Widely known as the Peninsula’s “Spinach King” Lufefe Nomjana will soon be making inroads into the Cape’s hotel market. He has embraced The Table Bay’s invitation to spend time in its pastry kitchens to broaden his knowledge and expertise. Touting it as an “opportunity of a lifetime”, Lufefe spends two days a week at the hotel revelling in the mentorship of hotel’s highly experienced culinary team.The mentorship and training being provided by The Table Bay forms part of the hotel’s commitment to up-skill qualifying potential Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) suppliers. Under Sun International’s revised Code of Practice, The Table Bay is working to ensure that 80% of products and services procured are from small, empowered, black-owned enterprises. To ensure sustainability, the hotel is investing in up-skilling and nurturing potential BBBEE providers. Lufefe has come a long way from his humble beginnings in Gugulethu Township, where he was raised by his domestic worker mother. Growing up, he noticed that the eating habits of his community were extremely unhealthy, which impacted on the general wellbeing and lifestyles of the people. “Healthy eating feeds unhealthy lifestyles and habits. I had a gnawing feeling that it was time for me to change my eating habits which would in turn change my lifestyle,” he says. In 2011 he volunteered in a community garden called Abalimi Harvest of Hope, where he helped elderly women grow organic vegetables.
Then, in 2012, with a bunch of spinach, R40 in his back pocket, and the use of his neighbour’s oven, he started his business Espinaca Innovations (Spinach Innovations). He started baking just four loaves of spinach-infused bread per day. He walked from door to door selling his bread, juggling his role as health educator, baker, and salesperson. The demand quickly grew from four to 24 loaves per day, and he was battling to deliver using his neighbour’s four-burner domestic oven.He approached a local Spar supermarket and humbly asked to use any spare oven capacity. He received a welcome helping hand from the storeowner and was even granted a shelf in the shop from where to sell his baked goods. The business grew from strength to strength and a year later he won the SAB Innovation Award in an entrepreneurial competition. His prize money of R50 000 was enough to set-up his containerised Expressed Bakery in 2014 February. He subsequently employed two bakers and two sales people. With this additional capacity, he secured supply contracts at two more Spars by the end of that year. By the beginning of this year, Espinaca Innovations had won more supply contracts and had outgrown its container bakery. Lufefe now operates out of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Baking Lab in Belville. Lufefe is more motivated than ever to grow his business. The five-star hotel market is one of the avenues he is exploring for his products. “The training and experience I am getting at The Table Bay is certain to open up opportunities for my business. I am excited about developing new products and extending my brand into hotels,” says Lufefe.