The Bannister: A food love story
When boy met boy, they fell in love. One was Nigerian and the other South African. After a whirlwind romance traveling West Africa they finally settled in South Africa—Braamfontein—bringing with them egusi soup and pounded yam.
When Francios Ojukwu-Booyse met his husband Tony Ojukwu little did he know that his union would introduce a change in the menu option at Braamfontein’s Bannister Hotel.
“I spent quite a considerable amount of time in West Africa … and after identifying that there are a lot of West Africans in Hillbrow and Braamfontein, it made absolute sense,” said Ojunkwu-Booyse.
Ojukwu-Booyse who is the general manager at the Bannister Hotel introduced the West African menu to “get a little bit of everything”, said kitchen manager Raymond Coetzer.
“We’ve got a lot of overseas people that come and stay at the hotel so if they wanted to try something a little more African then at least that option is there for them,” said Coetzer.
Ojukwu-Booyse said West African food is a “segment of the market that was not addressed but it was on offer” which is why the decision to introduce the dish to the hotel was to offer alternative menu options.
“The egusi soup is made from the seed of the wild watermelon and has different variations,” said Ojukwe-Booyse who noted that Yoruba and Hausa people make it in different ways. The egusi soup on offer at the hotel is Yoruba.
Braamfontein’s multicultural climate has also influenced the hotel’s decision to have West African dishes on the menu as “the biggest contigent is Nigerian”, said Ojukwu-Booyse.
The West African dishes have been received by the Braamfontein community with mixed reactions as “West African food is not very pleasing or appealing on the eye – but it tastes wonderful”, said Ojukwu-Booyse. He admits that it took him two years to try some of the dishes, mentioning the draw soup’s slimy consistency as one of the reasons why it is difficult to try.
“West Africa is sort of up and coming territory, it’s now a booming market in terms of entertainment as business … It’s now a portal to a new world business,” said Coetzer.