On the 1st December 2017, I attended a wonderful food launch and came home with a bottle of Chilli & Coriander ChutneyRoasted Orange & Mint Savoury Marmalade, a box of Spicy Traditional Soetkoekies and a Pear Marmalade with Lime & Ginger– all spectacularly delicious.   I should have bought a whole lot more but truthfully, it was all but impossible to choose from the variety of pickles, atchars, chutneys, konfyts and marmalades on sale.  There were also delectable samoosas (available frozen too). A variety of biscuits and even freshly baked bread (which had all but disappeared by the time I got there half an hour after.

The event was the opening and launch of The Ukama Kitchen Incubator and I couldn’t be more excited about this project. It’s a business venture created by Janine Roberts and Cariema Isaacs. Ukama Packaging Solutions is owned by Janine Roberts. In itself, it’s a pioneering model of micro-entrepreneurs
(all previously disadvantaged unemployed women from local communities) offering their packaging labour as a service and at the same time learning how to run their own micro-enterprises.

The Kitchen Incubator is Ukama’s latest social business venture. You could say it’s an inspired recipe all of its own. When Cariema Isaacs approached Janine to package her spices from recipes from her book My Cape Malay Kitchen, [hyperlink to https://www.loot.co.za/product/cariema-isaacs-my-cape-malay-kitchen/rbtn-3451-g370 ] Janine shared with her an idea which had been brewing for a long time: to
create a Kitchen Incubator. Cariema was immediately enthusiastic about the idea and in no time at all, they’ve launched into this joint venture.  “There are women in the community who are already creating amazing food products using recipes handed down through the generations from mother to daughter, they are already selling their heritage fare in the community.  By inviting them to be part of the Kitchen Incubator, they will not only be offered a commercial and certified kitchen space, they will also receive
entrepreneurial, packaging and labelling assistance,” says Janine.

Cariema says: “Food is energy.  We are energy. And when we cook food we blend our unique energy with that of the food. That’s why you can have 10 chefs in the same kitchen making the same recipe and each dish will taste just that little bit different.”  As the makers of the Chilli & Coriander chutney Barbara and Benson Arendse say, “Our sauces reflect different parts of our own personalities – sometimes feisty and fiery and sometimes mild and subdued but never dull.”

“And that’s why we believe the food that comes from our tradition, our heritage, our great-grandmothers kitchens has to be physically made by the hands of the women of our communities. We don’t believe in mass producing a recipe on a conveyer belt,” continues Cariema.  “We’ve created a limited edition of finely crafted heritage fare that truly is home-made. All Ukama Kitchen Incubator
has done is provide certified commercial kitchens so that our food-trepeneurs can trade beyond their immediate communities and sell their products in the formal retail environment.”

Every aspect of this venture seems magical, as if a wooden spoon was waved and  Hey Presto The Kitchen Incubator was born!  But the real magic happens at the stoves and ovens where talented and determined women are busy creating food in a way that comes naturally to them and the generations of women before them. It happens too in the choices they’ve collectively made about how to support and make visible so much that’s good in the world.  For instance, the beautiful shelving units in their Deli have all been made using reclaimed wood by Deaf Hands At Work http://www.dhwsa.co.za/.

They currently have 9 food-trepeneurs creating a range of products with another 7 waiting in the wings to begin, but they need funding to help with training, and to purchase much-needed kitchen equipment. Please support them in their endeavour to grow this culturally and socially rich and relevant project. Make a contribution to keep the wonderful diversity of heritage food alive and cooking! Go here to make a donation: https://www.thundafund.com/project/ukama/

You can also support them by purchasing from their Deli in Capricorn Park. There is Wild Sour Fig Jam, Dried Fruit Atchar, Heritage Naartjie, Rooibos & Cinnamon Marmalade, Pickled Baby Beets and Pickled Onions.  All make fantastic Christmas presents!
It’s something to savour on so many levels.

Written by Nina Geraghty

Find the Ukama Kitchen Incubator at Unit 1, The Village, Capricorn Park,
Tel: 021 788 5182