The Wine Rorschach Test – Delaire Graff Estate

Delaire Graff

Wine relieves us from our minds. This is my favourite of its attributes. Which probably says more about me than the wine itself. Such is the nature of this particular poison.

In the way that a Lionel Smit or Dylan Lewis speaks to its audience in a myriad of ways, so wine shows itself differently to different people. Whether looking at a sculpture on the lawns of Delaire Graff in the Cape Winelands or sipping Chardonnay on its verandah, what we read into the work gives us a little glimpse into ourselves. Wine is the window to the soul, you could say… Our preferred style of Rorschach test.

For Rylan Gentles, Head Sommelier of Delaire Graff Restaurant, it’s about the art and the pleasure of it all.

Delaire Graff

Rylan pours us a glass of his white reserve over a lunch of pan-seared cob, squid with hake and lemon mousse, tamarind gel, cauliflower puree, pumpkin and ginger gnocchi, at Delaire Graff one Autumn afternoon, and explains his art to us:

“To me wine is an art, it is special and I look at it as bottled poetry. Every bottle of wine tells its own story. It gives a sense of place and it is giving thought to the time, dedication and hard work that went into creating it which enhance the joy of each sip.

Each wine is different in its own way. There are so many wine styles and grape varieties which have their own distinct smell and taste. My favourite grape is chardonnay because of its versatility. It can be enjoyed with or without food, at lunch or dinner, with friends and family. From the delicate lighter styles to the more full and textured with luscious fruit and aromas, chardonnay is a wonderful cultivar to explore.

Wine is my passion and it’s made for pure enjoyment, bringing people together. Wine is a lifestyle and my favourite thing about is that you can never get bored. There is so much to learn and the wine world is evolving every day with new techniques, vintages and creativity of winemakers.”

Tell us in the comments section what your favourite thing about wine is, what it is that compels you in the search for the perfect bottle, and take a look at some images from our visit below.

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The Mind of a Chef – Meet Delaire Graff’s Michael Deg

Head Chef of Delaire Graff Restaurant - Michael Deg

It is our vision at Relais & Châteaux Africa to inspire positive change in the world through cuisine, hospitality and our relentless pursuit of “l’art de vivre”…

It’s a philosophy shared by the people behind the Delaire Graff Estate in the Cape Winelands of South Africa, and a passion upheld, in particular, by the Delaire Graff Restaurant’s head chef, Michael Deg. 

Head Chef of Delaire Graff Restaurant Michael Deg in the estate greenhouse

We invite you behind the scenes of the Delaire Graff Restaurant, into the mind of one of the country’s top chefs, with the help of foodie photographer, Sam Linsell of Drizzel And Dip’s beautiful photographs of the estate.


Q&A with Michael Deg

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING THE HEAD CHEF AT DELAIRE GRAFF RESTAURANT?

“Working with my wonderful team of 20 chefs, who all give their best and work hard, long hours. It really is special to see our brigade working during a busy service to one common goal.”

WHAT IS CURRENTLY ONE OF YOUR FAVOURITE DISHES THAT YOU ARE SERVING AT THE RESTAURANT?

“Our custard slice infused with toast, served with banana sorbet, praline mousse, caramelised popcorn and coconut crème. Our head pastry chef, Ándre Steyn, is a master of his craft and really comes up with magical desserts. It is a pleasure having someone of that calibre working with us.”

WHO IS YOUR CULINARY IDOL?

“Padraig Hayden, whom I worked for as Sous Chef in Dublin, Ireland. He not only taught me how to cook properly, he taught me how to work hard. As a head chef, he would never miss a service. He was always the first chef in the door and the last to leave. He also taught me that no job is too small. I try every day to bring this work ethic to my kitchen.”

WHAT CULINARY TRENDS DO YOU FORESEE BEING BIG IN 2015?

“Foraging is a trendy word these days: during mushroom season, my chefs love picking wild mushrooms and return with buckets full of them. I love nothing more than when one of the chefs comes to work with a big bag of freshly foraged nasturtium, a firm favourite of mine. Chefs will continue to strive for fresh and healthy cuisine, because at the end of the day, customers want natural products.”

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING TO COOK FOR YOURSELF AT HOME?

“Durban lamb curry with basmati rice, and poppadums with Mrs Ball’s chutney takes me home every time.”

