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On the weekend of 1 May 2015 Food Cycle opened it’s first kitchen, with the help of the Diepsloot Mountain Bike Academy (DMA), at Northern Farms in Johannesburg.
The kitchen has been in the pipeline since Food Cycle’s inception just under a year ago and is the brain-child of celebrity chef, David Higgs. Food Cycle, in partnership with the Saxon Hotel, took on two boys from Diepsloot as chefs-in-training, under the mentorship of David in the Saxon’s kitchen. Tsepo and Tendani are now part of the furniture at the Saxon and, after a year of practical training in David’s kitchen, have started their theoretical chef’s course to obtain a diploma in cooking.
The long-term goal was always to create a self-sustainable platform for youngsters from previously disadvantaged communities to enter the industry. David is confident that Tendani and Tsepo, along with four other girls from Diesploot, are now equipped to run a small kitchen on their own.
The kitchen’s function is two-fold; firstly, it will serve the coffee shop business which provides food and drinks to the cyclists who ride on the farm on the weekends and, in this way, the chefs will learn about running a business; the costing, preparation and hard-work that this entails. Secondly, the kitchen will prepare meals for the children of Diepsloot who form part of the DMA and ride on the farm every weekend. It was of great concern to David when he rode on the farm and noticed the kids riding each weekend but often going home without having eaten something. This will ensure that the kids are well nourished and will enable them to ride and learn better.
The goal, therefore, is that the kitchen is self-sustainable. The chefs are able to earn an income while also learning the practicalities of running a business as well as being able to generate enough income to keep the coffee-shop fully stocked for the cyclists as well as for the meals for the children of the DMA.
The opening weekend was a huge success with a lot of positive feed back from the riders. More rewarding for us, was the smiles on the chefs faces as they grew in confidence serving the customers for three consecutive days and, of course, the ability to feed the DMA kids all three days.
This model, David believes, is a platform for Tsepo, Tendani and the girls working in the kitchen. This is not the end of the road for them, but rather just a starting block. The goal is to continuously train new youngsters who can pass their knowledge on to each other and, also, pass the roles on in the kitchen. The project enables the youth to obtain skills which are vital in running and working in a successful kitchen; people skills, stock-taking, cooking, ordering, cleaning and of course, interaction with customers in the front-of-house. The long-term goal is to move the youngsters who have had experience in the Food Cycle kitchen into the industry; whether it be in hotels restaurants or coffee shops. New, eager youngsters will then be given the opportunity to replace the seniors in the kitchen at Northern Farms. The idea of sustainability and longevity as well as continuous growth is central to this project. It is important to us that there is growth within the Diepsloot community and that the kitchen remains a beacon of hope that belongs to the youth of Diepsloot.
The partnership with DMA is a unique one and seemed so natural. The Academy has given all of its graduates an opportunity to do something constructive on the weekends. Through the Academy, the kids have been given a sense of hierarchy by way of the leadership roles given to the senior, team captains. They have also been taught the importance of discipline. These attributes are all vital in a kitchen and therefore the kids from the DMA are ideal feeders to the Food Cycle kitchen and, ultimately, into the hospitality industry.
The setting-up of the kitchen would not have been possible without the assistance of Bidvest Food Service, Culinary Equipment Company and the DMA as well as various very generous sponsors within the cooking industry who offered their time, advice and donations of equipment and kitchen supplies.
A special thank you to:
The coffee-shop is a dream come true in many regards. It truly is a winning combination of food and cycling. Food Cycle is excited about the future of Northern Farms, the DMA, the coffee shop and, most importantly, of all those boys and girls who are able to obtain skills and confidence through working in this brand new kitchen.
The saying goes: give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.