Last week, I attended the media launch for the Knorr #MyMzansiPasta campaign and one of the Chefs leading the campaign is Sithembiso Ndashe of Ndash Food Concepts. I have been following his business via Instagram and I absolutely love what they do. Luckily, Sithembiso managed to spare 10 minutes for us to get to know him better. Read our interview below….
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Sithembiso?
I come from small Township Called Naas / Kwamaqhekeza in Enkomazi district about 140KM from Nelspruit, surrounded by the Mozambique and Swaziland Boarder gate. I completed my Matric in Lowveld high school in Nelspruit (2001), moved to Durban and completed my National Diploma in Marketing in 2005 at the Durban University of Technology. I started working for Coke immediately after finishing my studies.
In 2006, then moved to JHB in media from 2007 until 2013 having worked for Times Media, Media Mark, Caxton Publishers and ETV.
When did you get the idea to start Ndash Food?
Actually growing up I have always been a party host / events since high school, in varsity I held a position for events coordinator and dreamt that one day I will own a lounge. I did some research on owning franchises but it was not worth it and cost a lot of money to start up. In 2013 I was hired to setup a new Online / Digital media Division for eTV sales but after many years I felt that I wanted change so I resigned and didn’t know what to do from there onwards. This idea of hosting something unique which didn’t exist in Midrand came to me. In 2013, I hosted my first POP up then from there it started growing to being more than just a POP up. We ventured into catering services, food solutions and now shaping up into one day becoming a restaurant.
Who taught you how to cook? Did you go to a cooking school or cooking comes as a gift?
Funny enough no one did, but my father used to love cooking and my mother was boss in the kitchen and I guess that’s how I fell in love with the kitchen. Obviously when I wanted to try something I would ask my mother and she would tell me how to do it but I always added my own touch.
Around 2005 I was staying with my father and little brother cause my mother had to go to school and my father would travel a lot cause of work or come back late and the helpers we had couldn’t cook. So from there the passion for pots started but later became a skill as cooking for girls was just another way of becoming prince charming. To answer your question, I have never been formally trained as a Chef.
What is your favourite traditional dish?
I would say Amanqina (Pork trotters) in my POP up I sell it as our signature dish. The reason is that when I was growing up traditional food was just prepared bland , it was just food or meat boiled and mixed with salt. With this dish we’ve switched it up and added a lot of beautiful flavours and for that it is our bestselling dish even those who didn’t like amanqina (pork trotters) are hooked. We just took a simple meal added a lot of passion and it came out with a winner.
What are the dishes you sell at you POP ups?
We took about 5 of Mzansi’s most loved dishes, Mogodu (Tripe), Beef Stew, Hard body chicken, Maotwana (Chicken feet) and Amanqina (Pork Trotters) and added some Ndash Factor from how we prepare them, cut them to the simple flavours we add in each dish. Each person has a story with each meal they get from us, they have a history and memories and we just gave them a new story that comes with a new delicious taste.
Tell us about the people who attend your events to enjoy your food. Is it just locals or international visitors as well?
From inception of our business model, our target has been broken to two factors; primary we cater for the black middle class / black professionals and secondary we catering for people who want to experience the truth South African food experience. Those are locals and also international visitors who are brought to us by friends and they refer others and so on. We have had people from all over Africa, Europe, USA and Asia.
What are your plans for Ndash Foods in the next 5 years?
To open a restaurant that offers a true South African food experience soon, the kind that offers this historic and rich food culture of South Africa to the world. Also to start working with big corporate brands and partner with them in creating very unique and stylish pop up kitchen outside Gauteng.
How do you feel about being the an ambassador for the Knorr #MyMzansiPasta Campaign?