Described as a cheerleader for her community, a dedicated foodie and founder of Cape Fusion Tours, Pamela McOnie was nominated by not just one, but several industry members, including David, who is awed by the helping hand that she has offered to so many in the time of COVID.
Her brainchild, Cape Town Eats, is so much more than a website and Facebook group – it is a movement that has soared to well over 13 000 members with the sole purpose of supporting Cape Town’s artisanal food community. Her endless energy and passion for the food and travel industries keeps her motivated to work in selfless service of this online community every day, providing a lifeline to so many of those hardest hit by lockdown – restaurants, producers and chefs alike.
From vegan condensed milk to bags of foraged wild forest mushrooms, her group provided the link between incredible local offerings and a Cape Town community keen to get their foodie fix.
What was the inspiration behind Cape Town Eats?
Back in 2003, Pamela was amongst the first to operate food tours in Cape Town, sharing her favourite neighbourhood discoveries with the world through her company, Cape Fusion Tours.
But then lockdown hit, and as businesses around her began to close, all she could think about was the devastating impact this was going to have on her beloved industry. “I realised that many chefs, restaurants, and artisanal producers had little to no marketing expertise, and so the first thing I thought about was starting a website. I launched CapeTownEats.com as a way for others in the industry to market themselves.”
With many unsure how to go about promoting themselves, she turned to Facebook for the solution, and it turned out to be just the breakthrough she needed. Her Facebook group, Cape Town Eats provided those in need with a platform where they, and others, could shout about the wonderful foodie offerings they were selling and buying to create much-needed income.
For example, says Pamela, “Lisa’s making delicious rusks in Blouberg, and if 20 others hop on to praise Lisa’s rusks, others might join in to say, please deliver rusks to me in Gardens. And so, it’s a group of endorsements and sharing of information because otherwise, who would even know that Lisa is making rusks?”
“It’s become the most amazing little group because everyone wants to buy local, they want to buy an amazing product, we’re tired of the stuff we’re finding at supermarkets. Who doesn’t want to buy from one of Cape Town’s top chefs and have it hand-delivered to their door?”
And as it often goes for brilliant concepts, Cape Town Eats took on a life of its own. Now with over 13 000 members, it’s become a thriving marketplace and a source of hope.
Who is Pamela McOnie
So what made Pamela into the kind of person who sees the opportunity to help when others may be crippled by panic? Perhaps it’s partly because of the lessons she’s learnt along the way, when after a successful career in advertising, she decided to pack her suitcase and turn over a new leaf in a new city. “I knew I wanted to live in Cape Town, so I packed my little bag from Johannesburg, arrived down here and decided that I would do what made me happy: travel, people, food, and wine.”
So Pamela began her food and wine tour operating business. Inspired and eager to grow, she went big, but despite her efforts, she still hit a few snags along the way. “The travel industry is all about relationships,” she realised, so she slowly took the time to get to know the industry – international agents who gradually over time became her cheerleaders. “And so that’s how I did it. One little agent and ground operator at a time.”
How she feels about being nominated as a superlifter
For Pamela, the sense of achievement comes in knowing that her concept has been understood – and embraced by the industry. “I think it’s really special, and I’m so pleased that they caught the essence of what I’m doing, because I’ve been a cheerleader of everyone that has joined this group from the beginning. And for Pamela, it will always be about the people, the relationships, her cherished Cape Town community – and of course, the heaps of delicious food they have been able to share with one another.
Watch our conversation with Pamela McOnie here.