The Waterless Cooking Movement

You might have heard about it from Capetonians on the plane, because it’s all we can talk about. And rightly so. You might have come across the signs in the airport, in your hotel, in the city’s newspapers. That’s the weather for you. It may seem trifle, the stuff of small talk, but its effect is anything but.

Cape Town is in the midst of its worst drought in a century, meaning in just about anyone you meet here’s lifetime.

What is inspiring, though, is how the people of the city have taken to honouring nature and adapting to this endless summer. One such example is The Cellars-Hohenort in the Constantia Valley and their contribution to #WaterlessWednesdays.

Creative agency 140BBDO, and Radio SMILE 90.4FM recently ran a campaign called H2ZERO: a water-saving initiative where renowned local chefs were challenged to create a menu that uses absolutely zero water.

The hotel’s Group Executive Chef, Peter Tempelhoff and Greenhouse Head Chef, Ashley Moss contributed a dish Peter has called, “the best fish dish I have tasted… ever!” The dish even made it onto the menu at Greenhouse, with Peter offering to cook the dish for free. “Just send me a picture of your water bill and the dish is yours,” he told diners.

The aim of the challenge is to inspire locals to be more aware of daily water usage and to adopt weekly water-saving techniques in their own homes.

“We’re hoping that the Waterless Cooking challenges can become a movement in which people, and establishments alike, see that responding to a problem is not synonymous with sacrifice but instead, it can offer an exciting and prospective venture,” says BBDO Chief Creative Officer, Mike Schalit.


In Peter’s Words

Below, Peter talks about small changes with big impacts, stepping out of the kitchen and using ingredients that require little water to grow – reduce the demand, lessen the water, increase the difference.

Below, Ashley separates water from oil as he breaks down why saving water doesn’t start in the kitchen but actually when we source our ingredients.


From The Cellars-Hohenort’s blog, Tips for a Water-Wise Restaurant Kitchen, here are a few water-saving techniques from the kitchens of Greenhouse and The Conservatory.

After all… “What is the most important ingredient in the modern kitchen, salt? Perhaps it’s oil or even eggs? Or what is a kitchen without flour? Some say ‘time’ is without rival as an ingredient…” said Executive Chef, Peter Tempelhoff. “All pretty important ingredients and essential to all menus and kitchens, but after limiting the number of times that we turned the tap on and off each day, it was pretty clear, crystal clear in fact. Kitchens grind to a standstill without it, so preserving it in this H2O lean time is imperative to our industry and essentially our livelihood.”

Top Water-Saving Tips for Chefs

  1. Use melted ice bucket water to boil vegetables. At the end of service don’t throw out the water, use it for the gardens (provided there’s no salt in it).
  2. Ask your chefs to lather their hands with the tap off as this will save litres every day. Also, they can wash their hands with the plug in the sink; this stemmed water can be used to rinse with.
  3. Rinse the washed dishes in a bucket of water and not in a sink. Then, warm up the water and use it to mop the floor.
  4. Don’t use water to defrost foods. Take out the item in advance and let it defrost slowly in the fridge.
  5. Mop the kitchen floor only if food is spilled and only at the end of a service. Sweep the floor regularly to keep things neat.
  6. Keep small containers of water in the fridge to wash fruit and vegetables, discard at night by watering the garden.
  7. Steam food items rather than boil in water, where possible.
  8. Don’t rinse plates off individually, simply run a sink till the halfway mark and use this as rinsing water.
  9. Only run the dishwasher when there is a full load.
  10. Use half-consumed bottles of mineral water left over after service to water the garden.

10 Questions with Mara Plains Camp’s Head Chef

I could see it in his eyes and in something of the intangible. Exuberance, I think the word is. It was as though his spirit was beside itself, overtly ecstatic at getting to inhabit the man it did. The man’s name is Benjamin Maritim and his soft glow emanates from living the life he most wants to lead, from doing what his heart has always called on him to do.

Benjamin is the Head Chef at Mara Plains Camp, on the northern border of the Maasai Mara. I could sense his joy for life from my first meeting with him, as he stood proudly beside the dishes he and his team had laid out before us for lunch. I felt it while talking to him about something seemingly simple, yet wholly consuming – food – as we stood out in the wilderness at a bush breakfast with the wild things of Kenya.

I had to hear more from him. I had to share his spirit with you. And I had to hold onto it for myself. So here it is… our Q&A with Benjamin Maritim, a closer look at the man behind the meals at Mara Plains Camp,  on the banks of the Ntiakitiak River.

10 Questions with Mara Plains Camp Head Chef, Benjamin Maritim

What is your first memory of cooking?

When I was doing my National Youth Service I was assigned to engineering however my roommate was training in hospitality, when he spoke of the cooking and all the skills he was learning I knew I had to transfer. From then on cooking has been my passion.

What five things has working at Mara Plains Camp taught you about yourself, life and love?

  • I have learnt how to interact with different types of people.
  • It’s taught me about different parts of the world.
  • It’s taught me about different perspectives and opinions.
  • I have learnt (a little of) different languages.
  • I have found comfort and built lasting relationships.

How did your path lead you to Mara Plains Camp?

Cooking is my passion and my life and since I learnt there was a chance to be the Head Chef at Mara Plains Camp, I couldn’t stop myself applying. I was called for an interview and I passed with flying colours. Thereafter I committed myself to becoming one of the family.

How do you bring a taste of the land to your dishes?

I learnt to cook western food in culinary school with different international ingredients, but my style of cooking is a little different, as I am using the local ingredients and natural resources from around the community. This allows me to cook fusion style dishes and make unique food with flavours that you don’t get anywhere else other than Mara Plains Camp.

