Queering the Menu

Two new LGBTQ+ food entrepreneurs take their seat at the table

Words: Dana Bosch

Lady Rona’s effect on the food industry has been some of the biggest challenges the industry has ever seen. And although many businesses sadly collapsed under the strain and constraints, the landscape has changed and up and coming food entrepreneurs now have a space to carve out a slice of the food scene that is all their own. Introducing two brand new queer-owned eateries that have Johannesburg abuzz as they create spaces that reflect queer identity and community.

Toasted is a women-led business space for co-working, events and casual dining. The founder Marea Lewis has been collaborating with other creative business women who reflect her ideals on everything from the branding, the menu, the suppliers and the art, to create a space that speaks to connecting and building within the community.

Ent Eatery is an Asian-Caribbean fusion food spot that was borne out of a romantic partnership between owners Omari Newton and Skhathisomusa Mthembu. This couple combined their passion, business savvy and culinary appetites to create employment opportunities in South Africa’s struggling economic climate.

I asked each business to introduce themselves by answering the same set of questions:

Ent Eatery by Newton and Mthembu:

 

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What inspired this business venture?

Newton: He’s always been an excellent cook. It was the first interesting thing I found out about him when we met. And it’s been a theme in our relationship ever since. And I thought it’s only natural that we monetise such a thing especially in light of the work situation in South Africa.
Tell me about the food?

Mthembu: I cook food from all over, mostly Asia because I like how they play with flavours but then recently because I’ve been having relations with this man who is from the Trinidad and Tobago Caribbean, I’ve started eating and making a lot of food from there. There is cultural relevance there and Newton has a few good family recipes and I steal from there.

Tell us about your customers? What kind of clientele are you looking to attract?

Newton: Working professionals, middle class people who like to try something new. People who come to the city to see something new and perhaps find something that is their new favourite thing.

Mthembu: People who like food, people who are a bit colourful. Yeah, we like colourful people.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve put in your mouth?

Mthembu: Omari Newton… that’s a nice question *laughs*

Newton: I did have some cockroaches in Vietnam. They were actually very good. I’m not sure that would fly here in South Africa though.

What’s the secret to a perfect meal?

Mthembu: Everything. It must taste good but it must also fill up your whole mouth. You must have a sweet element, a sour element, a fatty or oily element and a savoury umami salty element.

Where can we find out more?

 Mthembu: You can follow us on Instagram @enteatery

Toasted by Marea Lewis:

 

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What inspired this business venture?

I reached a point of feeling so uninspired by my day to day and I couldn’t do it anymore.
I wanted to create space for myself to do more of what I love, and then I thought, “why not create a physical space for everyone?”  The idea and timing felt right and I just went whole heart into building this vision of having a women led, community and connection based space that happens to make the best toasties in town.

Tell me about the food?
Our menu is all about everyone’s favourite comfort food, the toasted sandwich, with high end touches and hand prepared sauces and sides. The coffee and drinks follow suit from the food and are all about natural flavours.
What makes your venue special?
It has a feeling. Toasted is on the busy Jan Smuts, but is off street and in a hidden and private courtyard. You can’t hear the noise of Joburg from the space and every time I’m there I feel like I am somewhere else. Also plug points. Lots and lots of plug points.
Tell us about your customers? What kind of clientele are you looking to attract?
Anyone and everyone who loves a good toastie. Independents with ideas they are looking to bring to life.

What’s the secret to a perfect meal?

Making something with love is a real thing – but also add salt!

Where can we find out more?

On Instagram @toasted_jhb
And I’m always happy to chat at marea@toasted.online

 

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