10 Questions with Bushmans Kloof’s Head Chef, Charles Hayward

This is a land of wide open plains and rugged red mountains, Bushman rock art and free-roaming antelope. It is a land of rooibos fields and starry night skies. It is a place of history, myth and mystery as much as stillness and romance. It is the sanctuary known as the Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, at the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains270 kilometres from Cape Town.

Here, the cuisine of the Cape combines with the unique tastes and influences of Italy and Asia, presented in fireside dinner parties at the Homestead and outdoor summer lunches at Makana, picnics in the wild and braais at Embers under the stars.

The man at the helm of it all? Well, that would be Head Chef, Charles Hayward… Discover more below in our latest 10 Questions Q&A.

1. What is your first memory of cooking?

Sunday lunch at my grandparents’ house in the Karoo, beautiful blue skies with everyone helping to contribute to the lunch and lots of laughter and happiness. My Grandad’s tender Karoo lamb roast with wild rosemary and golden, crispy, fluffy on the inside potatoes; delicious pan gravy with little roast onion; hot bread from the wood oven; roast pumpkin with cinnamon, green beans from Gran’s garden, tossed in farm butter; lentil salad with a touch of spice from the spice markets in Durban sent by Granny’s friend from her WAF days; and to finish, my Granny’s baked Queen pudding. Simply delicious and made with so much love and care.

2. What five things has working at Bushmans Kloof taught you about yourself, life and love?

  1. The close connections and care between the wide-spread communities in the Cederberg.
  2. The local community’s homemade recipes for great breads, bredies (black pot stews to feed all who are hungry) and of course the remedies and local ‘to-do’s’… to cure and comfort all ailments.
  3. The importance of serving food as close to the harvest as possible; this is very difficult or impossible in cities.
  4. Life slows down just a little… urgency is replaced by importance only.
  5. The beauty of the harsh arid land and the life and importance of rain.

3. How did your path lead you to Bushmans Kloof?

I was working at the Grand Roche hotel in Paarl, a little gem of a property holding onto the art of fine dining and service in the Cape Winelands, and I was offered a position at Bushmans Kloof to work very closely with the owners (who are big foodies) to create something fresh and wholesome, with no pretense, a farm-to-table approach using local producers and suppliers. Well, challenge accepted!

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

I focus on simplicity, nothing over-complicated, dishes that are accessible to all and that are created using the freshest and where possible local ingredients available – while being adventurous with flavours.

5. How would you describe the kind of cuisine at Bushmans Kloof and the motivation behind it?

Wholesome, delicious home-cooking taken up a notch! Guests should feel healthy, comforted and nourished.

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

My children… the sound of their laughter and unbridled joy as they play.

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

Clanwillian, the little town closest to us, for the best meat, especially lamb, potatoes and citrus, and then Lamberts Bay, for fish straight off the fishing boats.

8. What are some of your favourite local ingredients and dishes?

–  The kapok bossie and rooibos for ingredients
–  And the popular local dish, Skilpaadtjies… lamb’s liver wrapped in crépinette and slowly roasted over an open fire with fresh crusty bread.

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

Freshness is key! I try to use lots of olive oil, fruit and vegetable purees instead of loads of butter sauces.

10. What do you enjoy most about working at Bushmans Kloof and what makes the camp so special?

Because of the intimacy of the place, I think the communication with the guests is really great. In the city you hardly ever meet the people you are cooking for.  The closeness of the local  community and my fellow staff members in the reserve is also a big plus.

The Greatest Thing That Has Happened in My Life

When we started seeking out the stories behind our lodges and hotels in Africa and the Indian Ocean, we very quickly began to see the immense impact these properties were having not only on their settings, their destinations, but on the people they employed from local communities. We became attached, in that way you do when you’re getting to know someone who intrigues and inspires you. It’s what makes it difficult to leave a place, to look at the photos after a trip and not ache to be back on that river or sea or mountain, talking and laughing and living with the people who opened their hearts to you, for a moment.

What we discover each time is the power of tourism, its ability to transform lives and create opportunities that make for what Royal Chundu’s chef Teddy Mazonda calls “the greatest thing that has happened in my life.” Teddy is one of those people we’ve be fortunate to spend time with, on the banks of the Zambezi, one of those people who intrigue and inspire even when you’re miles away.

Meet Teddy for yourself in our Q&A below.

How did you start working as a chef at Royal Chundu and what is your role today?

I started as a scullery hand in 2011 and today I am sous chef. My role is to make sure that whatever goes out meets and exceeds the guest’s expectations. This is the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life. It was in 2012 when we had a cook-off with the team. We were given a mystery basket and we had to cook one starter, one main and one dessert, which we would be judged on. it was so difficult because many of us had only had a few months in the kitchen but we produced sensible dishes and I managed to win. There were two Australian guests on the panel of judges who gave me good advice for the future. It was a great experience!

