In the lead-up to Father’s Day, we’re looking back on the interviews we did with five of our favourite foodie dads and their little ones (who may not be so little anymore). Keep an eye on our social media channels to see who will be featured next!
Mark Oosthuizen is a serial entrepreneur and sushi fanatic, who, after sharpening his skills under four Japanese and Singaporean master chefs in Cape Town, threw a promising career in for the chance to own his own business. That was 2004, when Mark opened Fushin Sushi and Eastern Cuisine from a single garage in Camps Bay as a film catering service. The business grew, and so did his family, with his marriage in 2003 and the birth of his son in 2007.
“When Matthew was born, we really wanted the support of our family and I didn’t see that the catering environment, for what we were doing as a retail operation, was conducive to raising a child and surviving. Without a phenomenal investment, we couldn’t make Cape Town work,” Mark says.
The move to Port Elizabeth was fortuitous – driven by the city’s craving for sushi, Mark’s expert product knowledge and a bit of luck and good timing. “I started the Fushin Sushi bar in the Oyster Catcher in 2008, with very few assets. That year, we went to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival and retailed 10 000 portions in 10 days. I quickly realised there was an appetite for sushi in the Eastern Cape. After 18 months, we moved to the up-andcoming Stanley Street, opened Fushin and the rest is history.”
Mark now owns a number of street bars, SoHo Molecular Lounge, his original Fushin Sushi restaurant, and will soon be opening a massive flagship fine-dining restaurant in the new Baywest Mall along with a trout farm. He employs over 80 people. But family remains central to his work. “My children are my life. From the very beginning, they were integrated into every part of my work. They taste every single new dish I experiment with, and they give me feedback. We spend time conceptualising food together,” he says, adding that his daughter, Leah, five, really loves food and that Matthew, seven, has taken to mixology. Both feature on the menu with signature dishes named after them. “But it’s difficult to have 80 staff and not to bring it home with you. When you are off, you are off; you need to take
time out to spend with them. You have to not talk work.
“Tangible time spent with children is very important. They do understand that I have a heavy job and that I can’t always do what other dads do – and that’s their sacrifice and mine.” He also shares his passions for vintage cars, listening to music and playing guitar, and the ocean with his children. “My passions have also begun to shift as I start to focus on things like the new trout farm just outside Port Elizabeth, but my central passion – Matthew and Leah – never changes.”
By Amy Shelver Photographs by Ross Charnock