How would you describe the kind of cuisine at Mara Plains Camp and the motivation behind it?

A feast for the eyes, the ears, the nose and the mouth. I take inspiration from the master chefs from around the world and then I like to add a touch of Kenya. Being self-sustainable is the goal so using fresh items from our garden and the local community is key to show off the incredible Kenyan produce in globally-inspired dishes that are fresh, light and healthy.

What inspires you day to day – in life and work?

Guest feedback is incredibly important in my life and work. It helps me to sharpen my understanding and knowledge. It also shows me how important my duties are in the guest experience.

Where do you source most of your produce from and why?

We aim to be true to our local produce, sourcing all our fresh ingredients from the local communities and the farms and coastal regions of Kenya. Mara Plains  Camp has its own kitchen garden with a wide variety of vegetables and edible flowers, however what we do not currently grow here is sourced from the local community farmers. This is one way of promoting the community and farmers and also the products are local, fresh and healthy.

What are some of your favourite local ingredients and dishes?

My favourite ingredients are Posho, Sukuma, Arrowroots, Cassava, Coconut, Banana, Pumpkins and local greens, as well as the amazing local lamb and goat meat.  I cook dishes with this local ingredient like Irio, Ugali, Sukuma, matoke, mbuzi choma, or stew, Swahili fish etc.

What are some of the ways you incorporate a health focus into the menu?

The first thing I focus on in the menu is the clientele, looking at their dietary requirements, ages and then using the ingredients I have to plan menus that are fresh, light and healthy.

I try and avoid adding unnecessary sugar, opting for natural sweeteners such as our fantastic Kenyan honey. Selecting leaner cuts of meat and ensuring there is always a variety of fruits and vegetables with each meal. I want guests to be satisfied but not weighed down with carbohydrate and fat heavy meals.

What do you enjoy most about working at Mara Plains Camp and what makes the camp so special?

Honestly, since I started working here, I have been learning lots and growing day by day in hospitality. I enjoy the sharing of knowledge with my colleagues. Mara Plains Camp is like my family, they are very positive and supportive from my bosses starting with CEO’s, Directors, Managers and all the staff, they are all so friendly we work as the Great Plains family.

Mara Plains Camp is special for many reasons, but the conservation of animals and nature and promoting and helping the community is key. Plus it’s a non-profit company.

A Man on a Mission to Interpret the Past

It was their connection to the earth that spoke to me first, how lightly they walked upon it. It was a fascination tinged with a slight nostalgia – a longing for a simpler, better time. But as the years pass, I am discovering that the ways of the Bushmen of southern Africa have as much to teach us about the present and future as they do about the past. They may be the oldest living culture on Earth, with a spirituality that predates all the world’s religions, but their approach to life still remains a source of great wisdom – their nomadic, hunter-gathering way of life, not using more than needed and making the most of all that you have, the importance of community, and working to live not living to work.

Their customs, traditions and beliefs have been well-documented, held onto for long after the different San tribes began to fade, on the rocks of numerous caves across Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. One of the best places to view their rock paintings is the Cederberg Mountains of the Cape, and here at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.

We caught up with Londi Ndzima, the Rock Art Curator at Bushmans Kloof, to find out more about their numerous sites and the stories behind them. Discover more below in our Q&A.

10 QUESTIONS WITH LONDI NDZIMA

1. What does nature mean to you?

Peace and quiet; the outdoors for me is the best place to be.

2. Explain your love of rock-art and the stories it has to tell about the people of the Cederberg.

The history of the hunter gatherer/San people is very similar to that of my own people, The Xhosa. Even down to things like using local plants for medicine, the role of ‘community’ and the art of storytelling. Through the rock art, one gets an insight into how they lived, who and what they came into contact with and what was important and significant to them. Through the ongoing research into rock art, there is constantly new information becoming available and I feel really privileged to be able to share these perspectives and insights with visitors.

3. Why is holding onto and preserving the past important to you?

Because there are no written accounts of the lives of the San & Khoi people in the area, we have to rely on what they did leave behind… in this case, these paintings.

4. Explain your passion for storytelling?

My Grandmother used to regale us with stories as children; about our culture, our traditions and ceremonies, such as when a boy kills his first eland which marks his entry into manhood and means that he is eligible for marriage. These stories connected us/ me to our history and our ancestors.  I have loved telling stories about the San and Khoi, through the interpretation of their art.

5. How have you continued to learn so much about the Bushman and their way of life?

Being exposed to the ongoing research through my relationship with Prof John Parkington and others researchers and specialists; as well as by reading reading reading; and talking to people from around the world (many of whom visit Bushmans Kloof). I learn every day and I’m able to bring all this knowledge to our guests.

6. What makes Bushmans Kloof such a special place for people to learn about the rock art?

There are so many amazing sites on the property, over 130, each offering its own unique bit of information and each a small piece in the puzzle of rock art in the Cederberg area. Having a Rock Art Curator on the property certainly enhances visitor experiences.

7 & 8.  What has your role as rock art curator here, and / your knowledge of the Bushman taught you about yourself, love and life?

I have fallen in love with nature, working at Bushmans Kloof.  It’s really strange because when I was young I loved maths (I wanted to be an engineer) and now I love history and medicinal plants. Quite a change… but I love my life exactly as it is now.

9. Where in the world are you the happiest and why?

Taking a walk in the rocks at Bushmans Kloof… the light here is amazing.

10. Words to live by?

–  Mentor – I’d like to leave a legacy of my love for what I do.

–  Happy –  I want people to have fun and be happy when they are around me.

–  Learn – I want to keep learning and sharing.