Barista, chef won’t let being deaf limit them
Duo love interacting with their customers
President Cyril Ramaphosa recently declared sign language as the 12th official language and with September being international deaf awareness month – barista, Phumzile Mazibuko, 38, and pastry chef, Lindokuhle Mashiane, 27, hope to inspire other deaf people to follow their dreams and overcome the sound barrier.
Although Mazibuko has made thousands of coffees but has never heard the sound of a coffee grinder, she says her favourite part about her job is interacting with customers and seeing them learn sign language.
“My deep passion for coffee ignited during my time at the eDeaf Training Academy, where I completed the Ciro Barista course. As I delved into the art of coffee-making and gained insight into what defines exceptional coffee, my love for it grew. It didn’t take long for me to recognise that crafting coffee is visually captivating, making it a skill I could embrace,” she said.
“Interacting with my customers is an absolute delight. It’s incredible to see how they’ve embraced sign language to order their coffees. Many of our regular guests who return to our hotel don’t even need to glance at the menu board anymore; they simply communicate their preferences to me right away,” she said.
Mashiane, on the other hand, said she was inspired by her mother and grandmother to go into cooking and baking.
“My early culinary inspiration came from my mother and grandmother, both of whom had a deep passion for cooking and baking. This love took root in my heart during my childhood, particularly on weekends when I returned home from school I would often discover my mother engrossed in baking, or my grandmother whipping up delicious dishes, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the entire process,” she said.
Both Mazibuko and Mashiane, who work in different branches of ANEW hotel, said although their colleagues and customers had adapted to their realities, they still faced challenges as deaf people.
“Working within an environment primarily designed for those who can hear presents its unique set of challenges. However, having a supportive team by my side makes these challenges manageable. The compassion and understanding my team demonstrates are truly remarkable. To grab my attention in the bustling kitchen, they employ ingenious methods like flicking the lights on and off, leaving me thoughtful notes or gently tapping my shoulder. Moreover, they’ve taken the initiative to learn basic sign language and it’s been a delightful experience as we share the journey of them acquiring new signs to communicate with me,” Mashiane explains.
As a mother to two children – a hearing daughter and a deaf son, Mazibuko said she does not see being deaf as a hurdle to parenting but rather an opportunity to develop unique bonds with her children.
“When my baby was born I had the invaluable support needed to nurture and raise him. Children possess an incredible capacity for adaptation and my son effortlessly acclimated to my care. From a tender age, we forged our own distinct mode of communication,” she shares.
Mazibuko believes that it would be of great significance for deaf individuals to occupy more prominent roles such as those in the service industry, where they engage regularly with the public.
“These interactions not only help dispel misunderstandings but also serve as an opportunity to inspire others to learn sign language. By doing so, we not only break down barriers and dispel misconceptions but also empower others with a valuable skill and the confidence to communicate through sign language,” she explained.
In the near future both the barista and chef see themselves occupying higher spaces.
“I have a desire to undergo training as a sign language teacher,” Mazibuko says, while Mashiane sees herself becoming the head chef at ANEW Hotel Highveld someday.
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