Imagination Food Design was honoured to be invited to cater for President Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday in Mvezo on the 18th July 2018. The trip from Port Elizabeth took 12 hours to Mvezo and was an epic adventure considering we had know idea how to get there! Most people think he was born in Qunu just outside UMtata which is where he actually grew up.
Going through the village I was privileged enough to see the hut in which President Nelson Mandela was born and where he sat the entire day he was released from prison. It was the highlight of my catering career and a huge honour to be tasked with catering for this amazing event.
Not without its challenges though. Loads of phone calls from the event organizers based in JHB to arrange 2000 litres of water, food and infrastructure that had to be taken through to Mvezo where there are little or no facilities like running water or electricity. After having one days notice to shop and prep for the event we packed a 7 ton truck full of all the equipment needed to do the event, including the kitchen sink and by 1:00 am on Tuesday morning we where packed and ready to go. With only two hours sleep at 3:00am we were ready for the driver to leave so we could get to the venue to unpack and set up later in the day at Mveso where the event was to be held.
After a grueling long days drive we arrived at Mveso at 16:00 hours later that afternoon.It took us an additional 5 hours to unpack, set up the kitchen and prep the final touches for the breakfast the following morning. Making sure that all the ovens and electrical equipment didn’t trip the electricity before we headed back to Umtata for a few hours sleep. All the staff were bused through from Port Elizabeth and accommodated at guest houses in Umtata for the night ready to wake up at 3:30am to drive an hour back through to Mvezo to set up for breakfast.
Our brief was to be ready for 10am but in reality and in true African fashion we started serving coffee from 6am up at the main village from our kitchen based in the valley 10 min drive from the village reception hall. Even with special clearance VIP stickers it was a challenge getting through security. Due to the number of VIP guests and Presidents from all over the world attending the security was rightly at the highest level and we were checked at every turn. Setting up for breakfast and the president in the main village became a challenge as each time the President was moved from place to place everything was brought to a halt until he was escorted out the area and things could carry on as usual.
The dome structure where the main event was to be held took two weeks to erect and was amazing on all accounts. No expense was spared when it came to decor sound and vision. We catered for 750 Vip guests and a good few more not on the list including security, body guards
Nelson Mandela’s 100th celebration starter
police and a few locals. Lunch was sheduled to start at around 14:30 but with so many speakers we started around 15:30 and finished with dessert at just after 18:30. Breaking down and packing the vehicles was a lot quicker and we were back on the road by 21:00. Shattered but extremely happy it was a great success we arrived back in Port Elizabeth at 4:30am the following morning. What an amazing experience!
The views from the village down to the Dome where the lunch was to be served.