Nolu Dube-Cele is elevating SA cooking at Seven Colours Eatery
How Nolu Dube-Cele plans to change the way we think about SA cuisine.
There is a good reason why Nolu Dube-Cele called her company the Seven Colours Eatery. Yes, it does allude to the multicoloured food she serves – food that takes the form of typical, traditional South African dishes. But even more importantly, she says, Seven Colours Eatery is about celebrating the Rainbow Nation and promoting ideas of diversity, representation and unity. It may seem strange that a plate of food could hold so much meaning, but for Dube-Cele, it represents her ideals and chief goal for her business: to shine a spotlight on traditional South African food. '
"Seven Colours" is a concept from the township,' says Dube-Cele. 'It was customarily a Sunday meal and for me, it is also a celebratory meal. The idea behind Seven Colours Eatery is to put South Africa onto one plate. We have been inspired by all the nationalities of the country when creating our food, and hope to promote diversity and unity through our offerings. We are a rainbow nation, and all the colours deserve to be known.'
Food is the prefect mechanism to achieve this goal. It is something that unites us, plus, in an adventurous foodie world, people are always looking to try delicious and authentic cuisine. And Dube-Cele is drawing from the most authentic place – the one she calls home.
Dube-Cele hails from a rural village called Tsengiwe in the Eastern Cape, and she says it was at Sunday lunches there that she always saw people come together, talk, laugh and share. For her, the dishes that were served are filled with memories of love and freedom. When she moved to Cape Town to complete her studies in Hospitality Management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Dube-Cele struggled to find the food from home in commercial settings.
'In Cape Town, there were no restaurants that represented who I was or that celebrated African food,' she says. 'So I decided to create that space. I chose to venture into local cuisine because I wanted to be a leader in my industry. I wanted to inspire people. I wanted to to make food in the city that represented me and people who look like me. I wanted people to say "Why not African?" when thinking about what they should eat.'
After acquiring her qualifications (Dube-Cele was one of the top students in her class), and working in the UK and US, she came back to South Africa and founded Seven Colours Eatery. The brand operates as a private catering company and is frequently found at markets all over Cape Town, offering you the opportunity to dive into a colourful plate filled with delicious food. At the 2018 Cape Town Street Food Festival, Dube-Cele was awarded the Best Smelling Dish for her sizzling sosaties, and the Seven Colours Eatery's colourful Seven Colours Plate won the Most Insta-worthy Dish award.
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But while Dube-Cele is steadily building her business, she acknowledges that there is a long way to go when it comes to changing people's perspective about traditional South African cuisine.
'South Africans don't appreciate traditional food,' she says. 'They don't think it is sophisticated enough. At the same time, there is very little creativity displayed when making traditional food, so how can we elevate it, if we are not experimenting with it? I studied and worked abroad so I could learn and add on to the traditional methods my mother and grandmother taught me. By getting creative with cooking methods and recipes, Seven Colours can evolve without becoming too different. By doing this, we can change how people see and experience traditional food.'
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Dube-Cele is starting in South Africa, but her long-term aim is to bring traditional South African cuisine to the world. She plans on refining her food, getting it to an international level and sharing it globally. And as she does so, Dube-Cele hopes to incorporate creativity, nostalgia and diversity, and inspire a positive African identity.