After being retrenched as a senior community manager for Wunderman Thomson, Edgar Do Nascimentos (42) turned his Covid-19 misfortune into prosperity with a food business he operates from his home in the North of Johannesburg.
A communicator by profession, Do Nascimentos turned to the kitchen in lockdown where he sharpened his cooking skills to produce comforting seafood meals that are in high demand in Johannesburg.
Like many lockdown chefs to emerge during the pandemic, it was boredom that drew the Angolan-born cook to the kitchen. Cooking turned out to be the beginning of a journey of discovery for the single father of two.
Originally from Luanda in Angola, Do Nascimento says he grew frustrated being home and idling. At the time he did not realise that he had a love for the stove, although he had worked part-time as a waiter and grill cook in several seafood restaurants in his student days.
Even before he embarked on his own culinary venture, he would enjoy visiting different restaurants. Every opportunity and moment spent in a new restaurant would be used to thoroughly taste and assess the ways in which he could improve what he was tasting on a menu.
“I try my own things, or my imagination will just tell me how to make a particular menu taste nicer and it usually works.”
He says he never imagined he would be back working in the food space again.
“When I was at varsity back in Cape Town, I took up some odd jobs here and there to help me pay for my school fees.
‘When I make food, I am very nervous, quiet, and calm. The nerves I think make me do things properly.’
“I was a waiter at Ocean Basket back in 2000, I think. At the time I also worked at a well-known food outlet in Table View, grilling chicken. I think I got to love the art more and more from those experiences,” Do Nascimentos explains.
‘I got it from my mama’
Do Nascimentos suspects that his culinary skills derive from his mother. She would often invite him to sit next to her while she prepared meals for him and his siblings.
“My fondest memories are always from my mom and people, when I cook for friends at home and they are happy, I get excited.”
He also tells Food For Mzansi that he draws his inspiration from simple daily events. An avid runner, moments spent on the trail are spent imaging the next meal he is going to prepare in his kitchen.
“After that contemplating, I would then make the meal, the exact meal I randomly imagined. I do not know if it is a gift, but I just see the dish in my imagination then I make it.”
Do Nascimentos moved to Mzansi in the late 90s. Working odd jobs in Cape Town he managed to pay for his studies in journalism and PR.
“I worked as a sports editor at SuperSport, then went to an agency where I worked as a senior community manager for sub-Saharan Africa, until lockdown came, and I got retrenched,” he explains.
‘I thrive on the excitement of people when I cook and they like my food. That makes me happy.’
Though his culinary career has been brief, food is his first love, he admits. Cooking is often a moment. It is the calm before the storm.
Nervous, but calm
“I thrive on the excitement of people when I cook and they like my food. That makes me happy.
“I don’t cook for me, I cook for the next person. And trust me, every dish usually makes me feel extremely nervous, all the time when preparing it. When I make food, I am very nervous, quiet, and calm. The nerves I think make me do things properly,” Do Nascimentos says.
Anything grilled is always a hit in the kitchen, he believes.
“It’s quicker to make, its cleaner and easier for me. I love fish, so dishes with fish and salads I like.”
Working in the culinary industry is no easy feat. “Being a chef is a concept that people use loosely. It is tough. So, you can cook but if you are not able to deal with pressure and control situations, things can get ugly really quickly.”
The acknowledgement and praise from his clientele have been refreshing. “The referrals, the calls and the appreciation have been great.”
The most important life lesson he has learnt thus far in his journey is to stay humble.
Always be consistent, he advises. “Know that you will get criticised and always stay on your game. Don’t do short cuts, your customers are very smart, know that and treat them always as very important people.”
Do Nascimentos hopes to see the doors of his own restaurant open one day.
“I am planning to open my own place, where folks come and have a good time. A place where people feel free, have good food, listen to good music and just have fun. It will be more like a yard where adults come and feel like they are home and have some real fun,” he says.