Chef thinks outside the box with Cork kiosk curry venture

The distinctive kiosk at the crossroads in St Luke’s is now home to a new business venture. CHRIS DUNNE talk to chef Chris Prinsloo about Gazbo, his takeaway curry booth, and why customers are loving his South African cuisine
Chef thinks outside the box with Cork kiosk curry venture

ENTERPRISING: Chris Prinsloo’s booth at St Luke’s in Cork city, where he has opened a new takeaway, called Gazbo.

LAUNCHING a new business in present times might seem a gamble, but city folk are hot-footing to a new curry place.

Gazbo in St Lukes is situated in the charming little kiosk at the area’s crossroads and customers are loving its sizzling dishes.

“Gazbo is at the heart of the vibrant community here and it is the perfect central spot for people to experience street food at its best,” says head chef Chris Prinsloo.

“St Luke’s is a great area,” adds Chris, who lives in Montenotte, Cork with his partner Edel. “It’s the locals who make it.”

Chris, who is originally from Durban in South Africa, is cooking up a fiery storm with his unique take on the classic Indian curry — Bunny Chow — which is a half loaf of white bread, hollowed out and filled with a rich mix of all sorts of curry. Yum!

“Bunny Chow is typical of South African Street food back home,” says Chris, who has lived and worked in Cork for over two decades.

Bunny Chow is no one-pot wonder.

“It is a slow cooked dish with subtle fragrances cooking for four to five hours over a low heat.”

Chris is an experienced chef, having worked in Durban, then in Cork, for Campbells Catering, in Eco’s Douglas and in the Jameson Heritage Centre, Midleton.

“I spent eight years working part-time in the Jameson centre before Covid hit,” says Chris. “Then everything changed.”

He is familiar with creating original cuisine with a twist.

“My parents owned a 5-star hotel in Durban and I used to hang out in the kitchen as a kid,” says Chris. 

“I loved all the activity in the kitchen and was fascinated by how the cooks put the variety of ingredients together to create wonderful dishes.”

So Chris became a chef himself. What brought him so far from home?

“I fancied a change. Ireland was at the height of the Celtic Tiger and chefs were in big demand here. I got sponsored by UCC in 2001 and Cork became home for me.”

Now Chris, in possession of an Irish passport,is one of the locals.

“Living here for some years, I filled out the necessary paperwork for naturalisation and became an Irish citizen. 

"As well as cheffing in Cork restaurants, I also did some consultancy work here in Cork. I love exploring new places; I have a passion for discovering new things.”

He discovered the cute old octagonal booth in St Luke’s and saw its potential as tiny food takeaway, where he could bring the eclectic flavours of South African street food to Cork. The booth has stood at St Luke’s cross since 1879 and was originally used as a toll kiosk to collect tariffs on livestock being brought to the city from surrounding farms.

Around the War of Independence, the kiosk ceased operating as a toll booth and became a tiny newspaper and cigarette stand before being turned into a pop-up flower shop a few years ago.

“It is like a tiny little box,” says Chris, who might find the booth a tight squeeze while serving Bunny Chow to the curious, the hungry, and the appreciative punters keen to try some new cuisine that originated in another continent.

“The takeaway is right slap, bang in the middle of the cross so it is accessible to everybody who is walking, cycling or passing by in a car.”

It’s the tiniest takeaway in Leeside.

“I approached my neighbour Ruth of Rant coffee, at 85, The Cross,” says Chris. 

“She runs the coffee shop with her husband Anth Kaley and looks after the lease of the booth. Ruth and Anth thought Bunny Chow was a great idea, complimenting the already vibrant, cosmopolitan area where they trade.”

St Luke’s, looking down upon the city lights, is a metropolis where lots of activity and community socialising abounds in normal times.

“Henchy’s pub hosts jazz sessions and St Luke’s Church is a great music venue,” says Chris.

 “When the weather is good and Covid 19 restrictions are lifted, it’ll be great when people can gather together and enjoy a drink or a coffee.”

Now they can enjoy sampling Bunny Chow.

“I am thrilled that people are getting a kick out of Bunny Chow,” says Chris. “They are game ball to try something different.

“The response from customers has been really positive. People are enjoying tasting and sharing the curries.”

It takes two to tango at Gazbo.

“Edel and I and the two kids only live up the road. Edel gives me a hand with the prep. I cook up the curry in a pal’s restaurant kitchen in town and transport it here and get it simmering to dish up.”

Irish people enjoy their chow-time.

“A good curry always goes down well,” says Chris. “It’s the same the world over.”

But not everything is the same the world over.

What did Chris find was different from Durban when he arrived in the ‘real republic’ of Ireland?

“The weather!” he says, laughing. 

“Back home, cooking outdoors and dining al fresco is very common. People gather together outside in the garden or communal area and fire up the barbie with a bit of music going. That what life is all about.”

Gazbo, painted in bright colours, is creating a good vibe at the crossroads in St Luke’s which, with social distancing in place, will provide a nice cosy hub for people to share some Bunny Chow.

“I am thrilled the community is welcoming Gazbo here in St Luke’s,” says Chris.

Bunny chow is going down well. What’s the recipe?

“Ah, now, that would be telling you!” says Chris, laughing.

There is a great buzz on the street, where the aroma of Chris’s street food is wafting down the hill and getting the attention of pedestrians out walking.

“The atmosphere is great,” says Chris. 

“The buzz is fantastic. I can see why there is only one capital in Ireland and that is definitely Cork!

“Prepping food, cooking food, serving food; that’s what I do,” adds Chris, appreciating the fab reviews from his customers.

Is shopping for ingredients part of the job?

“I do that too!” says Chris. “My ingredients for Bunny Chow are hand-picked and carefully chosen.”

He does the shopping, the preparing, and the cooking, with great flair and imagination. Having service with a smile is an added bonus.

“I think if you love what you’re doing, it shows,” says Chris.

He serves up some sound, positive advice.

“Be bold. Be brave. And smile.”

Gazbo Street food opening times: Thursday and Friday, 4pm-9pm

Lamb curry and vegetarian curry, €15.50

Call 089-9791679 to place orders

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