With an exuberance and energy she attributes to “Jesus and caffeine”, Lucy Markewicz is blazing her culinary trail through greater Durban, writes Debbie Reynolds
It all started with a cake stall at the Shongweni Farmers Market many moons ago. Today she mirrors the mixed-use-space, The Plant Venue Co, which she took over in January this year.
Lucy now owns a cake shop, CakeLab, a catering company, Renegade Kitchen, and a food styling business, all of which run from The Plant at Durban’s buzzing Station Drive precinct. She also manages The Plant which houses various tenants, but also transforms into a corporate workshop space during the week or a wedding and events venue at the weekend.
From her cottage in Durban North, which she shares with her Boston terrier Layla, two bunnies and a hedgehog, it’s just a short hop over the river to her “happy place”.
“When I landed here at the end of 2015 it felt like I had come home,” says Lucy. Her journey from the Shongweni Market took her to the acclaimed Vanille Cafe in Kloof and then Greyville’s Freedom Cafe, where she worked with fellow food visionary Neil Roake.
It was this experience that ignited her love for food styling with her most recent work being a festive spread for the Milady’s magazine. When we meet for coffee, her third of the morning, at the quirky Khuluma across the road from The Plant, she’s also gearing up to put CakeLab online.
“The plan is to launch by the beginning of December with our Christmas range, as well as a capsule collection of celebration cakes which clients can customise,” says Lucy. “We’ve got a basic range of eight cakes, all named after some of our most loyal customers. To these you can add various decorations and change the colours or size to suit your specific needs.
“I am also hoping to get Renegade online by March – offering kitchen essentials such as sauces, salad dressings, pestos, pastas and catering items like party platters.”
Being a working mom, Lucy understands that time is precious and how offering a service where people can shop online after working hours makes perfect sense.
The Christmas range includes a unicorn cake with a candy horn, and “kiffsicles”, Lucy’s cake-take on popsicles, along with traditional matured fruit cakes, gingerbread and simple fondant covered cookies and her famous mince tarts.
“Unicorns have been a massive trend this year, so we’ve adapted to give them a Christmas twist and the kiffsicles, especially for the kids, are a local take on an old favourite,” says Lucy.
She unashamedly says her Belgian pastry mince tarts are a winner, considering she’s perfected them over the years having first branched out “commercially” by making them as farewell gifts for her teachers in her matric year.
For her Christmas is always a family affair. “Since my parents and I are divorced we’ve got the real millennial family vibe going on where I literally have three Christmas celebrations,” she laughs. “It’s either Christmas Eve or lunch with my mom and stepdad and 11-year-old daughter Esme, and then lunch or dinner with the other folks.
“Christmas morning is spent having breakfast with my dad and gran. There’s always lots of food and because my stepdad loves cooking and my mom loves baking, I have to step up to hijack a part of the meal.”
She has fond memories of her earlier Christmases where her ouma always arrived with soetkoekies in shopping bags for the family and her gran presented her special pickled onions.
Her food philosophy is wholesome, simple, no fuss, balanced, delicious and always made with love and a little twist.
“I’m a renegade when it comes to most things,” says Lucy. “I’m not a classically trained cook and I don’t follow the crowd. I love creating strategies and new ideas and my goal for 2019 is to live the lifestyle I am selling, which means mentoring people to make my load lighter and developing health and wellbeing in my team and myself.”