Having first visited Makers Landing in August 2020, when it was a construction site requiring great imagination to visualise the end result, it was heartening to return in February 2021 to witness the dreams come to life.
It is part of the cruise ship terminal – that part is still in the future – but the space has come to life pretty much as project manager West Wilkinson outlined it last year. There are on-site artisans baking and brewing, a sit-down restaurant, a huge bar and seating area (destined to become a market), pods selling cheeses and chicken wings, a demo kitchen and an incubator which is nurturing new food entrepreneurs.
“Honestly, I think if I had had to paint the picture of opening the doors on December 10, 2020 when I met you I don’t think I could imagine a better way of opening,” said Wilkinson. “We really have an incredible mix of the most amazing businesses here and the stories coming out of where they came from, who they are, what they are creating…the tenant mix is more than we could ever have hoped for.”
The mission to create a place where locals and – eventually – tourists can taste and enjoy a mélange of South African food under one roof has been achieved. At the entrance is Pitso’s Kitchen which not only braais meat but serves things like smileys and chicken feet which previously you’d be hard-pressed to find outside the townships. There is Indian street food, a tiny sit-down restaurant presenting a fine-dining take on Zulu favourites, and the man who beat the aunties at their koesister game.
Here you’ll find a brewery and a distillery, a butcher and a baker (not sure about the candlestick maker, but there is The Larder which is filled with products made by women and women-led independent brands so not ruling it out), sweet sugary treats and freshly squeezed juices, and coming soon is a mussel and oyster bar where you can have your shellfish plucked directly from the tank.
“It’s definitely becoming more magical as it’s becoming fuller,” said Wilkinson.
“I think we launched with pretty good traction and amazing energy. In the first two weeks we saw remarkable footfall given it was a brand new space in the middle of a pandemic. We did hit a bit of a bump in the road after Christmas, as I think everyone did, but I think what it did do was force our hand to start looking how to build these businesses with more resilience.
“We had to start reimagining not only how these businesses live in a physical environment but how do they live online? What does that look like? How do we get them engaging with the online community?”
Within 48 hours, the concept of delivery/collection boxes was created, an experiment which is improving over time, added Wilkinson. “And we are now hoping to soon go live ((SUBS 12/02)) with a new concept on UberEats which will include all the tenants in an online market. People will be able to fill a basket with bread, cheese, wine, as well as have a meal or a coffee, all delivered together.
“It’s very exciting because it does create the ability for these entrepreneurs to realise there’s another way to reach their customers who are perhaps reluctant to come into a market environment.”
The demo kitchen is showing itself to be a success as well. The intention was always to be a family friendly place and the kitchen was to represent that. Children’s cooking classes are held on Saturdays and Sundays, short 45-minute slots to accommodate the attention span of those aged between five and 12 years old. Junior masterclasses for teens are coming in March – a great way to find out if a career is food is the right choice – as well as adult group sessions which will include dinner experiences and food and wine pairings.
“The other area that is arguably the most important space within Makers Landing, is our Kitchen Incubator,” said Andy Fenner, a member of the curatorial panel. “Here, eight brands/businesses have been selected by the team to undergo a six month programme, with access to industrial ovens, walk-in fridges, storage etc. A curriculum has been developed in partnership with Stellenbosch University Launch Labs with a wide range of topics covered. The businesses will exit the incubator with a huge advantage, as they look to carve out a space in the market. In June 2021, the next incubatees will enter the programme.”
The large space in front of the bar is designated the event area; it currently contains benches and tables for visitors to sit down for their meals foraged from the various vendors, but it initially opened as a pop-up market, and will return to that eventually but in a more permanent yet flexible guise.
“We want to create a sense of something new every other month but at the same time we are protective over the tenants who are here, who have not only made the financial commitment (signing one year leases) but also having the courage to step into an opportunity like this,” said Wilkinson.
“The 10 entrepreneurs who popped up in December, mostly came from the incubator, showcasing their products. They’re still working on their products in the incubator kitchen. We’ve got eight incredible early stage businesses that are being taken through an online education process as well as in-class and in-kitchen.”
While there is this level of commitment, Makers Landing is intended as a stepping stone to graduate as businesses grow: from incubator to market, from market to pod, from pod into bricks and mortar.
“I think we’ve been very fortunate to have an incredible partner like V&A Waterfront driving this in the background. It’s the best place to be in terms of support, and they do offer an array of services that go beyond just financial support,” said Wilkinson.
