Have Wings takes off and is flying high

Emmanuel Sekokotla, co-manager and son of the owner of Have Wings in Melville specialising in chicken wings. / Thulani Mbele
Emmanuel Sekokotla, co-manager and son of the owner of Have Wings in Melville specialising in chicken wings. / Thulani Mbele

Human beings are carnivores you'll often hear, and those who partake, will often wax lyrical about their love of meat.

This past week I visited a restaurant that claims to make the "healthiest fast food chicken wings" and also spoke to a meat connoisseur about some common things we need to know about beef.

Have Wings in Melville, Joburg, is a restaurant that specialises in chicken wings, it's one of many shops at 27 Boxes, the precinct that uses shipping containers as store space. It's been operational for two years, and has a visible social media presence. What makes their wings healthy, I ask.

"Our wings are free range, they're not injected with anything. We dry spice them, take out the fat and then we oven bake them, they're then grilled," says Emmanuel Sekokotla, co- manager. This process sets them apart from other food outlets that deep fry their wings. His mother, Trudy Sekokotla, owns the restaurant.

Sekokotla bustles around the cozy venue with its minimalist decor, the food is served in enamel bowls and cups just to give it that throwback flavour.

While answering questions, he's directing the staff in the back to prepare the wings that are on offer for us to taste. His stint as an air traffic control officer seems to be holding him in good stead as he moves to and fro.

Have Wings prides themselves as the healthiest fast food in the country.
Have Wings prides themselves as the healthiest fast food in the country.
Image: Thulani Mbele

"I don't think if I didn't do that course [aviation air traffic controller], or that I didn't work in that environment I would be able to manage a place or even people," the 26-year-old says.

He says the aim for the business is to provide a worthy experience for customers. He says he's fallen in love with the restaurant business and won't be going back to aviation.

Some of the challenges they face is food wastage, they've had to give away prepared wings after a particular slow weekend, when foot traffic was not as anticipated. On a regular basis, they give it to homeless people.

"We promise our people that we'll always give them healthy, fresh food, regardless of food wastage," Sekokotla says.

The eatery offers its wings in five different flavours - sweet and sticky, Oriental, lemon and coriander, hot and smoky, extra hot and smoky and lethally hot, which you have to sign a disclaimer for.

You can order dips, salads and sweet potato fries (they don't have potato fries) to go with your wings. These can be ordered separately or as part of a combo, which starts at R100.

Have Wings in Melville specializing in chicken wings.
Have Wings in Melville specializing in chicken wings.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Sticky wings good for palate  

MUST HAVE: Sweet and sticky wings with broccoli salad - a delightful mix of cheese, raisins, broccoli and corn. It's creamy and fresh. Their corn salad was just too sweet for the palate. Otherwise, the menu is light and won't leave you feeling guilty, a must visit for the family.

FUN FACT: The restaurant has a webseries called Handle The Heat, where celebrities get to try different wings with varying degrees of heat. You can also experience these sauces after signing a disclaimer, of course.

Cut to the (meat) taste

Beef is all the rage in SA cuisine, hence the popularity of shisanyama spots and steakhouses.
Beef is all the rage in SA cuisine, hence the popularity of shisanyama spots and steakhouses.
Image: 123rf gresei

Llewellyn Mateza is the man you need to talk to when you want to know all things beef. A partner at the Local Grill, a steakhouse, that has been a constant in the culinary industry in SA for 17 years.

Mateza, 48, had been with the business for 15 of those years. They offer the consumer an opportunity to be educated on beef in their beef lab and serve up the delicious food.

"We're just really on a quest to serve the best steak, we've found we've got preferences for certain types of producers that we prefer working with who are, willing to listen and learn with us, that we can constantly improve the product and the experience that one has."

I ask about the colourful terms used to help consumers pick a good steak, like marbling for example.

"Marbling is the intramuscular fat, that one finds within the meat; it's very important, that's where the flavour is centered. The more marbled the cut is, the more tender it will be naturally," Mateza said.

Image: 123RF

Once the meat is grilled or cooked, the marbling will melt ensuring the flavour stays within the steak, causing that delicious burst of flavour in the mouth. The food that an animal eats and its age are reflective in the marbling, he adds.

"No one cut is ever the same. When cooking your beef, it helps to know which cut of the beef it is.

"Some cuts are better served braised - which is cooked low and slow, some cuts are better seared, some you can have them raw and some you can grill as steaks. And even in grilling there are different temperatures."

Mateza shares crucial info about blood, saying the pinkish liquid that flows out of cooking meat is not blood.

"Once an animal is slaughtered all the blood in its body is pumped out... those red juices that we see are a product called myoglobin, the water within all living bodies." .

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