80-year-old Capetonian reinvents the Braai

Date:26 June 2022 Author: Juandre Tags:, ,

South Africans are custodians of cooking food over a fire. But just because our braais are top-notch, doesn’t mean they can’t be improved. And 80-year-old retired Cape Town businessman and DIY enthusiast Harvey Downes has been a busy man.

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

The Draai Braai:

Harvey has invented a grid that allows you to raise, lower and rotate the braai grid, all to control the temperature with ease. Food can be cooked for longer, on a charcoal kettle braai without the risk of burning. The Draai Braai makes it possible to add and position fresh coals or smoking chips on the fire while keeping food secure on the grid. When flare-ups happen, the Draai Braai allows you to rotate the food away from the flames.

Draai Braai

Picture: Draai Braai

The most determined Braai-er: 

Applying this to a braai grid seemed feasible until he took the idea to several braai makers who were generally dismissive, telling him the shaft would be impossible to make and that he should stop wasting his time.

Skepticism abounded even amongst engineers and braai manufacturers who claimed it would jam, rust, expand, turn too slowly, take up space or food would fly off.

Nevertheless, Harvey persisted and eventually succeeded in making a prototype that worked. A friendly engineer helped him get a few samples made and later production started with some parts made at a braai factory and the Braai screwing mechanism was finally born.


“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.”

With a spring in his step and his ‘Never Say Die’ attitude, Harvey equipped his workshop with basic steel fabricating tools for bending, cutting, grinding, and welding, as opposed to woodworking tools which he was familiar with.

“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.


Supporting local: 

Harvey now wants to hook up with some of the engineering hubs in the Cape Town township areas and has huge plans to make this something that can increase local trade and employment. “I am confident that with my experience as a personnel and training manager, I am capable of being able to teach the skills required to make the Draai Braai’s, once a suitable venue is secured,” says Harvey enthusiastically.

So it just goes to show that if one doesn’t give up on your dreams and vision, irrelevant of your age, you can still make it happen. It’s time to get a Draai and ons gaan nou braai!

Email info@draaibraai.co.za for more info

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May-June 2022