The makers themselves are a critical part of this project. Them being on-site offers a wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with them; Wilkinson is correct: there are some great stories.
Mmabatho Molefe, for example. She runs the tiny harbour-facing restaurant called Emazulwini. Molefe was retrenched from Salsify At The Roundhouse during lockdown. With previous experience at Aubergine, she has used her skills to present traditional Zulu cuisine in a fine dining context. “It’s the food we grew up eating, prepared in a modern way, especially desserts. One is uphuthu namasi, which is basically sour milk with mielie meal – not a stiff pap, you make it dry, krummel pap. We make maize cake – almond cake with maize added – with amasi ice cream, whey jelly, whey caramel, and puffed maize rice,” she explained.
“It’s been great – quiet, but what we needed to get into the space and find our routine,” said Molefe. “But most of all it’s been growing so much since opening day. Part of the space is to teach and we really are learning a lot from the curators and established businesses.”
It was a hot day and if you know anything about chocolate you know it’s going to be in a cool, controlled environment. So we sneakily popped into Afrikoa – chocolatiers championing African beans, sourced from small rural communities – and left with a box packed with nine yummy assorted truffles chosen by head chocolatier Arno Ralph. These are made on-site, and there are about a dozen flavours including cream-based, vegan, and alcoholic.
Pitso Chauke from Pitso’s Kitchen is a large jolly man with an infectious laugh. “What do you do here?” I asked. “We do strictly South African cuisine,” he said, chuckling. Okay, and what exactly is that, I prompted.
“We do chicken feet, trotters, pap, samp, smileys…also cow heads cut into small pieces. We throw away the bone and make the meat into a stew. We also do braai,” he said.
This is bringing the township to town. “People who live in the city have to go to the townships to feel at home but now they can come here – save on petrol and feel safe,” said Chauke. “We are giving them what they want. We’re also big on social media, 90K followers on Instagram, so people are aware of us and we’re tapping into a new market – tourists, cruise passengers…”
And of course white people, let’s be frank. “White people are buying but if I can be honest with you, they’re not mainly Capetonians; it’s people who grew up on a farm or in Joburg. About 15% of our customers are white people, and another five percent are white people dating black people,” Chauke guffawed.
In his previous life, Chauke was a police detective, working, as it happens, right there at the harbour police station, bringing his journey 360 degrees. At that rank, working hours were 9 to 5 so on weekends Chauke, who comes from Limpopo, would have his friends around to eat and drink. “The idea came from there,” he said. “I’d been looking for this kind of food in Cape Town but couldn’t find it anywhere so why not start selling it?”
Ashleigh Frans and Strone Henry are a couple – he is a trained chef, she is a photographer – who decided to take the leap and began to make chicken wings in Henry’s mom’s Ottery kitchen in 2017. Their first batch of 7kgs sold out after spreading the word on social media and Whatsapp and covered the cost of the fryer. After a while (two years, a very patient mother), they built a full industrial kitchen in the garage which served them up until they moved into Makers Landing.
Side Wing specialises in chicken wings, but also makes tacos and – wait for it – doughnut burgers. The menu changes monthly but you’ll always find BBQ and buffalo wings, and a variety of sauces including one speciality sauce which will include a combination of some sort of fruit, chilli and alcohol, said Henry.
“A good social media profile was a factor in the success of Side Wing. We probably wouldn’t have a business without it,” he said.
Social media and Whatsapp served Faieez Alexander aka Fuzzy well too. As a tour guide, his income disappeared overnight when lockdown crippled the tourism and hospitality industries in March 2020. He had to hustle, and hustle hard. Alexander decided to make the much-loved traditional Sunday treat, koesisters, those soft, warm, sweet and spicy balls of dough dipped in sugar syrup and dusted with coconut.
Koesisters are not the simplest thing to make; the recipe is long and complex. “It’s a sophisticated thing,” said Alexander.
He made a batch for the family, then told his wife a week later he was going to take it up a level – 2,100 levels to be exact. They fried late into that Saturday night in May, on a gas stove in the garage, to be ready to sell at 7am on Sunday. “My wife wanted to know how I was planning to market it, so I said ‘everybody knows everybody, so we’ll market on Facebook, Whatsapp, and demand our families come buy’,” he laughed.
They sold 2,000 koesisters.
