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It's all about real food at the Visa Street Food Festival

This article first appeared in City Press.

by: Grethe Kemp | 03 Sep 2017

Forget overpriced hipster sandwiches or convoluted fine dining, the Visa Street Food Festival happening in Cape Town and Joburg is about providing real, down-to-earth dishes to the crowds. Grethe Kemp delved into the thinking behind the fest.It’s in full swing in Cape Town, and next weekend the annual Visa Street Food Festival will be taking over Maboneng in Joburg.

Started as a World Capital Design Project, the festival has been running for four years and focuses on filling, delicious street food free of pretence.

Festival creator Hannerie Visser says it’s all about celebrating this underrated genre of food.

“When I looked at everything that was happening in South Africa – there were so many expos focusing on fine-dining food experiences, but nobody actually focused on street food,” she says. “Street food is something that is eaten every day by billions of people all over the world. And it’s such a special food to me because it’s so humble and nobody was celebrating that.”

The vendors at the festival were carefully chosen to reflect this idea.

“We felt it was really important to provide authentic street food. We didn’t necessarily want something that was supercool or supertrendy or the latest thing on Bree Street, for example. It needed to be real, authentic street food that you could get anywhere in the world on the side of the street. So, we didn’t want ‘gourmet’ boerewors rolls, for example, we wanted the real deal.”

Some of the vendors at the Joburg leg of the festival will be Black Mamba, a Swazi family business that sells chilli products, The Gatsby Station, who will be selling the beloved snack out of a 1965 Land Rover Forward Control Food Truck named Jimmy, and Lotsha Jozi Jerk, who will be selling jerk chicken with all the condiments.

Gatsbys from The Gatsby Station

“I think we’re getting better at it in South Africa, but we often look at the US or Europe when we do things. And we often don’t look at our own continent. So, it was really important for me to push local food in terms of the vendors we chose,” says Visser.

One of the features she’s most excited about is the Pimp My Street Kitchen project. This was a crowdfunding campaign by ad agency Being Frank, where they set out to design shopfronts for three street-food vendors. The uptake was so good that they ended up providing branded, fully functional mobile kitchens to the three women.

With the project now complete, the kitchens of vendors Alitha Ndlovu, Johamma Ramufhi and Busi Khumalo will debut at the festival.

“The first market they will ever trade at is the Joburg leg of the Visa Street Food Festival,” says Visser proudly.

Ali’s Kitchen will be serving curried walkie-talkies with toasted dombholo (dumpling bread) and Cheezy Pap Pops, Busi’s Kitchen will be serving deep-fried magwinya (vetkoek) with mince meat, deep-fried magwinya with boiled egg and atchar and deep-fried magwinya with jam and cheese, while Lady Jo’s Kitchen will be serving mleqwa (Cornish chicken) and dombholo served with ithanga (squash), morogo (spinach) and chakalaka with a vegetarian option without the chicken.

Another aspect of the festival will be Crate Talks. With crate seating set up in the heart of the festival, people will be able to listen to free talks from renowned foodies and industry experts – and it’s all for free.

“Previously we had people pay separately to go into this mini conference that’s aimed at food entrepreneurs and everyone who wanted to start a food business. This year we decided to make it free.”

Crate Talk speakers at the Joburg leg will include the owner of Cape Malay restaurant Mamasan, Dawood Petersen; social entrepreneur Gary Kurt Smith, who started and urban farm called the Kotze Rooftop Garden Project; as well as married couple Jako and Dené van Deventer, who are behind cheese food truck, The Rogue Cheddar.

Sandwiches from The Rogue Cheddar

To top it all off, musical entertainment at the Joburg leg will include Mr Mo, DJ Okapi, Maria McCloy and Uncle Party Time.

“Everyone who loves food is welcome,” says Visser. “And there’s going to be a lot of it, so come hungry.”

The Visa Street Food Festival is taking place this weekend at Side Street Studios in Woodstock, Cape Town. The Joburg leg is happening on September 10 at 6 Staib Street in Maboneng. Tickets are R100 at


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