Life in a Jozi restaurant kitchen

As restaurants reopen, for many, it’s about finding a new groove, establishing momentums anew and rebuilding. We speak to four different staff members from Johannesburg restaurants to find out exactly what that has been like.

Chancellor Senda – Venue manager at Buns Out Linden

Chancellor Senda Buns Out Linden

I decided on this role because it was time for growth. I have been in the industry since 2013. I started out in the scullery washing dishes and got promoted to being in charge of salads and takeaways before I became a waiter. I have been venue manager at Buns Out Linden for 11 months.

Three things that come to mind when I think of my job are growth, satisfaction and money.

My mentor is Tom Savage, managing director at Buns Out. His influence on me shows. I have been getting compliments about how I work.

What angers me about the current situation is that before the pandemic we had just been nominated as one of the best burger joints in the world by Bloomberg. We had great momentum on that. The pandemic slowed the process down.

At least three-quarters of the staff had to be laid off. But now that we’ve reopened, most of them have been called back. We’re opening another branch in Rosebank and it’s exciting. There’ll be more jobs and opportunities for growth.    

Catherine Adonis – Pastry chef at Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa

Catherine Adonis Saxon

I have been a chef for many years. I have always been more drawn to pastry – the creativity, the possibilities and, of course, the chocolate. I have been at the Saxon since January 2019.

My role doesn’t put me at risk of contracting COVID-19 because the Saxon has all the correct measures in place. At this late stage, we all need to follow the rules and get back to work.

While I do fear for the current state of the restaurant industry, I do have faith that we can rebuild it to its former glory postCOVID-19. I can’t wait to see full bars, busy kitchens and pumping restaurants once again for all types of establishments within the industry.

Chiara Van de Spreng – Owner/food and beverage manager at Café Del Sol

Chiara Van de Spreng

My favourite parts of the job are the creation of beautiful food and sharing it. There’s such a joy when people can taste the love in food.

The challenge is that now most customers’ expectations are higher, and rightfully so. They are looking for a lot of value for money right now because cash flow is tighter for the public at large. Being a premium product, we can deliver that on the taste profile and the quality. However, things are different because you’re sitting in a place with half the capacity because we’ve had to remove tables. This affects the experience and the vibe.

We’ve managed not to do any retrenchments yet. We probably are going to have to go down that road. All staff, except for the executive chef I could no longer afford, are on short time and getting a small chance to work – working 10 days a month.   

Post COVID-19, I would love for our online deli started during lockdown to get more traction again. I would like to see landlords be more helpful and flexible. Running with less staff will help us clean up the business from an operations point of view – smaller menus and less choice for people because of fewer hands.

Katlego Mathobela – Sommelier and beverage stock controller at Saint Restaurant

Katlego Mathobela

I have been in the industry for six-and-a-half years. This role fell into my lap. I got introduced to wine while I was still a waitress and later became restaurant manager. My former employer sent me to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and I fell in love. I started out at Marble restaurant and I have been at Saint for two years. My mentor is my senior, Wikus Human, head sommelier at Marble. Half of what I am is thanks to him.

My favourite part of being a sommelier is being able to advise customers to try something new such as a riesling instead of a sauvignon blanc, or a South African malbec instead of a merlot. They leave the restaurant not just happy about the new styles of wine they discovered, but also about the experience we pride ourselves on. 

I would improve on the work ethic in my workplace in terms of everyone playing their part when they have to. And management acknowledging everyone’s contribution and what they bring to the table.

Post COVID-19, I think we should keep all the regulations we acquired through the pandemic. Personal health has been neglected for so long that what we have put in place now has made everyone more cautious and healthier. The restrictions have improved our way of giving service.

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