Foodie entrepreneur makes sphatlo fashionable

Food is art and can be a means to eke a decent living. One young person who has capitalised on the yearning for wholesome soul food is Mopati Mapogo, who runs Munchies Cafe in Francistown, which specialises in serving sphatlho, or kota, as it is also known as. His humble stall along Blue Jacket street in front of the old Immigration offices is often busy with hungry customers filing for a bite of the unique delicacy. Although often confused with bunny chow, in an interview with Vibe, Mapogo was quick to explain that there is a difference between the two. “The base of a bunny chow is half a loaf of bread while a sphatlho is made from a quarter loaf of bread. Also, the bread of the bunny chow is hollowed out and filled with mince, lamb or mutton while sphatlho is also hollowed out and filled with fries (chips), atchaar, polony, cheese, lettuce and russian,” he said. The 22-year-old Mapogo was born in Jwaneng and moved between the mining town and Francistown. He went to Mophato and Acacia schools before completing his secondary schooling at Prestige College in South Africa. It was during his time there that he learned about spatlho. “In 2010 a friend of mine invited me to Soshangue, on the outskirts of Pretoria, and that is when I ate my first sphatlho. Anyone who has been to South Africa knows how crazy they are about this delicacy. I fell in love at first bite and couldn’t get enough of it.” But it took him falling on hard times to figure out that he could make a living through this yummy snack.Two years ago he flunked his studies at University of Botswana where he had been pursuing law. With little prospects and no income he thought it was best to come up with a business. “I knew that it had to be unique – something that people do not experience every day. That is when the spatlho idea came to mind. I could not fund my business at the time but luckily I got a job last year and was able to save from the little money I earned and officially opened Munchies Cafe last month.” Mapogo would like to see Munchies Cafe grow into a franchise, employing more people and paying them decent wages. He noted that government could do more to assist youth in informal businesses by levelling the playing field. “We are running innovative and attractive businesses but not enough people know about them because government is not laying a solid platform for us.” But the lad is not lying on his laurels as he continues to work hard. “The reception to the business is better than I had anticipated especially when you consider that this is a new product here. The support I have received is amazing.”