10 Questions with Londolozi’s Executive Chef, Anna Ridgewell
Above: Anna (right) with chefs, Thoko Ngobeni (left) and Sipho Khosa (middle) – Read more here.
It is said that a recipe has no soul, that soul must be added in the cooking if it is to be felt in the dining experience. On the few nights that we have spent dining in the wilderness of Londolozi in South Africa – whether under the trees on the lodge deck or beneath the stars in the open boma – or merely snacking – on a sundowner stop in an open plain surrounded by spronking impala or by the pool when we withdraw to our rooms… the soul of the cuisine here is as clear as the stars in the Sabi Sand night sky.
Where this soul comes from is obvious… it stems from everyone involved in the gastronomic process – from the gardeners supplying the kitchen with fresh produce to the chefs themselves – a team of culinary artists headed by Executive Chef, Anna Ridgewell. Find out more about Anna in our 10 Questions below.
Londolozi was recently featured in The Great South African Cookbook – a compilation of recipes created by the finest South African chefs, bakers, farmers and local food heroes for the people they love.
“The result is a book with 67 contributors, 150 recipes and 372 pages with personal stories from each contributor alongside stunning photography shot entirely on location around South Africa. Culinary legends and renowned chefs including Luke Dale-Roberts, Ina Paarman, Dorah Sitole, Pete Goffe-Wood, and Siphokazi Mdlankomo star alongside local food heroes.”
The royalties from sales of this book will be given to the Nelson Mandela Foundation to develop and support community food and agricultural projects to aid in the upliftment of the impoverished through food sustainability and empowerment.
Read more in Anna’s blog, Londolozi Featured in the Great South African Cookbook.
10 Questions with Anna Ridgewell
1. What makes Londolozi’s cuisine unique?
Londolozi’s cusine is unique because of the chefs we have in the kitchen. Each chef has their own personality and talent. Each dish is prepared with such passion and our food ethos is what I call ‘simply sophisticated’
2. How is it an example of your personal style and passion?
My style and passion for food is to use the freshest ingredients and prepare the food in a way that doesn’t deviate from what the food actually is! Rustic and delicious.
3. What are some of your favourite meals to create in the kitchen at Londolozi and why?
Our slow cooked oxtails and leg of lamb, as well as our Chalmar Fillet with an African Hollandaise are some of my many favourites! There is nothing better than slow cooking great cuts of meat and adding an abundance of flavour. When these are being cooked, the aroma of these dishes being cooked is a feeling of great comfort and happiness!
4. What is your background and how did it lead you to Londolozi?
I am originally from Zimbabwe, and studied at The Silwood Kitchen School of Cookery, where I did the full three year cordons bleus diploma course. From that I got to start my culinary career with CCAfrica (now &Beyond) where I worked at Ngala Game Reserve, Ngala Tented Safari & Kwandwe. I ran a guest house in Grahamstown, then moved to Cape Town where I opened my own restaurant Café Max, for 6 years whilst taking a break from the bush life, but was enticed back to Londolozi in 2011 by Chris Kane-Berman. It was a full circle of sorts, as I worked at Londolozi Tree Camp for one night in 1998.
5. Londolozi is very involved in helping to give back to and to support the local community. How is the food an example of this?
In our village, we have up to 39 gardens that are planted by our staff. They have amazing green fingers, and twice a week, they bring buckets of freshly grown organic rocket, mint, basil, parsley and spinach to the kitchen where we purchase it and then the staff re-plant and constantly supply us. A great sense of sustainability and freshness!
6. Five things being a chef in the wild has taught you about yourself, life and love?
Belief, trust, love, harmony and ubuntu.
Meet the other chefs in the Londolozi kitchen
7. Favourite part about living and working in the Sabi Sand?
The peace and tranquillity you get from the bush, the constant creative licence I have as each day although a menu in place can change in a flash if an ingredient doesn’t arrive. Living at Londolozi, you are surrounded by like minded people who are from all walks of life, thus educating you more on life’s lessons
8. What inspires you in your role as Executive Chef and as an individual?
My chefs inspire me daily in the kitchen – no matter how much you think you know, they teach me more. In terms of an individual – the Varty family have given me huge inspiration and an opportunity to broaden my horizons and knowledge of spirituality and sense of becoming a better version of myself each and every day.
9. Best way to unwind on a day off?
There’s nothing better than an ice cold craft Gin & Soda with close friends.
10. I couldn’t be the chef I am without…
Eric, my Sous Chef, and my entire chef team.
Discover more from the Londolozi kitchen in their cuisine-centred blogs here.
Above: Londolozi’s team of Sous Chefs, holding the American Express ® Platinum Fine Dining Award
Read more about Londolozi in some of our other blogs and articles: