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Dining out on life stories

Dec 15, 2016

Meeting Capetonians and sharing their stories over a meal provides an experience that goes far beyond conventional tourism offerings. CityLife spoke to two amazing women who are making their lives and skills their living.

Woodstock resident Pat Fahrenfort and Faldelah Tolker from Bo-Kaap, both formerly from District Six, offer visitors traditional Cape Malay dishes taught to them by their mothers. Tourists who visit their homes are entertained by lively stories about the past – and their personal life experiences – with many laughs in between.

For Fahrenfort, who penned her autobiography Spanner in the Works in 2012, this includes telling her guests about her “meteoric rise in the workplace”. She left school at the age of 15 to work in a factory and a few decades later was part of the administration in Parliament that helped produce South Africa’s new Constitution.

Fahrenfort started her business last year after she was approached by a tour guide to offer visitors a typical Cape meal and a chance to hear her colourful life story. She offers her clients homemade hake fish cakes, mash and a tomato sauce, a meal popular in District Six during the time she lived there.

“My clients are usually people interested in social history and they know quite a lot about South African history. I reinvent myself all the time. Besides this business, I also make hand-made beaded jewellery which I sell to my clients,” she says.

Over in Bo-Kaap, Tolker has been running a similar business for 12 years after quitting her job as a nursery school teacher. Hers is the purple house on the corner of Wale Street, opposite the Bismillah restaurant and down the road from Atlas, the spice shop that has been in Bo-Kaap for over 70 years. She shares her home of 26 years with her husband, her two children and two French students currently studying in the city.

"My business is the best. I travel the world without travelling. I have so many different people walking through my door. I never thought that I’d have ‘the world’ in my living room. Tourists from all over South Africa, France, Sweden, Germany and America,” she says.

Tolker says she comes from a long line of good cooks, including an aunt who had a café in popular Hanover Street in District Six. She offers guests a cooking lesson in her kitchen or theirs (on request) at a cost of R330 per person. She also provides the meal only, depending on how hands-on the group wants to be. During the demo she shares interesting information about the health benefits of the spices being used and her personal story. In turn, her guests also share their stories and lots of laughs.

Some tours are planned, but in some instances tourists wander in off the street. The open door sees her children, husband and friends come in throughout her cooking demonstration which is fascinating to her guests. “This business is all about interaction and the experience people take away from here. They enjoy it and can take their experiences and stories here back home.”

She receives up to three groups a day and her menu includes curries, roti, samoosas, chilli bites, bobotie and koeksisters, to name a few. However, she says the industry is not without its challenges and more businesses such as hers have sprouted in the area making competition tough. But, she says, she believes in and encourages responsible tourism.

“I’ve brought some ladies from Bo-Kaap into this business myself. When I get a big group, I divide the group into small groups and send those tourists to the other ladies’ homes. I also buy all my ingredients from local shops. My spices are bought from Atlas. In that way, the whole community benefits.”

Book a tour: To arrange a tour with Pat Fahrenfort contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Faldelah Tolker via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last modified on Thursday, 15 December 2016 11:10
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CityLife is the newspaper for people who live, work and play in the Cape Town central city area – and our many visitors. It’s a blend of news and information about people and places in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

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