Cooks climb the ladder


It’s been a dream come true for two former staff members at Elkanah House who managed to work their way up from tuck shop assistants to business owners.

The Dunoon residents now run their own catering business which supplies the school’s tuck shops and food truck with healthy food.

N&N Catering, which are the initials of Nikiwe “Nikki” Mahlombe and Ncedisua “Netty” Yafele, were offered the opportunity after the school’s caterer left.

And today they cook healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner parties at the Elkanah House tuck shop.

For Ms Mahlombe and Ms Yafele, this has been a turning point in their lives.

“It was a blessing for us to take charge of the tuck shop. It was overwhelming because we were not expecting it. We were just workers,” said Ms Mahlombe recalling her joy.

“It’s something we’ve always had a passion for, something we always wanted to do. We always thought of starting something, now we’re not employed by the school, we’re just renting the space here,” added Ms Yafele, proudly.

The women officially took over the providing food to the school in January and employed two casual workers as well as a permanent staff member to help them manage the tuck shops and food truck.

They work long hours to prepare a breakfast spread of English muffins, breakfast burritos, sandwiches, pasta salads, wraps and Banting meals which is served at 7.30am.

After breakfast, Ms Yafele jumps into preparing lunch which consists of cooked meals such as pasta and roast vegetables.

“Sometimes we do special things such as breakfast for staff meetings which start at 6am or we cater for evening events,” said Ms Yafele.

Ms Mahlombe and Ms Yafele expressed their appreciation to the school staff who helped them get where they are, and said that they hope to expand and grow their business beyond the Sunningdale area and cater for weddings, funerals and birthday parties.

Diane Payne, one of the school’s founders, said Ms Mahlombe and Ms Yafele worked really hard during the week and worked most weekends catering events, but their hard work has paid off, as they were able to buy a car to use for shopping and transporting their goods to the school.

“We gave them driving lessons and Nikki got her licence. Now they can drive to West Coast and get their groceries. Nikki brings her daughter to work with her at times. She’s doing this so her daughter can have something,” said Ms Payne.

“Years ago our matrics started a tuck shop, but it was a challenge for us to have a healthy tuck shop as our school has a healthy eating policy. We employed a chef called Taryn George, and (Ms Mahlombe and Ms Yafele) received good training with Taryn while they assisted her.

“We then hired another caterer after the chef and she taught them the admin behind catering, ordering and making payments. When the caterer left, we looked for another chef, but the reality is that the two of them could do it all. We thought we could employ someone else to do it, or they could do it,” said Ms Payne.