An immersive Cape Town food experience is shining the spotlight on African cuisine :
The African Food & Storytelling Tour experience is an immersive experience, which includes tasting and sharing different African foods and appreciating the stories local African food entrepreneurs have to tell. At the end of the experience, guests listen to live music by Xhosa musician Sindile Kamlana aka Khofhi the King while tasting herbaceous Senegalese café Touba from one of the best baristas in town!
The food tour evolved out of local food entrepreneur Dennis Molewas' initial desire to introduce visitors to a side of Cape Town that is often overlooked. “I had written and published several articles about hidden restaurant gems in local and national newspapers and magazines, and included portraits of African chefs, their restaurants and food offering in Cape Town! A friend called me one day and recommended creating an Airbnb experience out of my local food experiences and adventures."
"We saw a gap and opportunity for showcasing African cuisine. There was no Airbnb experience featuring African food in Cape Town yet. The restaurants already existed, my business partner Khofhi and I just had to curate them and tie them all together to ensure that the tour was a wholesome and smooth experience. The result has been a roughly 3-hour culinary journey from South Africa to Mali, with a quick sho’t left to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, with Khofhi and the African restaurateurs sharing their insights about South, East and West African food cultures in Cape Town,” comments Dennis Molewa, Founder of African Food & Storytelling Tours.
African cuisine is not celebrated enough in South Africa
The African Food & Storytelling Tour team felt that not only is African cuisine not celebrated enough in South Africa, but it also doesn’t receive enough attention and recognition. In their experience, they have recognized that people know rather little about African foods in general. Starting a bookable experience allowed them to introduce the public to their favourite African food destinations in the Cape Town CBD.
With this in mind, their African Food & Storytelling Experience not only highlights food but also includes the stories of the people who prepare it. It’s not just about eating, it’s about building bridges between cultures, breaking down preconceived ideas and changing perceptions.
“Cape Town is a unique city and can be seen in a very particular way depending on the audience. Locals often perceive Cape Town as un-African, while internationally, the Mother City is hailed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and celebrated as Africa’s cosmopolitan art capital. From a culinary perspective, although there are a few African chefs who earned Michelin stars overseas, to date Africa does not boast a single Michelin-starred restaurant. Africa is the only continent in the world without a Michelin star! The only excuse? Well, Michelin guides simply don’t operate in Africa. It begs the question why not? Michelin stars aside, browsing through the popular world’s Top 100 restaurant list, we find that there are only three restaurants in Africa listed on the prestigious list. Guess what? All three are unsurprisingly in Cape Town, and all three serve anything but African cuisine. It would not be an exaggeration to say that African cuisine is kind of invisible on a global scale. Additionally. as an entrepreneurial coach, who regularly works with small business owners, I often see that locally African cuisine is considered more and more out of fashion. Hence, we strongly believe that there’s a need for showcasing African cuisine and for African chefs to share their stories.” Dennis passionately reiterates.
Affordable trading space for small-scale African food businesses is scarce in Cape Town
“There’s a side of Cape Town that goes beyond its reputation as Africa’s fine-art and fine-dining capital. Few know that Cape Town not only has a very complex history but is also extremely multicultural and diverse with very distinct challenges. Some of these include an enormous wealth gap, a rapidly growing gentrification and a notoriously high crime rate to name a few. These challenges that the city faces are not random, but are rather interlinked in many ways. It is not an easy environment for small local food businesses to survive, especially those specialising in traditional African cuisine. However, talking about African food in South Africa and its reputation is one thing, but when zooming out and looking at the bigger picture, the problem that African cuisine is facing is part of a national systemic problem. It’s part of a problem that reflects the country's unjust, unsafe and unsustainable food system.”
As Khofhi and Dennis began to operate their immersive experience, they noticed something profound. Taking a closer look at Cape Town’s African restaurants and kitchens allows them to witness how food has the power to bring and keep communities together. For many African communities in Cape Town, their food is one of the most important and boundless ways to express their identity. Joining their experience allows one to observe how African cuisine can be a unifier between communities that can often hold prejudices against each other.
The main problem the experience is attempting to solve is breaking down cultural prejudices through food. “We often receive very positive feedback and written reviews from locals as well as internationals from very different cultural backgrounds. It feels like African cuisine has the power to teach all of us a thing or two about belonging and community. Our visitors also tell us regularly that our experience is like no other in Cape Town, and that we changed their perspective of the city forever. These are the comments that motivate us and keep us going.” Says Khofhi.
“We also believe that operating a successful immersive experience in Cape Town, which can change people’s views about the mother city helps counteract the under-representation of African cuisine,” Khofhi concludes.