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…

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.