What has working at Royal Chundu taught you about yourself, life and love?

It has taught me to believe in myself, never to doubt that I can do better, to always be positive and remember that the sky isn’t the limit.

Life: in life you can be what you want to be, as long as you believe in yourself. In spite of where I started, in the scullery, I had that zeal to one day be a chef.

Love: if there had been no love, I wouldn’t be where I am today. We work together because it’s a family lodge.

Your favourite dish on the menu at Royal Chundu and why?

Smoked quail. We were the first to taste the dish with my colleagues and it helped give me an idea of the guest’s experience. The smoking process we use reminds me of my childhood in the village when we would smoke food as one way of preserving it.

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

What inspires me the most is watching great chefs on food shows on television. It’s something to aspire to and teaches me how to go about life and how to become a great chef myself. Cooking new dishes everyday also gives me a zest for learning new things.

You could say that the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” refers to the making of a meal too. How does the whole team play a role in the creation of dishes?

In making a dish everyone is involved in coming forward with an idea and then we cooperate to bring out the best, like they say, “Together we stand, divided we fall.”

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

We source most of our produce from the community so to ensure the freshness and taste of the product and also to support the community. Our concept is Zambian cuisine, celebrating local ingredients.

What are some of your favourite local ingredients to use?

Impwa, Lusala, Ichisongole, Malaka (calabash), Munkoyo, Mubuyu (baobab fruit), and Cassava meal.

From a chef’s point of view, what is special about the Royal Chundu experience?

The breakfast and lunch picnic with our signature canoeing trip, because we are the only lodge on the bank of the Zambezi river doing it.

How to Celebrate Christmas in the Sun

Above: North Island Resort, Seychelles

When the sun comes out, we follow. Not merely we, the sun lovers, but we, life lovers. Like flowers looking to the light. A whole world opens up to us in summer; the great outdoors and bright city streets are all the more enticing with the sun shining down, with the days longer and the nights shorter.

This Christmas, switch the skis and eggnog in the winter wonderlands of the north for warms seas and G&Ts in the sunshine of Africa. For islands, nature reserves, great rivers and their banks, beaches and Winelands. Think of it as something new, a special kind of festive season with the family and the kind of gift you won’t find under a Christmas tree.

Above: Camp Jabulani, South Africa

9 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Sun

  1. Cocktails by the pool

Don’t let anyone tell you it’s lazy. Lying beside a pool is a matter of therapy. Necessity. For all others know you’re pondering your deepest thoughts while swigging that mojito and brainstorming the next creative project while gazing at your navel. Thing is, you can do whatever you like. It’s Christmas and you’ll drink all the Mai Tais you want to.

Best head to Ellerman House,  Delaire Graff Estate or The Cellars-Hohenort for poolside time under the sun in Cape Town. When in Johannesburg, pull up a lounger beside the pool at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, with life’s simple pleasures: a book, a drink, and your costume. The villa is perfect for families to make their own home away from home, with kiddie activities available to keep little ones entertained. Alternatively, combine your safari and pool time at any of our safari lodges, including Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge.

Above: Ellerman House, Cape Town

Above: AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, Johannesburg

Above: Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge

2. Island Living

You can pretend you like the cold all you want. We know the idea of sinking into warm sea water and lolling on sandy beaches in a teeny weeny yellow polka-dot bikini speaks to you too. The islands of the Indian Ocean do that. They call you from afar with the promise of romance, adventure and relaxation – the perfect Christmas trifactor.

Head to North Island Resort and Château de Feuilles in the Seychelles, 20 Degrés Sud in Mauritius, Blue Margouillat Seaview Hotel in Reunion, Anjajavy le Lodge in Madagascar, or Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas in Zanzibar, for a  holiday of swimming, snorkelling, diving, eating and playing. Lots of playing.

Above: North Island, Seychelles

Above: Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas

3. Picnic in the wild

Picnics demand you slow down, let go, sit down, sit still. Ok, they demand a lot, but it’s all in your best interests. Their casual, outdoorsy quality has a way of bringing families together. They strip away distractions and impel us to enjoy the beauty of being in nature, with sweet sun and wholesome food to warm the heart.

Head to Royal Chundu, on the Zambezi River in Zambia. Start with a canoe trip downstream and pull in to a private riverbank picnic already laid out – Persian rugs, cushions, hammocks, a table under the shade of an umbrella, private waiters, and that spread… Simply help yourself to the treats and sink into picnic mode with a Pimm’s.

