A mouthwatering tale of change, chocolate-chip cookies, and learning to love lockdown.
South Africa (12 July 2020) – I am ashamed to admit I was slightly excited by the prospect of rest when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the national lockdown.
Don’t get me wrong. I understood the severity of the situation and that people were dying.
But I had worked extra hard in 2019, and started 2020 on a bad note, following the sudden loss of two of my closest cousins, barely three weeks apart in January. My spirit was tired, and my body needed a break.
My partner, Kabelo Molepo, unfortunately, lost his job before lockdown began, and we found ourselves having to strategise on ways he could earn money until he could job-hunt again.
With not much to do in the first month of lockdown, we agreed to take part in a cooking challenge with our friends, who live in the same apartment building. Kabelo’s menu included chocolate-chip cookies for dessert. They were so tasty; we convinced him to make more and sell them.
Throughout our relationship, Kabelo has always been at the helm of the kitchen. He has prepared some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted.
I usually take pictures of his cooking and post them on social media, much to the fascination of my followers.
Kabelo was raised by his maternal grandmother, Mamosadinyana “Kgadi” Moheta. She taught him basic cooking skills and the art of turning tinned fish and tinned beef, as well as spaza-bought dried snoek, into wholesome meals that would feed him and his four cousins.
His culinary skills were enhanced at Max Stibbe Waldorf School, in Pretoria East. His Grade 9 teacher’s wife, Madi Ditmars, cooked at the restaurant on the school’s premises.
She took Kabelo, then a mischievous teenager, under her wing, to keep him busy and out of trouble.
It was under Madi’s guidance that he learned there was more than one way to cook food, and that cooking was a great way to keep your mind off your troubles, even if just for a couple of hours.
But back to the cookies. We turned our tiny 6m x 4m kitchen and living area into a bakery and started selling the cookies at the convenience shop downstairs.
Amazingly, the owner, Mohammed, refused to charge us a counter fee or add his markup.
When the cookies at the convenience shop sold out every two days, we realised we were onto something.
I started selling them to my colleagues at work. The cookies would sell out, and people kept asking when the next batches would be available.
I have always believed in Kabelo’s cooking abilities and his dream to one day own a restaurant. And so I dipped into my savings, to invest in his small business. I bought him cooking and baking equipment and a mini-bar fridge, where he stores his premixed doughs.
We created his brand, Daddy Bae’s Kitchen, which stems from my nickname for him. We created social media pages to showcase his culinary skills.
He designed the logo using an app that he downloaded on my cellphone. We found a printing shop close to where we live, in Johannesburg inner city.
I took pictures of our endearing customers holding the cookies they had bought and posted on our social media pages.
At this point, everyone in our lives wanted in on these tasty treats. Kabelo added a new flavour, oats with chocolate chips, which also became a hit.
We offered our friends and family living in the west and north of Joburg free delivery if they ordered our cookies. Over 80 packets were bought on that day alone.
We are now considering a delivery driver for our friends and family living in the south.
We recently delivered stock to our close friend in Pretoria, who offered to be a collection point for us. However, as migrant workers from Kimberley, we knew we also had to take these cookies home.
Our friends, including those in our apartment building, have rallied behind us and have even offered the use of their ovens when we have big orders to fulfil. For instance, the batch we baked for our hometown over three days and three nights last month.
Using the business permit acquired through the CIPC website, we delivered over 130 packets to Kimberley and launched them on Kabelo’s birthday, 13 June.
The cookies, which are being sold from my family home, sold out in less than 24 hours, with more orders streaming in.
We will courier stock to my sister, who sells them for us.
This culinary adventure has kept us busier than we ever imagined. Who knew that the lockdown would set us on this journey of Kabelo finally doing what he is passionate about, while earning a living?
We have since been approached with collaboration requests from friends who sell food, one of whom is a professional chef.
The growth of Daddy Bae’s Kitchen has left me in awe at the great heights a small business can reach, despite whatever may be happening around you, including a global pandemic.