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South African restaurant brings new flavors, social impact to Lehi

September 16, 2018

New restaurants open frequently in north Lehi these days, but the newest one boasts of unique flavors and a distinctive mission.

Co-founders Jared Turner, Nikki Davis and Sandile Makasi celebrated the opening of their new eatery, Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille just off Club House Drive in Lehi. The restaurant, helmed by executive chef Rob Howell, is an African-fusion restaurant — the first of its kind in Utah County.

Howell hails from New Orleans, but moved to Utah this year specifically to start Zulu Grille. His menu, catered to the office lunch crowd of the Lehi area, combines African flavors and spices within entrees and sandwiches familiar to the American palette.

“We wanted to bring people together to experience the beautiful aspects of African culture,” Davis said, sitting in a corner booth of the restaurant this week with Howell.

“The typical American, when they think of Africa, they only see animals and poverty. But it is a beautiful country with beautiful people,” Howell added.

The idea for the restaurant started after Turner was introduced to Piri Piri chicken while visiting the country. He was amazed by the flavors and broached the topic to Davis of starting a restaurant based on them.

She first said no. But after her own experiences with the African culture, she knew she wanted to do something that could impact the people of South Africa.

“We all wanted to give back to the African culture that has changed our lives,” Davis said. “We wanted a place where people could come together, enjoy delicious food and come together for a good cause.”

Influenced by the South African philosophy of “Ubuntu,” which loosely translates to “I am because of you,” Davis, Turner, Makasi and Howell started Zulu Grille with a meal-for-meal program. Every meal purchased at the eatery provides a meal for Home of Hope for Girls in Johannesburg, South Africa. Founded by Khanyisile Motsa, Home of Hope provides rescue care and life skills training for exploited, trafficked and abused girls.

“Her guiding principle is to teach those girls their worth,” Davis said. “To teach them that they have the capability to pull themselves out of their situation.”

Makasi lives in South Africa and is Zulu Grille’s contact there for the Home of Hope. As the Zulu Grille team provides meals for the organization, Motsa and her workers there can use their funds for empowerment programs, mental health counseling, education and business programs for the girls.

“The opening of Zulu is a dream come true,” Turner said in a release about Zulu Grille’s Sept. 6 grand opening. “We’re thrilled to introduce Utah County to the beautiful African art, culture and cuisine that has changed our lives.”

Makasi said his fellow co-founders all share the common vision of making a difference in the world. The group hopes to expand their business into Salt Lake County as soon as possible.

“We want to grow quickly. The more stores we have open, the more meals we can serve, the more kids we can feed,” Davis said.

Zulu Piri Piri Chicken Grille is located at 2951 Club House Drive, Lehi.

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