The chef behind the cheesy samp dish Cape Town can’t get enough of

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The chef behind the cheesy samp dish Cape Town can't get enough of

We’re talking to Nolu Dube-Cele, chef and owner of Seven Colours Eatery in Cape Town. Like many other small businesses, she’s had to pivot to keep her business operational during lockdown. We find out what she’s been busy with.

1. Tell us a little about the process of adapting your business to offer your Seven Colours experience at home?

As a result of Covid 19 we could no longer do on-site catering, be at markets, event venues or be in peoples homes cooking traditional South African food. Our option was to bring the food to diners’ homes. We are privileged to do what we love, which is cooking, however a delivery business is a totally different ball game. We’ve always loved showcasing our cooking, for example serving a roosterkoek straight from the braai. And we love that social interaction with customers. To be honest, this whole thing has been a new learning experience for us – and we continue to learn and look at ways we can improve.


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2. How do you come up with your menus? What inspires you?

We have a set menu but we also love customising menus for our clients. I come from rural Eastern Cape, and despite living in Cape Town for more than 12 years, I don’t consider Cape Town home. I plan a trip to the Eastern Cape at least once a year, to fill up my love tank. When I am feeling overwhelmed by life, I hit the road and go home for healing and rejuvenation. This is also a common practice amongst black South Africans who have relocated to the Western Cape.  During lockdown I wanted to bring this sense of  home to my customers – comfort, hope and healing. I then selected dishes that I would normally eat when in the Eastern Cape. I also selected  a couple of favourites from the markets, as I knew my market customers would miss their weekly fix during lockdown.


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3. How has the response been so far?

The response has been amazing, our customers appreciated having their home cuisine easily accessible. Prior to lockdown we were mostly doing exclusive lunches and dinners for a lot of international visitors. So it’s been so wonderful to connect with the locals on a daily basis. Usually we would occasionally only connect at markets and festivals.

4. Can you talk us through one dish that you’re especially proud of? Or perhaps, one of the most popular dishes?

Baked creamy cheesy samp. We wanted to create a comfort dish  that would excite kids too, because when you say traditional food the kids say ‘boring’. I remembered how my own niece loves ordering ‘mac and cheese’, and me being envious that it was only on the kiddies menu. We basically make a rich creamy cheese sauce with a mix of Parmesan and cheddar and a hint of nutmeg. Cooked samp is added to the sauce, layered with more cheese and baked in the oven to achieve a little bit of a crispy cheese topping. It’s simple like a classic ‘mac and cheese’, but it’s one of our popular dishes. A new experience for those who have never tasted samp before, but also a bit of an adventure for those who grew up eating samp, and just want something different. Samp is a common staple food in South Africa. It’s home made out of dried maize corn kernels, often slow cooked with beans or boiled served with a stew. With traditional food I feel it’s so difficult to create something where no one feels left out and I feel this dish has become popular not because of complexity or a new flavour or foraged ingredient, but simply because it speaks to most people.

5. When things return to some kind of ‘normalcy’, do you think you’d continue to offer these at-home experiences?

Yes. Through home experiences we developed new ways of spreading our plate and an additional source of revenue. Under ‘normalcy’ I will believe there will still be a need for traditional South African food experiences delivered in the comfort of home.

6. Would you be able to tell us a little about the pricing process? How do you ensure this remains profitable and worthwhile for your business?

When lockdown started our main goal was to introduce our product to our local customers. Our strategy was to start with low and affordable prices to entice new clients, as well as attract a more diverse customer base. In order for us to do this we had to negotiate with some food suppliers for lower prices and bulk buy things like packaging to ensure we covered basic food costs and labour costs. Five months into deliveries we’ve achieved a diverse client base and we have been able to cover cost, albeit with a low profit, as expected. We are happy that our customers now know what we offer – quality South African food.  Through our updated menu they will be able to see the love and effort that goes into preparing these dishes. I believe our customers will be more than willing to pay a little extra, because they know more.

7. What’s next for Seven Colours Eatery? Anything you can share? If not, is there something you dream of doing?

When I started Seven Colours Eatery, the dream was in the name. I may not be certain when but my dream is to have a place, located in a global city, where people from diverse backgrounds can enjoy my food. I dream of uniting people, encouraging diversity and inspiring a positive South African identity through food.

Keep up to date with Seven Colours Eatery by following them on Instagram and place your orders via Whatsapp on 083 729 7816.

Jess Spiro Article by: Jess Spiro

Jess Spiro is a freelance food writer, chef and restaurant critic based in Cape Town, who can often be found in search of the next great plate of food. Follow her on Instagram @jess_spiro to see what she's eating.

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