I recently attended the grand opening of a restaurant that was like no other. And I don’t just mean the food, which has a South African culinary theme. This restaurant is different from most in that the owners, investors and employees of Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille are embarked on a humanitarian mission that is literally helping to save the lives of young women in Africa.
Following on the success of the first Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille at Thanksgiving Point, which opened in 2018, the second location opened last month in South Jordan. I’ll get to the food in a bit. But first, I’d like to share the story behind this unique social impact restaurant and its mission.
The main tool of that humanitarian effort the restaurant’s “Meal-for-o-Meal” program in which a portion of the proceeds from every meal purchased at Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille goes towards providing a meal for a vulnerable child in Africa through a partnership with Home of Hope for Girls, a South African non-profit that offers a safe residence to children and teens who have survived abusive situations, predominantly linked to child sex trafficking. Co-owner and South African native, Sandile Makasi, works regularly with Home of Hope for Girls in Johannesburg, to build and support them on behalf of Zulu Grille.
“Our goal is to end child trafficking in South Africa and restore the safety, dignity and opportunity of the women and girls who have survived abuse,” said Khanyisile Motsa (“Mam Khanyi), founder of Home of Hope for Girls. “We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille and their give-back program which enables us to achieve our mission. It’s amazing to see African food and culture represented in Utah.”
Addressing the opening night crowd with very moving and emotional remarks about Zulu Grille’s mission, co-owners Sandile Makasi, Jared Turner, Nikki Davis and chef Rob Howell explained how Khanyisile Motsa and her Johannesburg-based Home of Hope for Girls, which turned 22 this year, have rescued 11,000 girls over the years by literally adopting them and providing safe and secure housing and outreach programs for them in the suburbs of Johannesburg. Every time you order a Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille meal, you are supporting that effort. It’s remarkable.
So what sort of food will you find at Zulu Grille, you ask? Well, let’s just say chef Rob Howell – who hails originally from New Orleans – and his culinary team aren’t shy about serving up bold flavors. You probably figured that out since piri piri – a zesty sauce derived from African Bird’s Eye (piri piri) peppers – is in the name of the eatery itself. According to the folks at Zulu Grille, co-owner Jared Turner “first encountered the piri piri flavor while in South Africa, where he met a group of Zulu women who prepared a feast using the pepper. He was amazed by their spicy, fire-grilled chicken and touched by their philosophy of ‘ubuntu’ (o͝oˈbo͝on(t)o͞o) which loosely translates to “I am because of you.” So, Turner brought both back to Utah through Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille and its Meal-for-a-Meal program.”
Ubuntu is just one of the things I love about the Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille philosophy: the concept that we all need each other. In Africa, according to Turner, it means that “any stranger entering a village will be welcomed immediately with a warm meal and a place to stay,” much like the safe havens that Home of Hope for Girls provides. “Our Meal-for-a-Meal program truly embodies the spirit of Ubuntu,” said Nikki Davis, co-founder of Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille. “Our restaurant offers something truly unique, in which high-quality, healthy cuisine and opportunities for social impact are found all under one roof. We invite everyone to come share an irresistibly delicious meal and help make a better world in the process.”
The heart of the Zulu Grille menu is, not surprisingly, piri piri chicken. There is chicken on the bone ($10.99/quarter or $14.99/half); boneless chicken breast ($11.99/grilled or $12.99/crispy); and piri piri chicken wings, which are priced seasonally. The bone-in chicken and chicken breast meals come with African yellow rice, East African cucumber-mango salad, and piri piri sauce. And, the decor and ambiance at Zulu Grille is every bit as vibrant as the flavors.
Piri piri chicken comes in many other forms as well, like as a sandwich or wrap ($13.99-$15.99) with Muenster cheese, arugula, avocado, caramelized onions, and piri piri aioli on a ciabatta (gluten-free available) bun or whole wheat tortilla. There is also a piri piri chicken bowl ($12.99) with grilled corn, arugula, cucumber and avocado served or African yellow rice, and a piri piri chicken salad ($13.99) with bacon, avocado, mixed greens, grilled corn, red onions, tomatoes, goat cheese, roasted pepitas and piri piri ranch dressing and optional hot sauce.
Side dishes include African yellow rice, sweet potato wedges, African street corn, Zulu side salad, East African cucumber-mango salad, and tri-colored fries. There are also a couple soup options on the menu: butternut squash or piri piri chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. Given that chef Rob is from New Orleans the gumbo is a no-brainer. Looking for something chicken-free? Try the Zulu burger ($12.99) – grass-fed Angus beef burger with piri piri rub, topped with Muenster cheese, arugula, pickled shallots and piri piri bacon aioli on a ciabatta bun with a side of tri-colored spuds.
Chicken lovers will, I suspect, be thrilled with the opening of Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille, giving us all a vibrant escape from the same old, same old chicken joints around town. Knowing that every meal you purchase there will directly affect the lives of young African women for the better, makes every mouthful there that much more enjoyable.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week: “I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” – Bishop Desmond Tutu
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THIS CONTENT IS FROM UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.