INNERVIEW // NOJI GAYLARD ON PHAKA AND WHETHER THERE IS SUCH A THING AS BLACK FOOD

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Noji’s reputation preceded her into my world.  I had been hearing about her kitchen skills from many trusted friends who had eaten at her house or attended her popular open kitchen Sundays, in which she cooked from her kitchen and invited the neighbours and their friends. I finally met her this year when the guys from Keleketla Library suggested we collaborate with her on our (Miss Milli B x Keleketla) plan to have a monthly pop up rooftop kitchen at King Kong for summer and so, Kele Kutya was born.  Noji is a media analyst by day and somehow has found herself in the culinary world through her mobile kitchen Phaka.   This weekend, she and her food writer friend Matthew Burbidge will be headlining the first Kele Kutya event with a fusion menu of traditional local dishes inspired by the Mai Mai Market  and food from other parts of the world. All the details of the event are highlighted in the imaged below but first, a little more about our cook:

What’s your earliest food memory?

That of inyama eyojiweyo – isibindi nomhlehlo – I thought that was the yummiest thing I have ever tasted!

Where did you grow up?

Mqanduli – Eastern Cape

What kind of flavours did you enjoy in your childhood kitchen?

Savoury tomato based stews – still some of my favourite flavours until today!

What was the best meal you’ve ever had?

I was in Durban recently and had plate of mutton curry, carrot salad, veg pickle and roti – that food was the best food I have ever eaten in my life. I’m still thinking about it! Not forgetting the plate of food I had at my cousin’s funeral – memorable too. And the treats that my  friend Matthew makes for me every week – to die for!

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How was Phaka born?

I was at home raising my last born until she went to preschool. During that time I cooked for small groups of people and gave the catering endeavour the name PHAKA since Luntu was calling Pathik, her older brother, PHAKA as she was only learning to speak during that time; so I just stole it from her cause that name made sense for my purposes. (Phaka means to dish up in Xhosa)

Do you think Joburg’s culinary scene is good?

Joburg’s culinary scene is not good but great! I have had the privilege to travel to places outside South Africa where prices for food are too steep and the food is not too great. The only thing that is lacking in South Africa is a chain food shop that makes traditional South African delights; these places are always so informal that one thinks twice about buying igwinya from a woman on the side of the street with a not so clean bucket to dish out from.

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Why this collaboration with Keleketla?

I have worked with Keleketla before; I like their approach to events; it’s always accommodating and straight forward and they are very good at identifying the target market they want to attract – so it’s easy for me to make a menu for them.

Why have you chosen to do a Mai Mai inspired menu?

Mai mai is famous for braaing meat for mainly the Zulu community in town and it is one of the oldest markets in JHB. I want to bring this culinary experience to people who would not normally go to Mai Mai for food. I want to introduce them to an authentic South African braai taste and experience. Jabu who owns a stall kwa-Mai Mai will treat them to a wood fired braai – with the not so well known braai meats, like ox heart, on offer.

What can diners expect from this part of Joburg’s culinary offering?

Something that lots of them have never come across infact – the people who will be cooking, the food and the taste; it will all be a very new experience for most people I think.

Tell us about your partnership with Matthew, what is your food relationship?

Matthew is my cooking brother! I love his seriousness about his cooking abilities – he has an extensive collection of cook books – so he cooks and tests some recipes on me and my family; then I take some of these recipes and modify them for my house by using whatever I have available in the house to make his recipes. They always come out great! ‘

Is there such a thing as black food?

No.

Ends

We’ve received numerous requests to make tickets available at the door so you can also buy tickets at the door for Saturday and Sunday. For any other details you can email me@missmillib.co.za or admin@keleketla.co.za – I would advise buying your tickets before to avoid not having a place on either days as we can only accommodate 100 people on each day. On Saturday night, Keleketla will also host the launch of Sweet Medicine, the first novel by my Feminist Stokvel sister, Vanguard Editor and Ruth First Fellow, Panashe Chigumadzi. It’s a free event and it starts at 18.00 for 19.00.

Image credit: My African Food Map

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