Give that man a hug – and it’s not only be- cause he’s such a nice guy, but Raymond “Tollie” Booysen’s food is seriously delicious. He’s been serving shisanyama (braai meat) to thousands of customers in Reiger Park for seven years.

And nobody gets enough of it. Booysen became “Tollie” at a young age. He laughs and says that when he was a toddler, he apparently loved running around naked, ergo the nickname derived from Afrikaans slang for a penis.

But today, it’s a term of endearment and everyone in Reiger Park knows who you’re talking about when you ask for Tollie’s place, aka Monic’s. Monic’s Food Palace is a small takeaway joint, curbside along the main drag, with a few tables in front.

This is where the queues are never-ending and, on weekends, even longer. But behind the calm service of Booysen’s frontline staff, a braaing operation on a massive scale happens. There’s not a moment when there aren’t chuck steaks grilling beside chicken portions with giant deep-fryers churning out slap chips non-stop.

Just the aroma of it all makes you hungry. Reiger Park’s number one roadside attraction is named after Booysen’s daughter, Monic, with whom he shared a hairdressing business for a decade, prior to his venture into the food industry.

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He said: “While we were cutting hair customers always asked for something to eat and after a while, and ‘guesstimating’ de- mand, I took the leap and exited the hair business.”

He started the shisanyama outlet with a single braai stand, a few pieces of meat and a bag of potatoes. The business grew quickly. It went from one braai stand to two, to three and ultimately into the repurposed house Monic’s Food Palace is presently situated in. “I have always had a passion for food, it was a fascination for me.

When I started in the food business, I felt at home.” This, even though he had no formal cooking training. “I couldn’t even cook an egg,” he said, adding: “I learnt through trial and error how to serve customers the right kind of food, that they wanted, and the flavours and tastes that they enjoy.”

These days Booysen can serve up to 1 000 chuck steaks, his favourite cut of meat, on a busy Fri- day. And that excludes the chicken, the pork chops, the pap and the toasted sandwiches he serves. Altogether he serves up a couple of hundred kilos of steak weekly.

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His prices are more than reasonable too. Where else can you get a steak or a portion of chicken and chips for well under five tiger (R50) or toasted cheese and tomato for only R15?

“While I do make a bit of money, I am not interested in marking up food by massive margins. I am a man of the people, I cook for people, and they need to be able to afford it.” Booysen doesn’t stick to a single supplier, but instead spends much of his day driving between

By editor