Siba goes for gold

Popular local chef Siba Mtongana’s new show Siba’s Adventure in Johannesburg has taste buds tingling and tongues wagging.

In this exclusive interview, she gives us some insight into why the show is hitting all the right notes, and how the Joburg foodie scene compares to her home turf in Cape Town.

Why Joburg?

There’s been such a food boom in Johannesburg, I would be remiss not to recognise that. There are so many food entrepreneurs there, young and old. From street markets to formal establishments, the sheer diversity of Joburg’s food offerings is simply amazing, but more importantly, Johannesburg is growing at such a fast rate when it comes to the food business. That needs to be captured because it’s adding so much value to the South African food scene. I’ve been wanting to do something focusing specifically on Johannesburg – the entrepreneurial spirit there, the drive, the hustling – it deserves to be appreciated.

What can viewers expect from this show and how is it different from your other series?

You can certainly expect a younger, different vibe. It’s a slightly more outdoor show where I literally walk the streets of Joburg and visit the plethora of restaurants and food markets. I wanted to take you to Soweto and the upmarket suburbs and combine all these elements to showcase the diversity of food. The variety is unmatched, and Jozi natives will see their city in a new light, while visitors will be taken on a “Siba tour”! The series shares some of my top highlights from Siba’s Table which are in line with whatever Jozi adventures I come across.

What was your most memorable moment in the whole series?

Oh my gosh. There were so many times during filming when things would go wrong sometimes, as they’re prone to, and we would just laugh at them. I really enjoyed being interrupted by fans in the streets to take selfies, and just the vibrancy of Joburg while filming.

Your family and friends often appear in your other series – will we see them this time around?

Not this time. This is more like a travel show, so it’s just me showing you around this fine City of Gold. There’s one episode where Brian features but sadly there is no Lonwabo, Linamandla, Buhle or Ntando as in Siba’s Table. But who knows, maybe they might feature in future.

As a Capetonian, how would you say the two cities rate in terms of:

  • Fine dining: 

Cape Town offers a lot of fine dining – the long tablecloths, the décor, the style of the restaurant … but lately, Cape Town has come into its own with the casual fine dining, which was never really a thing before. In Joburg, the dining experience as a whole gets attention, not only the food. In Cape Town you’ll go to a place for the food, but in Joburg you’ll go for the food and because you’ll want to be seen in this place. Even though Joburg is not classic fine-dining like Cape Town, the elaborate places make the culinary experience so worthwhile.

  • Late-night snacks

I really enjoy the Joburg Farmer’s Market at night. It was also perfect for the kids. In Cape Town, I can count how many events I can go to at night with kids on one hand.

  • Spicy food

Ah now, that’s a hard one because when I think “spicy food”, Durban comes to mind. I’ve had really good food in Joburg but when you say “spicy”, I immediately think “Durban!” Sorry!

  • Sundowners

Cape Town, without a doubt — that view man! Even if you’re just having an ordinary sundowner, that ocean view makes it so great, not to mention the mountain backdrop. Who can compete with that?

  • Value for money

This is a tricky one because my value for money is not necessarily yours. As a chef, I spend my money on food, it’s just inevitable. So high-quality food is value for my money, while someone might opt for a designer handbag that costs the same amount, and I might feel that’s too much for just a bag.

  • Traditional SA food

Joburg wins, because of the diverse ethnic food. I can go to Pata Pata in Maboneng, or to Soweto, or to Mash in Fourways and I will get traditional food. In Cape Town, I have to go to the township for that, or to Marcos in Green Point. But we now have Pitso’s in Long Street, so it’s growing somehow. In Cape Town the traditional food is more the Malay cuisine and the Dutch influence, so it’s not as diverse as Joburg.