Restaurateurs Zweli and Leonardo Williams opened Zimbabwean restaurant Zweli’s in 2018, and now they will expand with a second establishment named Ekhaya. Located in Durham’s American Tobacco Campus, in the former Saladelia space, Ekhaya will focus on cuisine from Bantu communities from across Africa, served tapas-style, in a high-end setting.
“Ekhaya in Bantu is more than a word, it is a feeling, a sense of being ‘at home’ wherever you are,” says Zweli, ”These feelings of comfort, support, and familiarity are what we strive to bring to each diner via our menu and dining experience. Whether it is something brand new or a new take on something familiar, we want each and every visitor to leave our restaurant feeling as if they have returned home.”
The Williams gained many accolades when they opened Zweli’s, from “Best Chef” to “Best New Restaurant” from local publication Indy Week. The establishment is a fixture in the Durham community and the couple regularly give back, by providing free meals during the pandemic and getting involved in local politics with Leonardo helping to form the Durham Small Business Coalition.
Zweli is originally from Zimbabwe, and Leonardo is from eastern North Carolina. They met in Durham about 20 years ago as students at NC Central University but didn’t get together until more than a decade later. He became a Durham Public Schools teacher, and she worked at a variety of restaurants and food-service departments before they were able to make her dream of owning a restaurant come true with the opening of Zweli’s.
The couple predicts that their next project Ekhaya will open in spring or summer of 2022.