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.

10 Questions with AtholPlace Hotel & Villa’s Executive Chef

I have found that getting to know the chefs behind a meal adds a certain depth to the meal itself. As though acting as another ingredient,  enhancing the myriad flavours and scents and revealing the heart of the dish. In the same way that learning about where the different ingredients were sourced, and how and why, gives the art of dining greater meaning, gives the diner, you and I, something to connect with. It is this knowledge and understanding that lets us walk away from the table feeling richer and more alive, more apart of the entire culinary process than most people on the other side of the plate are fortunate to be.

This is the hope behind our Q&As with the chefs of Relais & Châteaux Africa and Indian Ocean. To give you the story behind the dishes you’ll savour in the different hotels and lodges, and to give life to each part of that dish.

Sit down with the man behind the meals at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in our 10 Questions with Willie Malherbe below.

10 Questions with AtholPlace Hotel & Villa Executive Chef, Willie Malherbe

1. What five things has working at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa taught you about yourself, life and love?

Mmm, interesting question. Okay, here goes. Passion is paramount, patience, self-respect, understanding and lastly, make every second count.

2. How did your path lead you to AtholPlace Hotel & Villa?

Having known and being close friends with the previous managing couple of the Morokuru Family (which includes AtholPlace) for more than a decade, I started helping out when they set up this property and that led me to being employed on a permanent basis.

3. How do you bring a taste of your environment to your dishes?

By using as much as possible local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients and working closely with our suppliers to assist us in reaching this goal. Also drawing from the multiple cultures and their cuisines found in this rainbow nation.

4. How would you describe the kind of cuisine at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa and the motivation behind it?

I would say our cuisine is relaxed with a global influence created by using fresh seasonal, ingredients with the focus being on flavour.

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

Happy customers that let you know they really enjoyed there meal and dining experience is what inspires and keeps me going. In life I would say the privilege of being able to not worry about were my next meal is coming from, living in an free country and being “reasonably” healthy.

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

We try and work with as many local suppliers as possible, fortunately we are blessed in Johannesburg to have great suppliers that will go out of their way to assist in delivering top quality, fresh ingredients.

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

Funnily enough one of my favorite ingredients at the moment is corn. It’s a vital staple food for most South Africans as well as being a versatile ingredient to work with. When it comes to favorite local dish, I have to say “magwinya’s”  It’s a street food which consist of “vetkoek” or fried bread with a selection of fillings such as curried mince and cheese. Its available on most street corners throughout the city.

8. What do you enjoy most about working at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa?

The comradery in the kitchen is the best….

9. Your favourite dish on the menu now? And why?

Hickory smoked Springbok loin, crisp goats cheese and rainbow radish salad. Reason? I love Springbok and smoking things.

10. What makes Johannesburg such a special place for foodies to visit?

Simply put I would say it is the melting pot of different cultures and their cuisines that make Johannesburg a foodie destination… as well as the passion of the people creating the food, from the top five star establishments down to the lady selling magwinyas on the street corner.