This is a tale about a budding bromance, between Hezron Louw and Andrew Leeuw, which started in a taxi and led to the establishment of one of Johannesburg’s best gourmet street food joints.
Little did they know that this friendship and shared passion for food would bring them straight into the heart off the erupting street food scene.
Sumting Fresh was founded in 2012, and I first encountered them at Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein, an essential showcase of Johannesburg’s finest micro-merchants, design-makers, speciality-producers and food-alchemists.
I was drawn to their stall by their highly-spirited chants. “I got two, I got two, I got two like Desmond Tutu”, the staff shouts melodiously, as my order for two Chicken Goujon is ready to go. “Bump da cheese up”, they add almost instantaneously, as I request more parmesan cheese to my order.
The chants at Sumting Fresh are as much an integral part of their food, as their technique and flavours are. “In the tradition of street food vendors around the world, we started with our signature chants and catchphrases to draw customers in. Now, with people lining up, it serves to entertain our loyal customers while simultaneously getting orders across the kitchen crew without sounding like a crazy head chef. It also keeps our crew’s spirits up during long hours” says co-founder Leeuw - whose stint on the Ultimate Braai Master South Africa exposed him to the art of ingenuity under pressure.
WATCH: Sumting Fresh staff chanting through orders. Video: Simphiwe Mbokazi
“We went through the hard knocks of trying to get a business off the ground, and we experimented with different inspirations and flavour combinations. Eventually, we went gourmet with a whole lot of street food thrown in. Jozi needed something different. They needed Sumting Fresh”, says Louw, who’s an accountant by profession, but doubles up as a television personality who rose to fame as a cheftestant on the first season of SABC 3’s reality competition series, Top Chef South Africa, and currently, the co-presenter of travel foodie series, Tyres and Braaiers.
Sumting Fresh is also a favourite fixture at The Fourways Farmers’ Market, a Sunday fun day for the whole family. They bring a whole new energy and a vibe to street food - previously unseen before. Since starting their business, the Johannesburg mobile food vendor scene got a new set of wheels with the debut of Sumting Fresh’s bustaurant, a double-decker bus serving their fan favourites at festivals like DSTV Delicious (in Johannesburg), Bushfire (in Swaziland), Oppikoppi (in Limpopo), private and corporate functions.
Rather that just listing their food options traditionally, their menu is lighthearted and riddled with hashtags, serving up a side of laughter. Social networking has given a new meaning to the term “interaction”, especially in the world of food. For restaurants, the use of hashtags is incredibly beneficial because food will always be trending. Not only has it allowed Sumting Fresh to engage with their clientele directly, but it's been essential for increased exposure - especially on Instagram.
I was initially winging it when I ordered their #WingmanWings at Neighbourgoods. Gourmet gets greasy with these four deep fried buttermilk chicken wings, corn on the cob, sweet chilli, parmesan and fries. This time, I had the Bugatti Burger: #BeforeTheChicken with a 100% beef gourmet patty stuffed with avocado and all its glory, tomato, mozzarella and a side of fries. Next, I had their unrivalled Gua Bao: #KowPow with two Taiwanese steamed buns, crumbed deep-fried, deboned chicken thigh and sriracha hot sauce. Bao directly translates to ‘bread’ or ‘wrap’ in Taiwanese, and I hate to sound dramatic, but it is street food made to melt hearts and stomach’s alike.
They're little cloud-like white buns in which you can find a variety of magnificently cooked meat. Sumting Fresh also has the #Duck’inBao for bao-lovers, with panko crumbed pan-fried duck breast, accompanied by tangy, crispy, saucy and spicy flavours. They recommend two Gua Bao per person. I had four of each.
With the amazing success of Sumting Fresh’s offerings, they quickly realised that no beverage could hold its own against the food. So in an inspired move of food pairing, they came up with the most remarkable Jam Jar mocktails and cocktails to sip alongside their ballsy street food. Sumting Fresh iced cocktails are chock-full of the freshest, seasonal fruit and the best syrups and purees to punch up that burst of fruitiness. I had the Granadilla Passion, which is their best seller, and the Cherry Mint. They ensure that whether a mocktail, absolutely kid friendly or a cocktail - with an added twist you get the iciest, most refreshing, cleanest flavours.
So when you hear “Chicken over here, Chicken over here, YEAH!” wherever you may be, you’re going to be in for the best thing since.. well since the chicken crossed the road and crumbed chicken was invented.