Food is a huge part of every culture on the planet. Naturally, it makes sense that it would help us connect despite our differences. Jade De Waal realised this and created Food Jams, using food as a catalyst for helping her clients to connect and share.
How did Food Jams begin?
It literally started with some of my friends who wanted to learn how to cook. I was surrounded by musicians and filmmakers who I used as guinea pigs while they used the space to create. We found ourselves together and hungry in my parents’ kitchen—which happens to be my favourite place to cook. I threw a few recipes and ingredients together, things we were familiar with so that we could just gooi, work our magic and start cooking.
I approached it the same way I approached learning music; freestyling and learning by exploration. We see what we have and make something amazing with the people in the room. There are no right or wrong notes, or in this case, flavours. I love the fact that there are no preconceived ideas about how or even what you need to cook in a Food Jam, the format encourages experimentation and exploration with food.
While hosting an event for my sister’s lifeguard group, I recognized that this is a great tool for engagement as there was a bit of conflict in the team and the setting, combined with the activity of cooking together, made it easier for them to have these difficult conversations in an amicable way—food really relaxes people. Now, eleven years later, we have Food Jammed everywhere from an island in Mozambique; to the UJ campus; to somebody’s wedding; to corporate team buildings; and even bachelorette parties.
Food brings out the best and worst in people, I have had people get really frustrated during the process and apologise afterwards and opening up about what’s really stressing them out. I am definitely not a therapist, but it does feel like I am creating a space for engagement through food, which can be very therapeutic.
Why do you think food connects us in this way?
It is so beautiful! It is like a language, a means of communication. Some people I know have a terrible relationship with food, part of that is growing up with a lot of pressure about what to eat and how to cook it, some of my friends were never even allowed in the kitchen by their parents. It’s so great to see these people ease into the experience and create a new, more positive, relationship with food.
This tendency to open up while preparing and eating a meal together may have something to do with so much of our senses being stimulated. It also feeds our social nature as humans, as a shared experience helps us bond.
How has Oribi helped your journey?
Being involved with Oribi has been a huge eye-opener! For me, the “rock stars” have always been those at the root, the people on the ground but now I’m also learning about the people who are creating tools and systems that assist these people by providing a bigger space for local produce through access to market and sensible technology.
Being in the incubator has truly been an energizing experience, I’ve really enjoyed not being the smartest person in the room because I get to learn from all of these incredible people that I have connected with through the programme. Having walked this road with other changemakers I’ve also learnt that the torchbearers are us and that we can affect change with even the smallest of actions or changes. My favourite part of this experience has really been seeing how myself and others have grown while noticing the big effects of the small changes we are making.
What I am most grateful for is access to the most helpful resources, opportunities and people. I feel that Oribi, and its people, are incredibly generous; whether with time, knowledge, or a willingness to put in the effort to help me connect with people in the industry who may be beneficial.
The opportunities for collaboration have also been incredible. I have been working with Kitchen Republik who are now using our space for facilitation. Another thing I love about the incubator is all the personalities I have met; I honestly think that they are an amazing bunch of people who can actually change the world.
Jade is an Oribi Alumni from our 2020 cohort; to find out more about this incubator, read the report: