Taste Malay, a Cape Town-based business that offers cooking classes on traditional Malay cuisine, has launched an initiative to empower unemployed people including students and housewives by offering free cooking classes.
The current state of our country has caused many South Africans to lose their jobs and become destitute. But this local business is doing its part to help revive the economy and also positively change the lives of many people. Fayruza Abrahams, the founder of Taste of Malay, shares insight into her business and the feel-good initiative.
What inspired the launch of Taste Malay?
At the end of September 2017, I found myself unemployed, after being diagnosed with Graves’ disease. I was referred to Airbnb by my niece. It was my initial intention to become a home host while I was recovering and trying to find my feet. I downloaded the app and saw that it offered experiences, and I instantly fell in love with it. I had my first cooking class experience in mid-October of 2017 and I never looked back.
What is Taste Malay all about?
I initially only started with cooking classes and one experience, which became two, then three etc. When Covid started, things first fell apart before they became better.
To tackle the challenges faced during the pandemic, I started doing online classes and that considerably eased the burden of being in a hard lockdown. I also started doing corporate and private catering. From time to time, my experience is filmed by film companies from across the world. The business is growing slowly but surely.
What do you love most about cooking?
I love teaching people and love telling stories through food. Cooking also allows me to keep my culture alive and pay homage to my heritage. It was my lifeline when I was extremely ill. I naturally found myself gravitating towards the kitchen and sought solace in the comfort of my grandmother’s recipes and teachings. Cooking allows me to re-live the memories I shared with her growing up in my family home.
What led to the launch of the free cooking classes?
There are numerous reasons aside from the current unemployment rate that prompted me to launch this offering.
A few months ago, I met a little boy at our corner shop who bought, I think, R10’s worth of electricity. I was horrified. He said all his mom wanted to do was cook and boil the kettle, and then they would tell bedtime stories in the dark until they all fell asleep. In my mind, I calculated that if the mom could sell 100 samosas for R350, they would have 35 x more electricity than what they had had before. While it would still be a little, It would be way better.
In addition, I have also seen a lot of youth drop out of high school or college for numerous reasons such as not having access to transport, books or school fees. My idea is not to discourage education, but to facilitate it by giving these young students all the right tools and resources to pursue and complete their studies and follow their dreams.
Has there been a large turnout to these free classes?
I launched the free classes in October 2021 and there has not been a large turnout of people as yet. I have been working hard to get all my ducks in a row. For now, I teach one or two students at a time. I am currently training about four ladies and they are all at different stages in their training, with some needing more help than others.
What do you aim to achieve with these cooking classes?
It is not a quick process. I focus not only on cooking, but all aspects of becoming a small business owner or entrepreneur, for example how to open a bank account, how to manage finances, marketing on social media, how to apply for a hawker’s licence or certificate of acceptability, where and how to source the best quality ingredients, customer service, and exposure to international, national and local tourists.
My aim is to get my students to sell their products in their own neighbourhoods – at churches, schools, spaza shops and family and friends. This will enable them to earn extra money. For some, it’s the only money they earn.
If I can at least plant the seed and support them, they might fall in love with entrepreneurship, as I did. I want to add value and encourage growth.
What do you teach during these free classes?
Basic cooking skills; knife skills; food safety; how to make savouries, curries and stews; how to bake bread; where and how to shop smartly; how to photograph and style food for social media; how to pickle and preserve foods etc.
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