For Malibu’s Howdy Kabrins, Cape Town, South Africa, is a place of mixed emotional ties. His only child, Gabriela Kabrins Alban, was brutally murdered in the bustling metropolis known as the “Mother City” five years ago. Yet, the place—which he called home from 2015 to 2018 while fighting for his daughter’s murderer’s conviction in an agonizing trial—also tugged at his heartstrings. While advocating justice for his daughter, Kabrins became an advocate for other victims of violence and bonded with a new community in South Africa. Although he returned to Malibu nearly two years ago, he keeps a part of the “Mother City” in his heart. When the owner of the former Howdy’s Restaurant was asked to help during the novel coronavirus pandemic, he quickly jumped into action.
The 72-year-old received a call from one of his many new friends in South Africa. Barry Berman runs Infinity Culinary Training (ICT). The culinary school trains young South Africans to “get diplomas and get jobs—these are people who never had jobs before,” according to Kabrins. He called meeting the students “transformative.” Three years ago, after a tough day in the courtroom, the students threw Kabrins a birthday party. “They sang to me,” he recalled. “It was the most lovely event.”
With many of ICT’s graduates out of work during the pandemic, they returned to prepare meals for Philippi Township, an impoverished area of Cape Town. But the 1,200 meals destined for single mothers were nearly lost due to the growing threat of looters.
The Malibu Times spoke with Berman from South Africa.
“We were turned around because gangs were threatening to stop our trucks from getting into Philippi Township. I know how violent it can be,” Berman said. “On a moment’s notice, a flareup can happen—in places like this township, that’s particularly poor and a rough dangerous place. I was on my way with a truck full of food and I got a call, ‘Turn around,’ because there was trouble in that area. Gangs were hitting trucks that looked like they had a lot of food.
“I knew Howdy built a relationship with a detective here,” Berman continued. “He’s one of the few people I know who have special relationships with the police. I told Howdy, ‘I need your help.’”
Kabrins got the ball rolling. He used his connection to arrange daily escorts into the township. He also used the help of a Cape Town philanthropist to provide financial support along with ICT sponsor Woolworths.
“Forty kids are working now, making 1,500 meals a day,” according to Kabrins. Their goal is to provide 10,000 meals a day.
The Malibu restaurateur who’s been tirelessly working to open his new location—Howdy’s Sonrisa Café at the Park at Cross Creek—said being of service is in his blood.
“The people in the food industry have a passion to bring love and service,” he said. “That’s what drives me.”
His lifelong connection to the “Mother City” drives him too.
“Part of my daughter is buried there,” Kabrins said. “Part of me will always, always be in Cape Town. The people in Cape Town embraced me and supported me through a tragedy.”
A Malibu friend, Lynn Silbert, told The Malibu Times by phone, “If you want something done or you need something go to Howdy. He’ll find a way to make it happen. He’s taken care of many things for many people. He’ll figure out a way to get it done.”