It takes a village
Big Issue|Issue 289
World-renowned chef Margot Janse shares her passion for the Isabelo: Feeding Hungry Minds scheme in Franschhoek, and how the village has come together to feed thousands during this challenging time.
MARGOT JANSE

Iam Dutch by birth and South African by choice, with my heart and soul firmly belonging in this country. I arrived here 30 years ago, young and full of dreams. I lived in Jo’burg and Cape Town but made Franschhoek my home 25 years ago.

My culinary evolution took shape at Le Quartier Français during this time. While living and working in this famous and wealthy village, the extremes between my daily privileged culinary world and the reality of people living in poverty just two kilometres down the road was hard to swallow. We strongly believed we could make a difference using our expertise and in 2009 we created Isabelo: Feeding Hungry Minds, a feeding scheme supporting the young children in our community who were going to school hungry, because no child can learn on an empty stomach.

We got our guests involved, who assisted us once a week with baking and delivering a very nutritious muffin we had specially created. The support from our guests was incredible and within six months Isabelo was feeding 70 children a nutritionally balanced meal every school day.

We cooked the meals in the Tasting Room kitchen every morning before we started with the preparations for our evening service. Over the years Isabelo grew rapidly and by 2017 we were feeding 1 300 hungry Franschhoek minds every school day.

We developed nutritious protein-based meals, changing the menu regularly just like we did in the restaurant. There were firm favourites: butternut mash with meatballs; boiled eggs for breakfast; and chicken lasagne, consisting of layers of brown bread, baked with egg custard and filled with chicken, cheese and spinach. All the chefs took part and often the front-of-house staff joined in too.

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