CRUSH CHATS TO Nikki Albertyn
We chat to Nikki Albertyn about bringing Turkish simit bread to Cape Town...
We chat to Nikki about her venture Simi, which brings traditional Turkish Simit bread to CPT.
Tell us a little bit about how Simi came about?
My boyfriend and I travelled to Europe in September last year, ending our trip in Istanbul. We simply fell in love with the place, the people, and particularly the bright red simit carts dotted all over the city streets – we weren’t able to resist at least one simit a day. The evening before we left, we sat in a café down the road from the Galata tower and I wrote down a date in my notebook when we would sell our first simit back home. And so Simi was born.
We took the breads to Andy Fenner at Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and they have been stocking them every Friday and Saturday since October 2014. In the meantime, we worked on growing the Instagram account, @simicapetown, raising brand awareness and designing and building the cart that we are now using at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market. We started to trade at the market this year.
Tell us a bit about Turkish breads and why you decided to go this route?
The much-loved simit has been said to have been around since the Ottoman Empire (1525). Found on the streets of Turkey, this unofficial national food has a bit of an identity crisis. Often called the ‘Turkish bagel’, it has been said that it’s more like a pretzel. The braided bread ring doused in sesame seeds, can be enjoyed at any time of the day, and is typically eaten on its own with a spot of çay (Turkish tea).
Besides being pretty much obsessed with this tasty bread, I figured that, with Turkey currently being a popular travel destination, Simi would serve as a pleasant taste-bud reminder. For me, eating something that takes me back to a fond memory is so special – I want to be able to give other people that opportunity.
I am passionate about food, and how we use it to make connections with people and moments – the bread is simply a vehicle to do so.
Have you found that the no-carb craze has affected you at all?
To be honest, we haven’t had anyone coming to us and walking away because it’s a carb – I think people who aren’t eating carbs just stay away. We have some die-hard fans and we focus our energy on them and potential new customers. Everyone that eats Simi, loves it – that’s more than enough for me.
You used to be a part of the Crush team, so food must be a passion for you. How have you made the transition to selling your own breads – was there a demand from family and friends?
Food has always played a big role in my life. I have such fond memories of time spent in the kitchen with my mom, especially at our holiday farm where we would cook for everyone. Family would always ask us for recipes and encourage us to do a book (which I definitely would love to do one day when I can afford to!).
So, with my digital knowledge from my studies at Vega and experience at Crush with recipes and food photography, I was able to start Gathered as a platform for my mom and I to document our kitchen-escapades. From there, my love and passion for food has just grown and has driven me to want to start my own business –making people happy with the food I put in front of them.
Is cookery and baking something you would like to further, or is this a relatively new field for you?
I definitely want to be in the kitchen, but I’m still figuring exactly what that might mean. Apart from my full-time design job at Zana and growing Simi, I am also currently doing the part-time Patisserie course at Silwood School of Cookery, so let’s see what happens after that!
Do you see yourself branching out into other breads & goodies?
For Simi, I don’t think we would branch out into other types of breads as the simit is what gave rise to the brand. We will definitely play within the boundaries of the product, coming up with different sandwiches and ways to serve the bread. I have some ideas of other goodies I want to do, but those will probably be a completely different brand altogether.