The doyen tradition of Indian chefs, Suliman Manjra also known
as Solly has cooked for royalty, heads of state, Jacob Zuma, Nelson
Mandela, Sonia Ghandi and super sportsman like Muhammad Ali.
He has the distinction of cooking for a whooping 68 000 people
in one sitting for Eid-ul-Adha (the festival of sacrifice) in
2011 in Durban. Then in 2012, he cooked and fed 48 000 people,
for a single meal without any trouble at all. He also cooks at
the mass religious functions hosted by the Sofee family which
attracts thousands of people.
The super talented Chef is an icon when it comes to Indian foods
and he gives the western specialities his own twist, which is
said to take the European cuisine to another level. He has a series
of ancient recipes handed down to him by his father, Mr Ahmed
Bemat and which had been collected for many years of cooking in
the best restaurant kitchens of the world.
His lamb dishes like his Kalia, Karaigos and Jalfrezi have become
household favourites, while his chicken selection like the Toshi,
Musallam, Nawabi, Chisti and Tikka have become standard for many
major functions throughout South Africa. His fish Laadu coupled
with an array of prawns cooked to a multitude of tastes have become
the subject of conversations around many stately tables. When
it comes to desserts, the all time favourites of Bombay Crush,
Finni, Sojee Halwa, Gajaar Halwar and Faluda are standalone delights.
Don't forget his Black Forest cake.
Mr Manjra is a humble man and works from his compound in Sea
Cow Lake which had grown from a four roomed house into a complex
of modern buildings which includes kitchens, a suite of offices,
giant cold rooms, a restaurant and a colossal warehouse. Yet,
Mr Manjra will tell you he started his business under a tree in
"When I started out on my own, I vowed that I would
cook food which would not only be nourishing and tasty but would
also give people the satisfaction of knowing that I used the best
to ensure value
for their money " said Mr Manjra.
He pointed that cooking has always been part of
his life and for as long as he could remember, he always enjoyed
working in the kitchen. "My grandfather, Mohammed Bemat
was tailor who arrived in South Africa in 1913 and settled in Pietermaritzburg.
But my father, Mr Ahmed Bemat while still a boy, went to Durban
and was employed at Mullah's Cafe in Victoria Street as a water
boy. His job was to walk around the restaurant with a big jug of
water for the hungry diners who turned up at all hours of the day
and night. My father virtually stayed on the premises "
said Mr Manjra.
He said that at that stage, two boys, his father
and another both had the same name, Ahmed. One day Mr Mullah shouted
for Ahmed and both boys responded. He told my father that from then
on, his name would be Manjra because he had light green eyes. The
name stuck and my father grew up in that restaurant and became an
assistant to Mr Mullah who taught him how to cook. "My
father spent more than 30 years working for Mr Mullah before his
mentor called him aside and told him that it was time for him to
open his own business " said Mr Manjra.
His first venture was at 86 Queen Street, but
the shop was not a success and for the first time the family moved
out of city and into the suburb of Overport. Here my Father started
a small business in the yard of our house in Sheringham Road. He
would make jaleeby and sev and my job was to take it to each house
in the neighbourhood, especially on Thursdays because people held
religious functions on that day of the week.
"We did well and soon my father landed
a job at Delhi Restaurant and we moved back to the city. He also
cooked haleem for the Muslim community during the Holy Month of
Ramadaan. Our luck began changing and soon, my father opened his
own Restaurant, Club Salamaat in Cathedral Road " said
Mr Manjra. It was in 1960 that Mr Manjra joined his father and worked
in the kitchen after school.
the place I wanted to be and I was a keen student. I wanted to become
a top chef in the country. I began absorbing everything I could
and very quickly, I realised that temperament was a key factor.
My father always took God's name and then sent Salutations to Prophet
Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) before he started cooking. This kept
him calm and cool. He knew he was in charge and was focused
" said Mr Manjra.
Club Salamaat became the place to eat and visitors
to Durban from throughout the country and far flung cities in the
world would pitch up to taste the food. "At times people
would queue to have a meal and some of them waited a very long time.
But they would not leave until they ate " said Mr Manjra.
He said that his two other brothers, Gora and Ismail joined the
business and the family's reputation grew and they enjoyed wide
Contracts to cook at weddings, official functions
and other major events virtually poured in for the family.
Business was good and it was time for Mr Manjra
Senior to take a back seat and summoned his three sons.
He told them that if they wanted to go into business
and used the family name, they had to vow to cook using only the
best ingredients and when it came to meat, fish, chicken and vegetables,
all of it had to be prime grade.
The brothers went out into the world to set up
their own operations and Mr Solly Manjra found himself in an open
piece of ground under a tree in Sea Cow Lake. He had the support
of the landlord and he started with his own style of cooking. After
a few years, he had to move because the landlord wanted to extend
his business. This is when Mr Manjra moved to 9 Lakedale Road, Sea
Cow Lake.This is where his headquarters are now situated and is
the centre of all his activities. Now with him in the business is
his two sons, Muhammad and Ahmed. They are being trained by the
father whose motto is: "When you want to rest - Don't hesitate.
Contact the best. From a match stick to a tooth pick."