Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fresh, tasty food is central to an enjoyable dining experience but it isn’t the only important element. What makes a dining experience memorable has much to do with the people and there’s no substitute for warm, welcoming, knowledgeable staff. That said, front of house is usually the first face guests see. In the case of GOLD Restaurant, this would probably be Annie. She’ll charm you with her smile and greet you in English or engage with you in French, if you prefer, before showing you to your table.

A country in conflict

Annie comes from central Africa from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She was born in a town called Sakania near Lubumbashi, the second largest city after Kinshasa, on the southern tip of the DRC, close to the Zambian border. One of 12 children, she and her family moved to Lubumbashi where she lived until coming to Cape Town in 2006. Luckily, her family has not seen the violent conflict that has plagued mainly the eastern parts of the country for the last two decades.

Finding balance

French is the official language of the DRC with Lingala and Munutukuba coming a close second. Annie battled with English when she first arrived in South Africa but she’s worked on it every day since, through reading and her academic studies.

Ambitious and driven, for a long time Annie juggled being a wife, a mother of two young daughters, studying by day and working at GOLD at night. After graduating from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology with a National Diploma in Financial Information Systems in 2013, she continued to push herself. Thanks to the support of a loving husband, Annie assists with accounts at GOLD by day and fulfils her front of house role in the evenings.

More than just DNA

She says that being at GOLD is more than a job. There’s something special about the environment and the people. Co-owner, Cindy’s flexibility and support has helped to keep her focused on her vision, to be an accountant one day, perhaps even at GOLD she says. Except for her four sisters who live in Cape Town, Annie hasn’t seen her parents and other siblings since she left the DRC, and while she has plans to visit them next year, she says she has family here too, John (her husband), Feza and Trida (her children), and Cindy.

Family, food, feasting

Congolese cuisine is based on grains, tubers and a diverse variety of vegetables. Annie says that the vegetable variety back in the DRC is so large that meat is eaten but plays a minor role on the food stage there. Back home, food is cooked indoors or outdoors. The dish that reminds her most of home is pap (a staple food made from maize) served with vegetables and gravy. Every time she talks about her family she breaks into a smile. And when she goes home to visit, on the day she arrives, there will be plenty of crying, celebrating, hugging, cooking home food and feasting.

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