believe her. Despite my best attempts to feel really awful, she was absolutely right.
We were at Eziko, a cookery school and restaurant in the heart of Langa township just 10 minutes drive from Cape Town. Established in 1996 by a former Langa High School teacher, Victor Mguqulwa, the restaurant is designed not so much as a showcase of the students’ efforts, but more simply to fund the teaching of the students. Selected for their commitment and enthusiasm, each of the students comes from a background so disadvantaged that they struggle to pay the R7 per day which covers not just bus fares but the cost of the classroom instruction and in-house training. Thanks to Victor’s scheme, more than 80% of the students not only complete the training, but go on to get jobs in the catering industry.
Pam had arranged for us to spend the morning with Lindie Koza, the head teacher of the school. Lindie was tiny ball of energy and laughter, bright eyes blinking away behind her glasses as she showed a small group of us how to prepare some favourite African dishes such as samp and beans, lamb stew, pap and chakalaka. We worked alongside some of the students to get the simple dishes going, then took a tour of the school while the food cooked. We even had a chance to speak to Victor, a charming, eloquent man who has dedicated his life to the education and upliftment of others. What he has achieved is a lesson to us all – a simple concept, perfectly executed, where everyone is a winner.
Back in the pretty restaurant good smells were drifting in from the kitchen, and a hugely varied menu was chalked up on the board. A gaggle of others had arrived for lunch – some clearly regulars and an American couple with a tour guide. We sat with Lindie and knocked back some of her famous ginger beer while she answered our questions about anything from the differences in samp flour to the finer points of Xhosa culture over a delicious lunch. Then, after a lightning change from her chef’s whites into a floaty pink ensemble, she joined us on a quick tour of the township, pointing out her church and her house and telling us stories about Langa. It was also a chance to orientate myself – I for one will be going back to Eziko very soon.