Picture a custard biscuit cup filled with a little mixed-berry compote… Elani Plaatjies’ culinary lockdown creations were quite a hit with the family. And just like custard-meets-compote, life is a mix of sweet and a touch of sour, ups and downs – and there is no way for one to grow and for depth to exist without a mixture of both.
Elani’s life story started in Stellenbosch and today, she lives in Cloetesville with her family.
This entrepreneur is a go-getter and thinks of herself as a jack in the box: “A colourful being with many facets.” And this is also the way she feels about her culinary offerings at The Food Triangle. But things have not always been this rosy. After she had her third baby, she suffered severely from postnatal depression.
Through therapy she could identify and deal with other triggers and pain points she has experienced throughout her life. An unhappy and abusive childhood, the fact that she had been in fourteen different schools and having to deal with low self-esteem as a teenager to name but a few, was definitely not easy. “Life has never been easy for me – nothing was handed on a silver plate,” she says. “But I am a fighter and I will put anything on the line to go for what I want.”
In 2018, Elani had the opportunity to participate in an assistant chef course with the Cape Winelands Academy. This really inspired her and she would love to take on another formal course, “but being a mother of three beautiful kids does not always give you the time,” she says. “I’ll have to ‘recut’ their umbilical cords – so hopefully in the future,” she laughs.
“At the moment I’m a one-woman show.” Every now and again when a very large order comes in, her younger brother, Juan Pietersen (23), who works at a local fast food kitchen, helps her to prep some of the ingredients.
There are a few competitors around, but Elani believes that her customers “are my compass” who show her the direction they want her to go with their order. “I believe that I have to keep innovating – making new and inspiring dishes really gives me so much energy.”
At the moment, the “bite-size” movement is very relevant to her and she would like to shift her focus to catering for corporate events. “I love the challenge of bringing a fresh and innovative twist to an old-school dish,” she says.
She believes that the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown “gave us the opportunity to reflect on who we want to be, where we want to be and how we want to make an impact on other people’s lives”. Elani is thankful for her faith and wants to give back to the community – and especially to children – and their mental wellbeing. “I see myself in the children in my community,” she says.
Her advice for entrepreneurs? “It doesn’t matter how small you start, just keep on working. Don’t stop until you are where you want to be. Everyone’s timing in life is different – but keep your chin up.”
Elani loves the fact that Ranyaka’s Building Business programme is so personal. “You get to have a personal relationship with their team and they are the stepping stone any entrepreneur can dream of. They also helped to coordinate my very first photoshoot, for which I’m so thankful.”
Elani always knew she would “end up doing something with food.” At first, the dream was a coffee shop/internet café. “It’s evolved quite a bit since then, but one day hopefully – my own little pastry bar,” she says. “I’m thankful for my journey – it brought me to where I am today.”
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Building Business is one of ten programmes that form part of Ranyaka’s Collaborative Community Development framework, currently being implemented through the Nedbank Proud of my Town initiative in 9 towns in 7 provinces nationally. Read more about our Building Business programme.
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