“I thought initially it was phenomenal, that it was people being courteous and assisting us, as we weren’t asking for handouts, we made something in return. Then we did it the next week, and it was similar. We sold every Sunday 7am till 11am – the koesister is always looked at as a Sunday thing. We got good compliments,” said Alexander.
In September 2020, Alexander entered the annual Vannie Kaap/KFM Koesister Day competition and you can probably see this coming: he won. That’s right. A man beat all the aunties.
He may be making the best koesister in the Cape but Alexander is not resting on his laurels. He has the goal of getting the humble treat into retail stores around the country, and introducing it to a new market. It’s not just about the Cape Flats and Bo-Kaap. As much as we know the Sunday ritual, and how they are best when they’re warm, Alexander has found that freezing the koesisters up to four months can be a successful way of having them on hand whenever the lus strikes. This means putting them into supermarkets is not impossible. They’re fried already so all the customer has to do is pop them in the sugar syrup and dust them with coconut. I had one fresh out of the pot, and four in a brown paper bag to go, which I had to put in the boot of my car so I didn’t eat them all before getting home.
Upstairs you’ll find the installation of 100 core flavours of South Africa, as well as Ukhamba Beerworx, which is owned by Noluyanda Roxwana and Lethu Tshabangu. It contains a tiny brewery, a bar and comfortable lounge area, and a small outside deck with umbrellas and a view of the harbour.
When they met, Roxwana was brewing beer as a hobby; nowadays she leaves that to her husband and takes care of everything else behind the scenes. Lockdown has been tough for them, and they were only able to trade for eight days at Makers Landing before the alcohol ban shut them down.
“I don’t think anyone understands the impact on the value chain of the whole business,” said Roxwana. “Our landlord has been very understanding.”
Ukhamba has three beers on tap and bottled. iBhiya is a premium lager; Utywala sorghum saison (a pale ale) is a more refined filtered version of umqombothi (maize, maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water). “More like porridge, so it can’t be put in a bottle,” said Roxwana.
As for the State Capture IPA, Roxwana laughs uproariously. “In a cheeky kind of way we draw inspiration from what’s happening in the country, current affairs, politics and all that to name our beers. I believe this is one of the best IPAs in the country, I’ve yet to find anyone who makes a better one,” she said confidently.
Finally, when you ambitiously parked on the other side of the Waterfront when you were three hours younger and full of hope, making deals with yourself that the walk there and back will do you good, but now it’s middle-of-the-day hot and you’re carrying a bag of goodies which include delicate chocolates in danger of melting into a puddle and a hefty jar of gin-infused peach jam, and you spy the signpost for the free shuttle service and before you can look up the schedule, it pulls up at the kerb, driven by Avril O’Connor from The Green Cab, an eco-friendly women-owned and -operated company and employing mainly women, and you get a lift back to where you began, you really have to marvel at the care and attention given to providing an excellent all-round experience.
MAKERS LANDING TENANTS
Sweet LionHeart: All-female bakery, event cakes retail items, online courses and workshops.
Pienaar & Son: Small independent distillery and bar.
B2: Iced antioxidant drink made by extracting oil from blueberry leaves and combining it with blueberry juice and rooibos.
The Bread Bar: Artisanal bakery.
Moses Coffee: Moses Lebofa is a coffee expert and educator. He has amazing plans to create a barista academy for emerging black talent from township communities.
Sunshine Food Co: Elisha Madzivadondo farms his own sprouts and microgreens and uses them to create an impressive vegan menu.
Spinach King: Lufefe Nomjana began in Khayelitsha where he was on a mission to get vegetables into his community. He worked out that mixing spinach into bread dough was a way to do this.
The Cheese Pod: A new concept from Wild Peacock, with a huge range of interesting, local cheeses.
MOSI: My Kitchen Rules contestants G and OG (Gomotsegang Modeselle and Oginga Siwundla), who are reinterpreting pap en vleis.
Kapoochka: Highly trained and experienced chef from Mumbai Hitesh Panchal was running the catering division at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). He wanted to have more fun and is now doing Indian street food.
Indikaap Vegan Ayurveda: Michele Mistry has a philosophy that balance and harmony can be achieved through nutrition. She uses food as a way of achieving this by combining very specific ingredients for delicious results mainly based around Indian food, with some global influences.
For more information, click here. DM/TGIFood
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