Despite not placing in the top three at the recent KwaZulu-Natal bunny chow competition hosted by Coca-Cola at Blue Lagoon, Chetty's Takeaway in Durban is still regarded as "the best" among many residents who have good reason to believe so.
Besides making triple-A bunny chows, Alvin Chetty, 51, his wife Shaun, and their son Aveshan are also serving Durban Indian delicacies like tripe and gram dhal, trotters and beans, calabash and dhal, 'drum sticks' and dhal (Tamil Muringka) and other classic combinations that early Indian-South Africans cooked on the shores of Natal.
On articles published by earlier IOL about the bunny chow winners, many people commented that Chetty’s Takeaway is "the best", which prompted a visit on Wednesday.
Situated in an industrial area on Teakwood Road in Clairwood, the family-run takeaway has been in operation for over three decades.
The business was started by Alvin’s mother, Asothee, who turned 77-years-old on Wednesday, and was then taken over by her son, Alvin.
Arguably one of the most unique parts about this business, which mainly sells Indian cuisine, is that Alvin’s Namibian-born wife, who learnt how to cook from him, is the chef responsible for churning out around 300 mutton bunny chows on a daily basis, with the exception of Friday and Saturday, when they sell around 500.
Besides the curry for the bunny chows, Shaun Chetty cooks around 15 different curries six days a week, all from recipes that Alvin and Asothee taught her. The menu changes from Monday to Saturday to keep things "interesting".
Alvin and Shaun met in Namibia in1996 while he was on a work trip. Alvin used to be a quantity surveyor, but left his career to focus on the food business in 2000.
"First we just had a normal takeaway; we didn’t really focus on food. But when I got serious about it, we dove into Indian cuisine. The food is about the passion; being brought up in Chatsworth and watching our parents and grandparents cook traditional food just stuck in our veins and our blood.
"That’s what we brought back into the community. We notice that our younger generation tends to shy away from certain foods like sheep head, trotters, and tripe, which happen to be our best sellers,“ he said.
Before developing the curries they planned to sell, Alvin said he visited places like Goundens, Govenders, and Victory Lounge to get a taste of the food that was prepared by the generations that came before him.
"I must pay homage and respect to those places; they really paved the way for many businesses today. But I must say that I have taken what was taught to me and moved to the next level," Chetty said.
Over the course of a month, Chetty’s Takeaway cooks two tons of mutton, which they source from Woodview Butchery in Phoenix, north of Durban.
The bread, rotis, and rolls are picked up by Alvin every morning from Clairwood Bakery.
"You can't expect to use mediocre ingredients and get fantastic results. We believe in quality, and I think the people who deal with us know that we are particular.
"There were many times we’ve thrown away food because it did not meet our standard. I think maintaining that consistency is very important when cooking good food," Chetty said, adding that he and Shaun work harmoniously together.
"She was very hungry to learn about cooking and about Indian cuisine. I think she used that drive to learn quickly, and today she is doing a tremendous job," he said.
Alvin explained that their love for the food they cook and each other is a major contributor to the success they have enjoyed.
Shaun Chetty said that when she cooked at home, the food didn’t taste the same for some reason.
"I think it’s because I’m too used to cooking in large quantities," she said, shying away from any form of attention.
The soft-spoken chef responsible for feeding customers that walk through the doors of Chetty’s Takeaway who know they won’t be disappointed, did not seem like she wanted to be in the spotlight, despite her artistry in the kitchen.
We asked Alvin what he thinks about the comments online calling Chetty’s Takeaway "the best".
"I think the best judges for a business like this are the public. I mean, they are the ones eating the food all the time. They spend their money. I think they should have some say," Chetty replied.
"I was inundated with calls from customers asking how come I didn’t get in the top three or win," he said.
Chetty’s was placed in the top 10 at the recent bunny chow competition.