Celebrity chef Siba Mtongana, in partnership with Table Bay Hotel, has opened her first restaurant.
Siba, who is a TV chef, is best known for her cooking show, Siba’s Table, on DStv’s Food Network.
The show, made in her home, gives viewers a look into Siba’s home life as she prepares different versions of South African inspired meals.
And while she could not invite patrons into her home, she decided to have an extension of her kitchen in the form of a restaurant, she said.
Siba is originally from the Eastern Cape, but has been in Cape Town for about 20 years, and now lives in Blouberg with her family.
Growing up, her mother and her aunt were her biggest inspirations at home. However, she watched many cooking shows.
She said she would watch the late food editor Dorah Sitole, who passed away this week, and aspired to be like her. Internationally, she drew inspiration from the likes of international chefs Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith, among others.
“I always had a key interest in food shows and entertainment,” she said.
“Its always been cooking and food for me, I just didn’t know it would be a career. My parents, both being teachers, wanted me to pursue something academic.”
She decided in her matric year that she wanted to pursue food as a career. “My parents weren’t too happy because cooking wasn’t seen as a career, but I went on to study food science and nutrition.”
After she graduated, she became the food editor at a magazine for five years, while doing her first cooking show, Cooking with Siba, before Food Network scouted her for Siba’s Table.
In 2016, the idea to open a restaurant came to the fore, but “it wasn’t the right time”.
“I made it a personal goal of mine to open the restaurant no later than 2020.
“I found a place in Johannesberg, but then Covid-19 hit South Africa and I could no longer pursue the restaurant.”
A few months later, over dinner with Table Bay’s managers, she mentioned the idea and they happened to have a space.
She describes the restaurant as a fine-dining establishment, but also casual tapas-style dishes, bringing flavours of the less celebrated meals.
“These are inspired from meals I used to eat as a child, such as samp and steamed bread and chakalaka, to name a few. It’s a celebration of my heritage and where we as South Africans come from. It’s well-thought out, artistic and attractive dishes. I always say ’I eat with my eyes’. The dishes bring diversity and dimension to what’s available on the market – a mixture of my cuisine and world cuisine.”
The menu was created by Siba herself, who is also the head chef, and visitors will be able to say hi to her on any given night at the restaurant.
Asked why she opened a restaurant during a time that the hospitality industry was suffering, Siba said she wanted a space where people could escape.
“I’m a mom of four and I’ve done it all, and I know how hard lockdown has been on households, and I wanted to create an escape.
“Also it’s new, and people need newness. People cannot travel, so I wanted to create a space where they can eat and just relax.”
She said she also created jobs, which was important for her. “Being at the helm of the food industry, people come to me for help all the time, and the restaurant was a response to those pleas. While I can’t help everyone, at least four of my staff members have been retrenched from previous jobs, so even though we are in a pandemic, it felt right. I was true to my goals, and my dreams.”
She said the Waterfront was the perfect location because it was not too busy, but close to amenities.
“The restaurant is all about bringing people together, with the space being a feel of my home, and the circles incorporated in the decor symbolises people of different backgrounds from all over eating together at a table, here at the Table Bay.”
The Table Bay hotel general manager, Joanne Selby, said: “Siba’s food is always fresh, exciting and creative – and comforting at the same time. She is extraordinarily talented and we are extremely proud to be her choice of partner for her first restaurant venture in Cape Town.”
The restaurant will be open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday and lunch on Sunday.
Bookings are essential and can be made online at www.thetablebay.co.za via the dining page.