The people in our lives: Aubrey Batala

Aubrey Batala gets up at 2am every morning and his first thought is whether or not his car is still in the driveway. “After I check my car, I get ready for work”.
Aubrey is a baker at The Foodbarn and has been a part of the team since this business started in 2006.
“I make sure that I pick up my two colleagues and we are at the Deli by 3am”.
Aubrey has worked in the kitchen and in the bakery over the years but he says that the bakery is his favourite. “I really respect Pete and Franck as well as Tim (the head baker) because they make me feel like I am seen. Sometimes I see Tim pacing up and down and I know exactly what he is looking for”
A much respected member of the Masiphimelele community and The Foodbarn, Aubrey speaks of his concerns with the Youth these days. “My father died when I was very young so I was brought up by my mother. I am a lot like her. She is not happy if she is not helping someone. I get my smile from her. I am respected because I believe that respect is mutual, I treat everyone equally. I am not interested in how much money you have”

Life has not always been kind to you, you have lost three children.
“Yes, I think about my son because he died in my arms on a soccer pitch. He was ten years old. He loved soccer; he would have been a star. My other child was knocked over by a taxi at the age of two and my little girl died as an infant”.
You are a soccer coach, how do you find the time?
“I coach soccer in Masi when the kids finish school in the afternoons”
And then you go home to rest?
“First I much watch the soapies, I like the scandalous ones”.
What do you like to eat at the deli?
“At the moment I really love eating our oats breakfast dish.
You spend a lot of time with children, what is the problem with kids today?
“In my day, our boys would go to the bush at about the age of twenty. That transition from boyhood to manhood is very important. These days they go there too young and some of the die. The girls these days are far more outspoken and independent. I have learned that, in my marriage, silence is best when there is conflict. I teach my son that you never lay hands on a woman.”

When Aubrey is asked how he feels about the upcoming elections he simply says:” I smell a rat, there are just too many parties. We need to face the issue of crime and overcrowding in our townships and people must start respecting each other regardless of their different cultures. South Africa has been a better country”.
Its hard to believe that someone who has faced such tragedy is able to come to work and be a constant delight. And at a time when most people are sleeping!
If you walk past the bakery and spot Aubrey, say Hi, his face will light up and it will make your day.

bouchard finlayson chefs table

The people in our lives: James Zvinanamo

Nelson Mandela said: “My country is rich in minerals and gems that lie beneath its soil, but I have always known that its greatest wealth is its people, finer and truer than the purest diamonds.”

The Foodbarn Family is a huge part of what makes this business. We would like to acknowledge these gems and introduce the people that we have grown to love.

If you have been for a meal at our Restaurant, you may have met James Zvinanamo. You certainly can’t miss his incredible smile because its always there. James has been here since 2012 when he was forced to leave Zimbabwe to find a way to support his family.

‘I came here to find a way to escape poverty because I was not able to cope as a farmer in Zim, but instead I found my passion at The Foodbarn. He laughs and says: I left poverty to find poverty”. The 100% passion from our chef, Franck and management, awakened in me a keen interest in food. Franck is my hero, I started working here to make money but instead I found happiness and passion”

James now does a little private chef work for friends and family at weddings and small functions.

‘My dream is to now own a small restaurant in Zim where I supply myself with produce that I grow in a sustainable manor so that I can empower and help my community’

What would you say are your favourite dishes from the Foodbarn?

‘The Prawn Tian is my favourite but I also love the Lamb Rack and most of our fish dishes. The fruit gratins are my favourite desserts’

What foods do you miss from Zimbabwe?

‘I miss the grains that are high in healthy carbs like Rapoko, Sourgum and grains similar to sesame seed’

On any given day, you may find James quietly sitting at the juice bar, reading his bible. James says: ‘My relationship with the higher power is what sustains me and allows me to have a wonderful relationship with my wife and three children. James’s wife is a school teacher in Zimbabwe and his children are with her. ‘It is not easy being away from them”

How do you manage to keep a smile on your face?

‘I smile because I love to work with Franck. I am happy to be here. I want to be like Franck and Lilian is like Nedbank, she makes things happen. ‘

How has it been living amongst South Africans as a Zimbabwean?

‘I see South Africa as the as the next Zimbabwe, politically and economically. There is no “oneness”, no support in black society.’

A true gem indeed, James (affectionately known as Chef Jus amongst his peers), is part of a recipe that works and we are truely proud to call him ‘one of ours’.