The people in our lives: Queenie

When Elizabeth Zimowa first starting working here in 2010 as a mom of a 3 year old boy, she was a cashier at our Deli. It is customary to receive a nickname in our business and Elizabeth quickly became Queen … after THE Queen Elizabeth … Back then we received many a compliment about the smiling, beautiful face behind the counter. As time went by, she started waitressing at Tapas and eventually the main restaurant. She is now our receptionist and admin lady … the voice of the Foodbarn. There is not much about this business this young woman does not know.

What made you leave Zimbabwe?

I was unemployed and in search of “greener pastures”. My aunt who lived here, suggested I come so I lived with her in Khayelitsha for some time. I left my husband Bester behind (he is now working at the Village Roast, also in the Farm Village) and decided to look for something. I have lived in so many places like Elsies River, Ravensmead, Delft etc.

How is it that your Xhosa is so good?

I was born in Bulawayo and my mom was Ndebele; I picked it up easily

What do you love most about The Foodbarn?

There is no place like the Foodbarn. There is an opportunity for everyone to grow. The people are friendly. I enjoy my bosses (Pete, Franck and Lilian) and I enjoy sharing an office with them.

What are the challenges of the work you do?

“At first it was a bit challenging because I have to do so many things at the same time but now I enjoy it very much”

Queenie has recently qualified as a beauty therapist. She managed to do this in her own time. “My idea is to do it for extra income and I just love everything about beauty therapy. I am not leaving the Foodbarn anytime soon though”

What is the most difficult thing about being a working mom?

“For me, it’s not so difficult because I have a very supportive husband that helps with the kids and chores”

What do you do in your spare time?

“My spare time is scarce”, she laughs. When I get home, I try to spend time with the kids at the park, do homework. I’m quite a homely person.”

You always mange to look so lovely, what is your secret?

“I work so hard so I try to treat myself to something every month, maybe getting my hair done. I am a wig fanatic!” That is the truth, Queen has different hair every day!

Has South Africa given you a new home?

“It has but I will always dream about home and hope to get back there one day”

What is your advice to young women who are desperately looking for work?

“They should not stop looking; we all have to start somewhere.”

Do you eat Foodbarn Food?

‘Yes! I love the salads we get every day because I am trying to lose weight”. But as for the food on the menu, I have always loved the prawn tian even though it is not on the menu now. At the deli, my favourite is the chicken open toastie.

We are very proud to have “Queen” Elizabeth as the person that deals with our clients on the phone. The face is just as lovely as the voice and we love having her here!

The people in our lives: Aaron lemon

When Aaron Lemon dreamt of being a sportsman growing up in Zimbabwe, he never imagined that he would end up at the Foodbarn!! 

“I left Zim when I was 18 to pursue my education in South Africa. When I got here, I realized that this was not possible and the cost of studies was beyond what I could afford. This is when I started working in a restaurant.”

In time, Aaron ended up at the Foodbarn as an intern. Fast forward six years and we are immensely proud to call Aaron the head chef at the Foodbarn, working directly under Franck. “I think Franck is a genius and he has taught me everything, he continues to teach me every day. Now this is the career I choose and love”

What is it that you enjoy about working at the Foodbarn the most?

“Every day is different, there are no two days that are the same.”

What is the most important thing about working with Franck?

“With Franck, consistency is the most important, you have to keep the standards and food has to be consistent”

What do you like to eat?

“I love my meat so my favourite is the rack of lamb. I am a skinny guy but I love my meat” Aaron says as he giggles.

Aaron has a laugh that can put anyone in a good mood and he seems to be happy all the time. Its amazing how such a sweet, gentleman has the full respect of his team in the kitchen and the Front of House.

You are always smiling

“Yes, Pete always teases me about that. I am a happy guy and the Foodbarn team is my family. I just think that if you love what you do, you never work a day and that is what I do”

You are about to become a dad, how does that make you feel

“ I am looking forward to the experience. There are guys here with kids, if they can do it, I can do it. I want to make sure that my daughter has all the things I could never have”

Aaron will soon be welcoming his daughter in to the world. His partner, Faith also works at the Foodbarn in the kitchen.

What do you get up to when you are not working

My whole family lives here so I spend a lot of time with them. I love to read and I enjoy sports. I just like to have fun

What advice can you give to young chefs

You have to be patient, you will get there

How do you feel about South Africa

“Sometimes I think that this country is going to be the same as Zimbabwe but I love being here and if we work together as a nation, it will be fine. I love what South Africa has taught me. The cultures here are very diverse and I have learnt different languages. I see it as home even though I dream of one day opening a restaurant in Zim!

If you have ever wondered who is in the kitchen when Franck is not around, now you know. Aaron is a gem and we are so pleased and proud that he found us and thinks of us as family. Pop in and say hi to this young man, you can’t miss the incredible laugh.

The people in our lives: Gladys Mhlekwa

I walk outside in to the courtyard and find Gladys Mhlekwa washing the restaurant chairs.I take a chair and tell her that I would like to know more about her. Gladys giggles an infectious giggle of a young girl and starts telling me about herself.“I used to work at the KFC in Fish Hoek and then for a long time I had nothing. Three years ago I came to the Foodbarn.”

This single, 46 year old mom was forced to leave an alcoholic husband and make her own way with three children.“I never managed to finish grade 12 but here I am and now I support my family. I tell my girls that they should be independent and not rely on a man. I tell them that babies should not come when you are too young. First you need an education. I worry about pregnancy and diseases and try to teach them that school is more important”

Anyone who comes across Gladys, comes across a woman that never rests, she works like a Trojan and always manages to find something to do. Mostly, she is in the tiny laundry room, ironing and washing our linen. Gladys sometimes gets annoyed when the linen is not treated with respect!
“I love working, it makes me happy”. This is obvious because Gladys always seems so happy. “I cannot remember a time when I was not a happy person, it’s my personality, I have a good attitude”

What do you enjoy most about working at the Foodbarn?
“I have learned a lot, we are like a family. My bosses are good to me and they speak to me in a kind manner”

What do you do for fun?
“I love to read. I read everything from the newspaper, magazines, and books. I also love Gospel music”.

What do you do when you are not working?
“I go to church. I am part of a parenting project in Masiphumelele. We try to encourage people that have no hope. Sometimes, people who drink don’t see another way. We visit these people and try to encourage them to see things differently. If I have something to give, I give them old clothing. “

You lost your family within a short period of time
“Yes, I lost my mom, my dad, my brother and the father of my children within 5 years. Now I look after myself”.

Gladys has a fiancé, so who knows, maybe another wedding is on the cards.
What message would you like to put out there?
“You have one life, enjoy it even when it is difficult, and don’t punish yourself”

A beautiful, humble woman that we are proud to have working with us. You are not likely to bump in to “Glady” at the Restaurant since most of her time is spent in her “laundry “but we are more than happy for her to come out and say “hi” to you and spread some of her love.

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.

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’.