10 Questions with Bushmans Kloof’s Rory du Plessis

We met Rory under a star-studded sky, on the kind of night that has you singing,

Well, it’s a marvelous night for a Moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes

And all the night’s magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush.

It was the kind of night when conversation flows as easily as the red wine between you. The kind that takes you from dinner in a candle-lit cabin to the open plains on a game drive with only the vehicle’s headlights to guide you through the wilderness. The kind of night you can’t have just anywhere, but that Bushmans Kloof, where Rory du Plessis, the lodge Maître de Maison, unveils time and again.

It was time to get to know more about not only life in this wilderness retreat in the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa, when the sun comes up, but also about the man who gets to delight in it all, day after day.

10 Questions with Bushmans Kloof’s Rory du Plessis

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

Life isn’t always a bed of roses, neither is love… but if you are not on the park you’re not in the game. It is about engaging with staff and guests and the more you do, the more you get out of it. Bushmans Kloof is all about experiences and as the GM you are able to manage the quality of experiences you wish Guests to have.  ‘Learning’ is an evolving thing…a work in progress. BK continues to be an incredible learning curve for me.

  1. How did your path lead you to Bushmans Kloof? And what is your role here now? 

Quite by accident really. I was in Cape Town visiting friends and received a call from a mate in London who asked if I might be interested in a position in the Western Cape. I had never worked in the Cederberg and had spent most of my career in the Lowveld and KwaZulu Natal. I went up for a quick look-see and was hooked. In my role now, I’m involved in every aspect of the operation, on behalf of the owners – from food, accommodation and guest experience, to the conservation aspects and maintaining the levels of quality expected of a Relais & Chateaux property.

  1. Favourite part about living in this remote reserve?

The solitude, the quietness, the stars at night, and a real bonus is never being stuck in traffic. I have been in lodges for 27 years despite a brief visit to Johannesburg, which I really did not enjoy, so I am very much a “bush boy”. I do enjoy visiting the city, especially Cape Town as it is a really vibey place.

  1. The best way to start and end a day here?

Always start with a good cup of coffee and end the day with unbelievably dark, starry  skies, uncontaminated by city lights, with a feeling of a job well done.

  1. Favourite time of year here and why?

It’s actually beautiful year round… but for different reasons; the summer months for the hot and dry weather and winter with the cold and rain. If I had to choose it would probably be August and September when the flowers are out. Its when the Cederberg truly comes into its own.

  1. The best way to spend a day off at Bushmans Kloof or to unwind?

It’s always nice to have a lie in, and then visit the neighbouring farm for breakfast, then head down into town for a little shopping. It’s pretty terrific to actually do nothing, embrace some dolce far niente, as the days at Bushmans Kloof are always rather hectic, behind the scenes at least.

  1. What makes Bushmans Kloof so special?

As always ‘people’ are the ‘X Factor’ in the operation.  Without our amazing Staff it simply wouldn’t be what it is. We consistently get feedback from guests saying that the highlight of the place was the interaction and care they received from our Staff.

  1. Favourite dish and wine on the menu at the lodge? And the best place to enjoy either on the reserve?

Favourite dish:  Springbok shank with a glass of Bouchard Finlayson ‘Hannibal’;  Favourite place:  Our shepard’s cottage, Kodoro, in front of a huge log fire. It goes without saying that this experience is made even better with great company.

  1. What are some of the ways that the lodge is involved in the community and conservation initiatives and what inspires you all to maintain this involvement?

We have a long standing commitment to Elizabethfontein School , which the children of our staff attend; we contribute significantly to assisting them in many different ways and this is ongoing.

In addition, the lodge is involved in  five sustainability projects with support from The TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit supported by The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands that works to ensure the environment and communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come. We’re also involved in saving the Cape Mountain Zebra from extinction, preserving the endangered Clanwilliam Cedar Tree (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis). We also work at conserving the Clanwilliam Yellowfish and the Cape Leopard in conjunction with the Cape Leopard Trust. We are increasing our involvement and funding to helping put Anatolian sheep dogs into the surrounding farms to prevent these amazing animals from being destroyed. And we preserve and protect over 130 unique rock art sites on the property, some dating back 10 000 years

  1. The best adventure so far has been… And the next adventure will be…

It’s been one great adventure from the time I got here – the lodge, the surroundings, the activities, the guests and the amazing Red Carnation family of brands that Bushmans Kloof is a part of.

The next adventure I am hoping for is some serious deep sea fishing off the Cape coast.

Meet the Pâtissière of Ellerman House

Ellerman House

“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Pastry chefs must have the best dreams… ones both delightful and délicieux (as my waiter at Ellerman House repeats to me, patiently waiting for my flat Capetonian English tongue to twirl in the right way and echo the word back to him). Their dreams must surely be a child’s kaleidoscope of berry dust and light fluffy meringues, like those in tonight’s honey savarin dessert at Ellerman House, with its petite lime meringues and fresh strawberries. I imagine a cloudy dream of colour and cream, with the scent of scones just baked. And breads and muffins and doughnuts… With a little ding ding ding bell playing like a toy shop xylophone in the Michel Gondry scene that no doubt unfolds in the midnight hour of the pâtissier’s slumber.

Because, while biting into these dreams as they are reproduced on the plate in front of me, these are the very images that play across that English tongue of mine, that tongue that might not be able to correctly get its way around foreign languages, but happily soaks in the different pastries of the world and feels right at home with a croissant as much as a milk tart.

Michaela van der Merwe is the new Pastry Chef at Ellerman House. I envy her nightly dreams, but she kindly, and elegantly, lets us experience them for a moment here and there, while dining at this Cape Town hotel.

Discover more about the dessert dreamweaver in the Q&A below… as featured in the Ellerman House blog.

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1. What is your motto?

This might sound like a cliché but, “Make it nice or make it twice”. I’m a perfectionist and a little OCD, so I tend to stress about the small things. Basics.

2. Who inspires you most?

I’m inspired by all the chefs I’ve worked with. I’ve learnt so much from each one of them.

3. What do you consider your greatest achievement to be?

Getting my Pastry Diploma! I did it part time, while working through a physically-draining season, and I still managed to pass with a Distinction and top of my class.

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4. What do you love most about Cape Town?

I love that I can discover new things every day. This city has so much to offer and so many things to do. And besides, the country’s best restaurants are based here.

5. Your perfect day off in Cape Town?

I love going to different restaurants and wine farms. Constantia and Franschhoek are my favourites.

6. What is your favourite hidden gem?

I wouldn’t call it hidden, but I love hiking Silvermine Nature Reserve’s trails and looking over parts of the city when you’ve reached the top of the mountain. It’s priceless!

Ellerman House Hotel

7. What could you never do without?

Coffee!!! I always say that you’ve made it in life when you wake up to a great cup of coffee.

8. Where did you grow up?

Born and bred in Cape Town!

9. What do you aspire to learn more about?

I love working with chocolate and really hope to do showpiece competitions in the future.

10. Why do you love working at Ellerman House?

I have creative freedom and that’s what any chef really wants. Also, the view in the morning when checking on the breakfast buffet… Amazing!

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11. What do you value most in your colleagues?

Everyone has been so welcoming and helpful. Since the day I walked in for my cook-off, I’ve been treated like royalty.

12. What is your favourite spot at Ellerman House?

I’m so in love with the wine gallery; the design, the decor, the ambience… Everything about the place is just fascinating.

13. What do you think makes it the best hotel in the world?

Being part of the elite Relais & Châteaux is the cherry on top. The level of service is out of this world. I’m pretty sure guests feel like royalty when they stay here!