Meet the cook carrying food from Mzansi to the East

When Busisiwe Mabusela Chita’s younger brother, Thola, died in 2013, his world was turned upside down. For a moment, she thought she could never face the world again. But being a renowned Capetonian street hustler, she had to pick up the pieces.

Home cook Busisiwe Mabusela Chita has traveled to China to find her healing. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

Healing is not linear. Chita’s healing came from a food company specializing in Mzansi dishes in the city of Suzhou in China.

“Being broke and blacklisted encouraged me to hustle and dream big; I am now an English teacher at Suzhou Language School in China, and I operate other businesses; it’s never easy, but it’s worth it,” she says.

Recipe: Chicken breast stuffed with spinach

From Khayelitsha to the East

Chita was born and raised in Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s largest township. She is the first born of two children. After graduating from Wynberg Senior Secondary School, she enrolled at the University of the Western Cape where she graduated with a degree in politics in 2013.

Her interest in the culinary industry was first piqued when she worked in the sales and revenue department of a city hotel.

“Even though I didn’t work in the food and beverage industry, having exposure to food preparation and presentation sparked my interest. I knew I would follow my heart, which I did, even though it took me a while to bring it up.

Home cook, Busisiwe Mabusela Chita

After being blacklisted, Chita enrolled in a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) degree and left the country to teach in China in 2019.

“I was just a reckless baby with money. I just started a job in a call center and finally I was able to open accounts in clothing stores. That’s exactly what I got. When I finally went back to school after a break, I couldn’t pay my debt and was blacklisted.

Today his business, Soul Cuisine, is thriving, bringing Mzansi delicacies like dombolo, mogodu, chakalaka, kota, morogo and samp to the East.

Food For Mzansi has caught up with the foodie.

Recipe: Chicken breast stuffed with spinach

What inspired you to bring South African cuisine to Asia?

Busisiwe Mabusela Chita cooks South African specialties in China. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

I know what it’s like to be broke right after you get paid, and I know how difficult and hopeless life can be when you’re blacklisted. Getting a job in China made a significant difference in my finances, but it wasn’t enough. That’s why I decided to start a side business.

To begin with, there are a large number of Africans working in China and they miss the food from their home country. I started by collecting the condiments we used at home, as difficult as it was. Most Asian dishes are completely different from our food back home, and it’s even hard to find a bouillon cube here. Nonetheless, I love having guests over and having African brothers and sisters around me gives me hope, that’s one of the reasons I push on even though I feel exhausted.

The kitchen, on the other hand, was never part of the plan; I started as a hobby and am still looking for ways to make money. it’s one of the skills I inherited from my father, who works as a paramedic but keeps getting pushed around.

Is it difficult to set up a business in a foreign country?

One of the biggest hurdles is that if you choose to register your business, you don’t have to do anything else; you cannot do multiple jobs at the same time. As a result, I treat my business as a side business rather than a registered business.

“I also saw the need for African food, especially South African food. There are few other people selling African food, but it’s usually like East African food. East, Nigerian food and Ghanaian food.

Home cook, Busisiwe Mabusela Chita

So far, what have you learned as an entrepreneur?

Busisiwe Mabusela Chita. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

Business taught me to have confidence in myself; I have been transformed by business. I remember a time in my life when I admitted that I had made a mistake by giving bullies so much power. Now I assert my authority; taking a stand is not easy, but it pays off.

And what about your customers? What is their usual reaction?

People really like it because they can’t find South African food anywhere else.

I saw a need to demonstrate to vacationers from other countries that our country has delicious and beautiful cuisine. Many negative things have been said about our country, and many people have held negative beliefs about it.

So it’s good that there’s something good we’re doing there, because I’m not just selling food to South Africans, I’m also selling to other people and also to locals. ‘here. They taste my food and they like it. It is also a positive aspect of our country, because most East African guys always say that they have never seen such a hardworking South African woman. This stems from all the negative stereotypes about South Africans they hear in other countries like how they portray South African women as lazy and that we sell sex for money etc.

“I’m happy to say I’m doing a good job representing my country on this side.”

Home cook, Busisiwe Mabusela Chita

What advice can you share with aspiring food entrepreneurs?

Training is needed [for children] from the age of three. From home to school, our future leaders must be trained to become entrepreneurs rather than employees. I believe that financial freedom comes through entrepreneurship.

Being street smart is always a bonus, just be careful and stay focused on your goals.

Recipe: Chicken breast stuffed with spinach

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