Ngenzi Sokhela, Pizza station manager at our local resturant il Postino, (next to the post office, store and hairdresser) is my food hero this month. We all adore the thin-crusted wood-fired pizza they make and I think il Postino has been really good at strenghtening the Dargle community. Food often is.
I met Ngenzi 16 years ago when I came to live on Old Kilgobbin Farm. She was a only about 5 and very reserved. In this picture she is having a picnic with Joel and Jetro in their treehouse. This is the story I wrote.
“I just love Dargle”, says Ngenzi Sokhela who was born and grew up here. “I love the views, the animals and nature, it is so peaceful.” Nowadays, Ngenzi is pizza station manager at il Postino.
“I can’t believe how lucky I am to have an interesting job so close to home and family. Most of my friends have had to move away to Cape Town or Jo’burg.”
After finishing school, Ngenzi was wondering ‘so now what happens?’. She had dreamt about being a pilot or an air hostess as a child, but realised that this was not really a possibility for a farm girl.
Liz Cuthbert, who ran the tea shop ‘Duchess of the Dargle’ offered her a position as waitress, which she grabbed. “You have to take opportunities because you just never know where it will lead.” Liz taught her all about the hospitality industry. “Liz was great to work with, I learnt so much from her – how to treat customers, to plate food and so much more.” When the tea shop closed, il Postino (right next door) snapped her up.
“Funny, I had never been interested in cooking before and never dreamed I’d end up cooking all day and enjoying it so much.” Ngenzi had never eaten pizza before joining the il Postino team – now she loves to experiment with different toppings – her favourite combination is avo, feta, bacon, chicken and rocket. She really loves the feel of the dough which is prepared twice a day – “it’s so soft, it feels lovely.” The team at il Postino is young, everyone gets along well and there is a nice vibe in the kitchen. Having a woman in a senior position in the kitchen took some getting used to for the guys, but Sergio Guerrera is a good boss and everyone is comfortable now.
Ngenzi’s partner Nthuthuko Hadebe is the restaurant manager. “Working together is sometimes fun and sometimes not. During busy times it gets stressful.” They spend their days off with their 10 month old daughter Ayame Mbalenhle who lives with her great grandparents on a farm nearby. “It is so good not having to worry about her while I am at work. I know Gogo takes good care of her.” Nthuthuko has started the lobola process (Eish, eleven cows!), so will soon be a permanent feature of Dargle life.
Even though Ngenzi confidently prepares delicious lasagne, gnocchi, cannelloni and melanzane and reads the recipe sections of magazines first now, her favourite food is still her Gran’s ijece with cabbage, baked beans and tripe. This is one happy Dargle girl who is delighted to have found great work and love right in her valley. “I definitely don’t want to be a pilot anymore, but I wouldn’t mind a ride in an aeroplane!” she concludes.
I wrote a story abut her grandad a while ago: https://plantabundance.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/baba-sokhela/ He is retired now.