The boss of the grill remembered

The Swiegelaar family at Muhibahs 21st birthday celebrations.

“Shane was the biggest, but had the softest heart. A real gentle giant.”

These are the words of Muhibah Salie, sister of the late Shane Swiegelaar who was born and bred in Hangberg.

Mr Swiegelaar, 46, the owner of the popular The Grillfather SA restaurant chain, passed away suddenly on Saturday March 13 at his Westridge home in Mitchell’s Plain – on wife, Tina’s birthday.

“Shane always phoned me, knowing I am always inside my house, just to ask what is happening in Hangberg or how things are in the area,” said Ms Salie.

Mr Swiegelaar had lived in Karbonkel Road, also known as Mountview, with his mother, father and baby sister, and attended Sentinel Primary, before heading off to Hout Bay High School and then finishing his schooling at Wittebome High in Wynberg.

Ms Salie said her brother displayed his head and heart for business from a young age, starting off at Snoekies Restaurant on the Hout Bay harbour, before grilling crayfish on the fire in front of his home and then eventually starting to operate out of a caravan 17 years ago, selling gatsbies and toasted sandwiches.

“I always get people asking me how Shane pulled off this business in only three years, when others are struggling to do so after 15 years. It was the type of person he was, determined, passionate and very loving,” Ms Salie added.

She tried to explain to the Sentinel News how one of their last conversations went, but instead, battled to hold back the tears and then drove herself to complete her sentence.

“We never saw each other much because of our busy lives. But it was one day when he called me out of the blue and said to me: ‘Miena, I have come full circle and I have done what I needed to do’ and that is when I told him how proud I am of him and his achievements,” Ms Salie said, adding how people whisper around her in public, ‘Isn’t that The Grillfather’s sister’, eventually cracking a smile.

Mr Swiegelaar would have turned 47 in October this year and would have celebrated his 13th wedding anniversary.

The Grillfather opened its doors in September around four years ago, but even before the self- taught master griller, had already made a name for himself in the area. The business started in Mr Swiegelaar’s garage, where he sold food on the weekend, with Friday’s being the busiest day of the week.

It was a neighbours complaint about the traffic in the road that prompted Shane to start looking for another premises for the business.

Mr Swiegelaar, who had previously worked in the Cape Town clubbing scene as a bouncer, had to first renovate the space before he could install his grills and shop fittings. The name of the business was born out of Mr Swiegelaar’s love for the Godfather movie trilogy.

Facebook has been flooded with messages of condolences and memories of how The Grillfather had touched people’s lives.

Hout Bay community activist Roscoe Jacobs, posted: “We have lost a son of Hout Bay, Shane Swiegelaar. He was one of the many success stories to come out of Hout Bay. To his wife, the family, his friends, the community both where he was born and the one he now lives in I wish to offer my condolences.

“His success in business must inspire us to start our own businesses so we can free ourselves from poverty, inequality and unemployment. This won’t be easy but if Shane could do it, so can we. Rest in power.”

Warren Abrahams, spokesperson for the Peace and Mediation Forum in Hangberg posted: “Today we lost another one of our very own Hangbergers-Hout Bayans. Our sincerest condolences and deepest sympathy to the Swiegelaar and extended family.

“May his soul rest in peace and may they find solace in knowing that he is with the Almighty and at rest. He was a great soul and a honest, hardworking and excellent entrepreneur. No words can express our sadness or the emotions and sadness that you must be going through for this sudden loss. God Speed Shane Swiegelaar you will be missed and Rest in Peace.”

Local celebrity and radio DJ, Yuzriq Meyer, posted: “One of the realest to ever bless this earth. Waking up to this news has me in tears. I’m gutted. Yasis Shane you were truly one of a kind.

“I could live 10 lifetimes and I don’t think I’d meet another like you. Your laughter, your realness your kind nature and willingness to always share with everyone around you was unrivalled.

“Your love for people, your love for food and your love for life. You brought it all together under one roof. In fact 3 and made each & every one of us feel part of you and the Grillfather. And that was truly heartwarming.”

A memorial service held for Mr Swiegelaar in the Methodist Church in Hangberg, was attended by several family members and friends.

His funeral service will be held at the St Matthew’s Church in Claremont tomorrow, Saturday March 21, with viewing from 9am and mass starting at 10am.