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5 Questions with restauranteur Absie Pantshwa

We speak to this passionate restaurant owner and food industry expert about her journey and what’s on her radar

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By Alyxandra Carolus | March 19, 2024 | Travel Leisure

It’s no secret that Cape Town is home to plenty of exceptional eateries with an enthusiastic food culture. This month, we spoke to Absie Pantshwa, entrepreneur and co-founder of MLILO Fire of Africa with over a decade of experience in this fast-paced industry. She shared a bit of her journey, what’s on her radar and what people have been enjoying about local cuisine.

You’re a restaurateur with a family who has been in the cattle farming business, how did you get your start in the restaurant industry?

My passionate journey in the hospitality industry started long before we opened MLILO at Time Out Market Cape Town in 2023, now going on 18 years that I’ve been part of this exciting world. I’ve always been obsessed with restaurants and the art behind them, which also influenced the concept behind our restaurants which has sustainability at its core.

We waste nothing which I’ve known as a kid but doing it in a space where you have to convince patrons to try our ‘new’ cuts cooked differently has been a welcomed challenge.

What can visitors expect at your establishment MLILO Fires of Africa, and what have you noticed about the reception to local and indigenous cuisine?

We’ve had such a good reception from both locals and international visitors, and it’s been an exciting time since opening MILILO at Time Out Market Cape Town in November 2023 – it brings the best of the city together under one roof so it’s exciting to be part of it.

MLILO Fires of Africa is a celebration of ‘braai’ concepts from all over Africa. Our patrons get to be transported to Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, and of course South Africa through the passion of cooking over fire. The concept was created by Chef Vusi Ndlovu specifically for the Market.We are super fortunate to have had this support from locals and tourists who are all pleasantly surprised with our interpretation of these local favourites.

What are some of the dishes on your radar that you love right now?

It’s always very good, well-farmed, honest beef, in many different forms. Vuur in Stellenbosch does this very well. Fire + incredible meat = happy me! Blondie’s on Kloof also has a piece of my heart with fire-baked whole fish and a dreamy sweet potato. Local is proving to be the only way to go.

Being a woman in this space can be daunting - what are some of the memorable moments from your career?

I have a slightly different view; I haven’t experienced it like that. The industry has been very welcoming and supportive. The admin that comes with heading up operations is a thrill of course.

Who are some of the local or international chefs that inspire you at the moment?

Mmabatho Molefe – you should see her work, it’s a thing. Michael Elegbede of Itan Kitchen Nigeria, Charlie Mitchell, Brooklyn. And of course, the Aunties at the street corner from all over the motherland.