Saturday, August 25, 2007

Samuela Sakabua, the BBQ Expert from Cicia, LAU

By now most of us from the capital city must have eaten a serve of barbecue at the Hibiscus Carnival.
Meet Samuela Sakabua one of the countless barbecue stall operators at Albert Park.
Samuela, 61, is a pioneer barbecue hawker in Suva, cooking up delights from the 1990s.
"I love doing this because you get good returns and you are happy at the end of the day,"he said.
"During the 1990s, I used to make close to $900 per day,"he said.
"The minimum I used to get a day was $400. By selling barbecue I was able to buy a carrier, most household items and most importantly I was able to educate my seven children,"said Sakabula.
He was the most wanted person in the Suva Bus Stand area when he started out, even closely guarding his secret ingredients with which he marinated his meat.
"It all depends on how you prepare the marinade for the chops and sausages,"he said.
"The smell of your barbecue should be able to send the message to the people of how tasty it really is.
"If you fail to produce the smell, it becomes no use selling the food. If people smell and come around, that's good but if the smell is there and they walk away then there's something wrong with your barbecue,"he said bursting out with laughter.
"I always tell my wife never to look at how much a customer spends but be grateful that at least they came to the stall and always try to build a good friendly relationship with them,"he said. Sakabula's passion for running a barbecue business got him into a lot of trouble when he first started but he never gave up.
"I have even ended up in court and been fined in order to keep my business running."He was warned by Suva City Council for not having a hawker's licence, not to sell barbecued food from near the bus stand area and was eventually prosecuted for doing so. Three times he was taken to court and fined $46 each time. "I was told not to sell barbecue at that spot but I kept doing it because that was my only source of income. I had seven children and that was our bread and butter.
"I think the magistrate was tired of seeing my face and she asked me one day why I kept on doing what I was not supposed to. "I explained that I had a family to feed and that that was my responsibility and priority.
"The magistrate then asked the SCC to give me a permit and that was the end of the story,"he said. Sukabula started as out Sam's Tasty Takeaway', doing a booming trade and becoming the most popular barbecue stall operator in town.
"I started at around 5.30pm and went on until the morning, knocking off at 2 or 3am. People used to crowd around my caravan. Apart from barbecue, we sold coffee, tea, Milo and bread,"he said. Sakabula shared his good fortunate by feeding several who begged in the city, saying he felt sorry for them.
He admits at often being frustrated with drunkards who stole food from his stand.
"It was very upsetting sometimes because some drunken people just grabbed the barbecue and ran away with it. It was no use running after them, so I just let them go and there were times when they even broke into my caravan looking for food at night."Sakabula hails from Cicia, in Lau, and came to Suva in 1962 for his secondary education and attended Navuso Agricultural School in Nausori.
He took a break from selling barbecue in 2000, turning to vegetable farming. He plants vegetables at his home in Nausori but could not ignore the easy cash in selling barbecue food at night. That's what brought him back to the Hibiscus Carnival.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online