Nando’s: Tastes like Chicken, Looks like an Art Gallery

2791367612_e1be822cbf_nThe Obama family are currently in South Africa, as part of a three-country visit to the African continent. The president will not meet with Nelson Mandela, who is in the hospital, but he has spoken with Mandela’s family by phone. While there, they will also tour Robben Island, where Mandela was a prisoner for 18 years.

I’ve never been to South Africa, but would love to visit. I have, though, found a place (somewhat) closer to home that might some day give me a taste of the country.

In Chris Stark’s interview with Mila Kunis, Stark invites Kunis to a Nando’s for some chicken (to which she responds, “You’re teaching me so much.”)

So what is Nando’s? Why, it’s “Home of the legendary, Portuguese flame-grilled Peri-Peri chicken,” of course.

And what does that have to do with South Africa? Go to the “Story of Nando’s” and you’ll see an animated history of how the restaurant came to be. In a nutshell. . . . Years ago, exploring Portuguese sailors ended up in Mozambique where they discovered the African Bird’s Eye chili pepper. Some 400 years later, some of these Portuguese left Mozambique for Johannesburg, taking with them their peri-peri chicken recipes. (Peri-peri is how they pronounced the Swahili name for the chili.) In 1987, Fernando Duarte and Robert Brozin bought a chicken restaurant—featuring peri-peri sauce—in the Rosettenville suburb of Jo’burg. They changed the name from Chickenland to Nando’s, and the chain was born. Nando’s restaurants are now found around the globe, and while they’re present in the US, they’re (so far) confined to Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

While each Nando’s is unique, one constant is that they all display artwork from South Africa. Their “art project” started in 2002, and since then, Nando’s has become the self-proclaimed “largest buyer of South African contemporary art in the world.”

What we like most about our art project is that it’s given undiscovered, emerging and established artists from diverse social and economic backgrounds the opportunity to have their work on display in our restaurants around the world. It feels really good to know that we’ve helped give many artists the freedom to focus on their art full time, and that we’ve given our customers something beautiful to look at, without having to set foot in a gallery. (from “Our Restaurants)

Nando’s even has an online display of over 170 pieces of their South African art, produced by “everyone from bushmen on community farms to renowned Johannesburg painters.”

Here’s a recent commercial for Nando’s in South Africa. Eyes down. Now up. Now look closely and you’ll see some of the South African art on the wall.

[photo: “Nando’s Peri Peri Sign,” by Mr T in DC, used under a Creative Commons license]


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