Alternatively, picnic beside the deep blue of the Indian Ocean at North Island Resort in the Seychelles, on Honeymoon Beach, your own private beach to share with loved ones. Feel free to take photos and tell the guys and dolls back home that you’ve bought an island. Because it sure will feel like it.

Above: Royal Chundu

Above: North Island Resort

4. My family and other animals

We don’t advise you leave Africa without going on safari. Besides being one of those occasions in life you’ll never forget, and that you’ll make sure your friends never forget you had, being on safari for Christmas adds an extra something special. Dine under the stars to the sounds of lions in the night, gather with loved ones around a campfire while buffalo roam closeby, head out on game drives and walks to share in the gift of witnessing wild animals in their natural habitat – whether its the big cats or dancing lemurs.

Head to Camp Jabulani, Londolozi Private Game Reserve or Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat in South Africa; Duba Plains Camp and Zarafa Camp in Botswana; or Mara Plains Camp or ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya. Witness the wholly unique wildlife of Madagascar at Anjajavy le Lodge.

Above: Camp Jabulani, Kapama Private Game Reserve

Above: Anjajavy le Lodge, Madagascar

5. The gourmand’s getaway

Imagine your traditional Christmas lunch or dinner recreated by the hands of Relais & Châteaux chefs. With the sun out and about, enjoy long lunches on the terrace and late evening dinners outdoors. We’re not sure you need any more persuasion than that. So…

Check into Ellerman House or The Cellars-Hohenort with its Conservatory and Greenhouse restaurants, in Cape Town, the Delaire Graff Estate,  in the Cape Winelands, or AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg. Dining outdoors is particularly special in wild places like Botswana’s Duba Plains Camp or the Cederberg Mountains’ Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.

Above: Duba Plains Camp, Botswana

Above: Zarafa Camp, Botswana

Above: ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya

6. For the love of wine

Tis the season, as they say. Time for being generous. Generous with the wine… The variety of wines to sample while on holiday in Africa or the Indian Ocean islands could fill up all your hours. Let’s leave some time aside for that scuba-diving or mountain climbing, but by all means, unwind and drink wine. Little ones can enjoy the experience on strolls through the vineyards of the Cape Winelands, with the warmth of the summer sun following you.

Enjoy a wine lover’s Christmas at Delaire Graff Estate, The Cellars-Hohenort or Ellerman House in Cape Town, or head to the Indian Ocean for a night of private candlelit wine tastings on the beach at North Island in the Seychelles, with a sommelier guiding the way.

Above: Delaire Graff Estate, Cape Winelands

Above: The Cellars-Hohenort, Cape Town

7. Travel deeper

You might not notice it at first. It might only happen on the plane back home, or weeks later when your loved one, little or old, turns to you and says something that makes you go, woah, who are you? Africa does that. It has a way of transforming its visitors, opening their minds and hearts by showing them whole new landscapes, spaces where wild animals run freely,where people live in an entirely different way, with different priorities, values, and customs. Since you’re never too old to widen your horizon, to welcome the element of surprise, show the whole family just how big this world is.

Be a student in the school of life while discovering Masai culture at ol Donyo Lodge and Mara Plains Camp in Kenya, village life on the banks of the Zambezi at Royal Chundu or in the remote stretches of Madagascar at Anjajavy le Lodge, or the rock art of the Bushmen at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.

Above: Mara Plains Camp, Kenya

8. A healing holiday

How about trading the rush and ruckus of traditional Christmases for something calmer? Something involving massages on your deck overlooking the Zambezi or yoga on a white sand beach or above Big 5 wilderness, healthy Christmas meals and fresh juices (gin is a juice, right?) under African skies? A holiday where you can hear yourself think, learn the art of being here, now, and have others care for you for a change.

Indulge in a slow Christmas on the island of Zanzibar, at Zanzibar White Sands Luxury Villas, or Château de Feuilles in the Seychelles, with open sided spa rooms that let the birdsong in. Head to Royal Chundu in Zambia; Camp Jabulani, Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, or Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat in South Africa.

Above: Château de Feuilles

Above: Londolozi Private Game Reserve

9. Wild and free in the mountains

As a self-confessed mountain lover myself, this might just be my favourite idea. Sunshine, rocks to run on, mountain streams, birdlife and sweet silence… The mountains of Cape Town are something special, with trails for all types: strollers, runners, hikers, explorers, athletes, photographers, paragliders, little legs and old. They are the city’s source of adventure and take one within minutes from the excitement of city life to the beauty of nature. Further inland are the mountains of the Cederberg that call rock climbers and mountain lovers from all around the world.

Escape to Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat in the Cederberg for a Christmas of wide open spaces as well as cavernous mountainscapes, rivulets, rockpools and shooting stars. Explore Cape Town’s peaks from your base at Ellerman House or The Cellars-Hohenort.

Above: Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat.