Where Chefs Go for Inspiration. And Yes, It Involves Wine.

It is not simply the food or setting or wild animals that we remember fondly about our travels. It is not merely the dance of the nightjars or the twinkle of the stars. It is, very often, and quite prominently, that first meeting with the chef.

The hearty, fiery, passionate and pensive men and women who, like all artists, are constantly looking at life to see what they can soak up and put back into their art. The souls who speak, see, dream, feel and create food, and whose artistry in turn gives colour, taste, scent and texture to a journey, wherever in the world you find yourself.

The art to staying passionate and creative as a chef lies in inspiration, in continuing to learn and discover, in immersing yourself in the world, again and again.

We brought together 11 of our own chefs and one sommelier, from Relais & Châteaux hotels and lodges all over Africa, for a day of inspiration-seeking in the Constantia Wine Valley in Cape Town.

It’s safe to say that they found their muse. In each mouthful, each plating, each discussion between the vines and under the oaks, with our tribe of Africa’s top culinary minds:

Peter Tempelhoff and Ashley Moss, Greenhouse, The Cellars-Hohenort
Paul Nash, The Conservatory, The Cellars-Hohenort
John Roux, Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge
Anna Ridgewell, Londolozi Private Game Reserve
Virgil Kahn, Indochine at Delaire Graff Estate
Pierre Van Zyl and Raymond Maarman, Zarafa Camp and Duba Plains Camp
Benjamin Maritim, Mara Plains Camp
Charles Hayward, Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat
Grant Daniels, and sommelier Manny Cabello, Ellerman House

Below is a look at this special day. Now, to see what deliciousness the new fodder will inspire…

 

First stop: Constantia Glen

Constantia Glen is a picturesque boutique wine estate, below Constantia Nek, just moments from the Cape Town city centre. 

Second stop: Beau Constantia

Beau Constantia is a boutique wine farm situated at the top of Constantia Nek overlooking False Bay.

Third stop: Open Door

 Open Door restaurant sits on the Constantia Uitsig farm, which dates back to 1685.

Final stop: Klein Constantia

Dating back to 1685, Klein Constantia is set amid ancient trees on the upper foothills of the Constantiaberg, and produces some of South Africa’s top wines, including one of the world’s best natural sweet wines, Vin de Constance.

To conclude the tour, we headed to The Cellars-Hohenort‘s Greenhouse restaurant for one of the finest dining experiences in South Africa. Images to follow in our next blog…

The Silent World of Anjajavy

On a morning adventure into the big blue waters around Anjajavy le Lodge, in the north of Madagascar, I discovered a few new things about life, love and myself.

On that early Indian Ocean morning, lodge guide, Jonhson would pop his head out of the surface every now and again and shout out the name of a certain colourful thingamajig flittering past us. I realised, after a while, that it really isn’t only we humans who like to give our kids peculiar names. It’s a pastime that is even more popular with fish.

The epiphany began with the convict surgeonfish and continued with the twinspot snapper and rubberlips, who, with eye-and-nose goggles pulling at my mouth, appeared to me as somewhat of a kindred spirit.

Plectorhinchus playfairi – whitebarred rubberlips

As I started to fret that Jonhson had sunk to the bottom of the ocean bed, it also struck me that I had been snorkelling incorrectly my entire life. I’ve always sort of bobbed about on the top, trying to stay out of the way of wavy kelp and sharks, but Jonhston would take one great breath and then kick his way down, down, down, sailing smoothly into the coral caverns and crannies, seeking out every kind of fish he could find. This was the adventurer’s style of snorkelling, I realised, and I quickly followed suit.

Further down, with my ears well immersed, I experienced the true silence of the ocean for the first time. The kind of stillness that had been limited to the bath tub before. Now I shared my bath and bubbles with other lifeforms. I discovered the kind of comfortable silence that usually comes from long-held friendships.

While I’m sure the boxfish, halfmoon butterfly and emperor angelfish were enjoying a vibrant tête-à-tête among themselves, Rubberlips and I, at least I, in Rubberlips’ presence, was wrapped in quiet awe – in what Jacques Cousteau spoke of when he said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

“I swam across the rocks and compared myself favourably with the sars,” the French explorer and conservationist wrote. “To swim fishlike, horizontally, was the logical method in a medium eight hundred times denser than air. To halt and hang attached to nothing, no lines or air pipe to the surface, was a dream. At night I had often had visions of flying by extending my arms as wings. Now I flew without wings. (Since that first aqualung flight, I have never had a dream of flying.)”

It seemed like the same held for Jonhson.

Back on the boat and goggle-free, he told me that he had never snorkelled before arriving at Anjajavy le Lodge – several years ago. But while working in this unique part of the island, the waters of the protected peninsula and their rich sea life called him day after day, until he had mastered the art. The art of adventurer snorkelling.

He was hooked. In that catch-and-release kind of way, returning to land again, but with more wonder for the silent world than he could ever have imagined.

It’s evident in his growing collection of underwater photography and, like Madagascar’s own Cousteau, he uses each excursion into the sea to seek out and capture the complexity below. Because you can only conserve what you know about, he says. And because, really, he’s fallen in love with that feeling of flying without wings.


Take a look at some images from Jonhson’s Anjajavy collection:

Chaetodon auriga – Threadfin Butterflyfish
Chaetodon auriga – Threadfin Butterflyfish
Acanthurus triostegus – Convict surgeonfish
Acanthurus triostegus – Convict surgeonfish
Zanclus cornutus (Moorish Idol)
Pomacanthus imperator (emperor angelfish)
Ophiocoma erinaceus – boxfish
Lutjanus bohar (two-spot red snapper or twinspot snapper)
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Leiaster coriaceus – red spot sea starfish
Heniochus acuminatus – longfin bannerfish
Chaetodon trifasciatus – melon butterflyfish
Chaetodon trifasciatus – melon butterflyfish
Chaetodon lunula – Halfmoon butterfly

Of All the Gin Joints in All the Towns in all the World

There’s a lot to do in Cape Town. You’re going to be distracted. It’s okay, it’s part of the fun of being in a new city. You’re going to get over-excited and you’ll have to fight the urge to see and do it all. But what you really don’t want to miss are those few things that others in Cape Town can’t do. Those things that involve secret sessions on balconies, a private seat to an exclusive art collection, and the city’s finest sunsets. And tiered gin trays.

You’re going to want to start here… at Ellerman House. And in our opinion, begin with gin, in a slinky little bar carved into the boulders of this mountain and sea-side escape.

Here is a look at what to expect at your gin o’clock at Ellerman House’s BAR ROC.

Discover more about Ellerman House in their blog.