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Michael Says…

“Like everything at Delaire Graff Estate, when I travel up the Estate driveway, I appreciate how green it looks. It flows throughout the Estate, from different scenery to different colours, everywhere you look. I take this inspiration onto the plates. There is nothing more relaxing than walking through the garden and picking herbs for the dinner guests after a long lunch service.

“Every morning, Jerry Gumunyu, our vegetable gardener extraordinaire, comes to us with a list of produce ready to be harvested: from tomatoes, green beans, artichokes, peppadews and courgettes, to a huge variety of salads and herbs. I like to use our estate vegetable garden and greenhouse as a reference for what is in season for the menu. In winter we have an entirely different crop to look forward to than in spring. When we see the first sign of broad beans, we know summer is around the corner. It’s so exciting to live with the seasons; to have such variety just outside the kitchen is a chef ’s dream.

“Beautifully presented dishes are very important. I like my plates to look as if they are flowing with natural colours; I always plate from left to right to represent the flowing motion of the garden. We use a lot of edible flowers from the Estate, which pop with colour and bring the dishes to life. We support local farmers. For example, most of our mushrooms come from Nouvelle Mushrooms located less than 10 kilometres away; our trout is farmed just outside Franschhoek; Ryan Boons from Paarl supplies our free-range meat; and we use Farmer Angus from Spier for our grass-fed beef sirloins. We use only South African produce. It wouldn’t make sense to buy scallops flown halfway round the world. We have wonderful produce on our doorstep, so we make use of it.”

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Visit Delaire Graff and experience the art of gastronomy at the hands of Michael Deg for yourself. Thank you to Sam Linsell of Drizzle And Dip for letting us share these beautiful images.

Have you dined at the Delaire Graff Restaurant? We’d love to know your thoughts…

The Pâtissier of Ellerman House

Ellerman House Pastry Chef

Meet Liezl Odendaal

Britta Dahms of Ellerman House sat down with the hotel’s celebrated Pastry Chef to find out where she draws her inspiration from and what ingredients she keeps in her kitchen.

EH: Where did you study and where was your first experience as a Pastry Chef?

Liezl: I studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch and my first job as a Pastry Chef was at La Colombe.

EH: Do you think being a great Pastry Chef is a talent you are born with or can it be learnt?

Liezl: I would say both, you need talent but you always need to evolve, learn better techniques, work harder, be more creative and find new ingredients and ways of using them in the kitchen.

EH: What tips would you give those aspiring to become a Pastry Chef in South Africa?

Liezl: Working hard will top my list of tips, but together with that you need to surround yourself with chefs that inspire you and teach you to be better.

Delicious chocolate dessert

EH: Where do you draw your inspiration?

Liezl: I read quite a lot of books from other amazing Pastry Chef’s around the world, new cuisine products and travelling.

EH: Which Pastry Chefs have had the biggest influence on you?

Liezl: There’s a Pastry Chef in Paris, France, Pierre Hermé. He made the humble macaroon famous and he has amazing pastry shops dotted all over Paris. He takes classic pastry and creates a new and modern version.

EH: How important is the relationship between the Head Chef and the Pastry Chef?

Liezl: I think it is an important aspect in any kitchen. The Head Chef and Pastry Chef always need to be on the same page regarding the menu.

Ellerman House Pantry

Ellerman House

EH: What do you love about working at Ellerman House?

Liezl: I love working with the team of chefs currently at Ellerman House. We are a very small team, which makes us close, and we constantly learn new things, as every day is different and interesting.

EH: Do you have a favourite pastry to make, and what is it?

Liezl: I don’t really have any favourite but if I had to choose it would probably be Pasteia de Nana because I’ll most likely eat the entire batch after it comes out of the oven.

EH: Do you have an inspirational quote to live by?

Liezl: I don’t live by quotes but one by the Dalai Lama recently inspired me: “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done, called yesterday and tomorrow. So today is the right day to love, believe, and mostly live.”

EH: What three ingredients do you always have in your kitchen at home?

Liezl: Butter, raw honey and Nutella

Ellerman House


Thank you to Liezl for letting us into her mind and kitchen for a day.

Discover more about Ellerman House and in the name of sharing inspiration, whether from the kitchen or garden, ocean or wilderness, let us know what quote you live by…