PMB’s hid­den gem

In­cred­i­ble peo­ple of the city make run­ning the Fat Au­bergine a joy for Margie Harel

Weekend Witness - - Leisure - ESTELLE SINKINS

The beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated in­te­rior of the Fat Au­bergine has a homely feel. A friendly Daschund sign greets cus­tomers to the restau­rant in Chapel Street.

Plants grow­ing in a va­ri­ety of con­tain­ers add to the peace­ful feel. LEFT: The Fat Au­bergine team (from left) Khethi Sibiya, Pru Sosibo, owner Margie Harel, Nomvula Mabaso and Nana Sibisi. PHO­TOS: ESTELLE SINKINS MARGIE Harel, owner of the Fat Au­bergine — one of Mar­itzburg’s hid­den gems — ad­mits to not be­ing “ob­sessed by food” when she was younger.

Rather it was her teach­ers at the ML Sul­tan Ho­tel School and later Prue Leith’s cook­ing school in Lon­don, which helped in­stil a love of cook­ing in her.

That love is re­flected in the dishes she and her team pro­duce at the restau­rant sit­u­ated near the in­ter­sec­tion of Boshoff and Chapel streets.

“I orig­i­nally chose to study ho­tel man­age­ment be­cause I wanted to work with peo­ple, and it was while I was there that I re­alised that what I re­ally wanted to do was cook,” she said.

“I had in­cred­i­ble teach­ers at One of the most pop­u­lar dishes on the menu at the Fat Au­bergine is Coro­na­tion Chicken and Margie Harel has kindly de­cided to share her tasty recipe with us. CORO­NA­TION CHICKEN Serves 6 In­gre­di­ents Eight chicken breasts Sauce: 1 onion 1 tbs oil 1 tsp curry pow­der 1 tbs tomato sauce ½ cup wa­ter 1 tsp apri­cot jam 1 tsp lemon juice 2 cups Hell­man’s Real Mayo 1 cup cream Method Poach chicken over mod­er­ate heat un­til just cooked. In another pan, fry onion in the ho­tel school and I was so lucky to win the prize for best stu­dent in my fi­nal year, spon­sored by the In­ter­na­tional Wine and Food So­ci­ety. That helped me to travel to Lon­don where I got to hone my skills at Prue Leith’s cook­ing school.”

Orig­i­nally from Westville, the Dur­ban Girls’ Col­lege old girl found her­self in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg af­ter mar­ry­ing her hus­band, De­nis. “The city has been in­cred­i­ble to us as a fam­ily,” she added. Ini­tially Harel worked as a lec­turer at the Dur­ban Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and Var­sity Col­lege, but later she and her then busi­ness part­ner, Theresa Rat­tray, de­cided to open the Au­bergine Cook­ery School.

In 2005 Harel moved into her Chapel Street prop­erty and de­cided it was the per­fect per spot p to oil and add curry pow­der. Stir to­gether for one minute. Add wa­ter, tomato sauce, apri­cot jam and lemon juice. Sim­mer then leave to cool. set up a small restau­rant/cof­fee shop with a homely feel and great food.

She con­tin­ued to teach cook­ery classes and took on ca­ter­ing for wed­dings and func­tions, but even­tu­ally in 2012 de­cided that she needed to con­cen­trate less on teach­ing and more on run­ning the Fat Au­bergine and her work as a caterer.

“For me it’s all about build­ing re­la­tion­ships. I don’t just want to do the food for your wed­ding, but also for your brother’s and your sis­ter’s and your friend’s, be­cause it’s not just a job for me,” Harel said.

“I truly be­lieve that I only have the clients I have been meant to have ... and they have all been amaz­ing.”

As for the Fat Au­bergine it­self, she says that run­ning it is “en­er­gis­ing”, thanks to the “in­cred­i­ble peo­ple” she meets ev­ery sin­gle day .

Harel be­lieves in sourc­ing the best pos­si­ble in­gre­di­ents for her cus­tomers and as far as pos­si­ble, in us­ing what is sea­sonal and sus­tain­able.

She also hates food which has been “fid­dled about with”, adding: “I be­lieve that if you want to have fish, then I want you to be able to taste that beau­ti­ful kingk­lip or smoked salmon.”

The mom of two, whose chil­dren So­phie and Em­i­lie keep her busy when she’s not work­ing, also views her staff as mem­bers of her fam­ily. “Most of them have been with me for­ever,” she ex­plains. “I sim­ply could not do this with­out them.”

She also has no de­sire to move from her Chapel Street premises, say­ing: “I am very, very happy to be in the cen­tre of town be­cause I get such an amaz­ing di­ver­sity of peo­ple here. I just love it!”

Thanks to the sup­port of De­nis and her chil­dren, Harel truly be­lieves she has been blessed to do what she loves most in life.

“I have had the most in­cred­i­ble life in food; a life rich in the re­la­tion­ships that I have made and the peo­ple who have en­joyed one of my meals.” • For more in­for­ma­tion about the Fat Au­bergine, call Margie on 033 342 3046. Add two cups of real mayo and the cream. Spoon over the chicken and fold. Serve on a bed of crispy greens.

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