draai braai

Harvey Downes is the brains behind the Draai Braai. Images via LinkedIn/DraaiBraai

The future of braai: Innovative 80-year-old invents nifty new grill

‘Draai Braai’: Harvey Downes has invented a braai to rival all others – despite being turned away by several professional braai makers.

draai braai

Harvey Downes is the brains behind the Draai Braai. Images via LinkedIn/DraaiBraai

If there’s one thing about South Africans, they love a good braai. Grilling some wors and steak by fire has become a South African tradition and a way to let out some steam while surrounded by friends and family.

While the process itself is already quite wholesome, one elderly man just found a way to make sure that his braai meat -and now the rest of the country’s meat – is cooked to perfection.

Did this elderly man just perfect the flame-grilled meat process?

Unlike many retirees, Cape Town businessman and DIY enthusiast Harvey Downes has been a very busy man.

Instead of having a relaxing retirement like other people his age, he has dedicated a lot of his time to perfecting the traditional braai process.

And so he started developing a braai grill that would allow him to control the heat getting to the meat by allowing the grill to move closer or further away from the hot fire.

“Having retired after selling my business in 2016, I found myself thinking more and more about how to adjust the heat easily and proficiently on my braai or Weber,” explains Harvey in a Cape Town ETC article.

“The idea of a BBQ grid screwing up and down to adjust its height came from the winding mechanism of an office chair.”

This way, Harvey can protect the meat from getting burnt and he can also add more coal or firefighters to the fire without having to physically lift the grill with the meat still on it.

ALSO READ: Meat Meet shisa nyama grills its way to the top braai spot in Soweto

The ‘Draai Braai’ is born

According to Harvey, he presented the idea to many braai makers who didn’t believe it would work.

“It made me think of Tim Leatherman, who got turned away from almost a hundred people over eight years saying his ‘multifunctional gizmo would never get any traction, and now today with 350 staff, the Leatherman Tool Group sell about 2,5 million units a year in 80 countries.”

Ignoring their skepticism, he went on to build a working prototype with the help of an engineer who also helped him get a few samples made later production started with some parts made at a braai factory and the Braai screwing mechanism was finally born.

“Perseverance paid off and eventually I managed to complete my first model of the Draai Braai to show the engineers how it worked brilliantly. This is where they finally changed their minds and showed massive interest,” says Harvey.

He now has a workshop equipped with basic steel fabricating tools for bending, cutting, grinding, and welding.