The Journey of Creation at Camp Jabulani

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“Food is our common ground, a universal experience…” ~ James Beard

What makes the chefs at Camp Jabulani’s dishes special is something beyond taste and presentation. It entails the journey of creation, the ingredients, the fresh produce sourced from local suppliers, and the spirit of all the hands involved. The hands of the gardeners, the fishermen, the farmers, the winemakers, in other words, the producers. One such producer, a specialist in the art of fresh herbs, is the Hlokomela Herb Garden, just outside Hoedspruit.

Camp Jabulani’s Head Chef, Dylan Frost and lodge owner, Adine Roode, recently visited the Hlokomela Herb Garden; which also serves as an Income Generating Opportunity (IGO) for local farm workers and their families. Discover more about the challenges of obtaining fresh produce in the remote bush environment, in this Q&A with Chef Dylan below – as featured here, in Camp Jabulani’s blog, Camp Jabulani: Fine Cuisine & Fresh Produce.

As head chef based in the remote bush, what are the challenges you face acquiring fresh produce regularly?

Sourcing fresh produce at the moment you need it, can prove a bit difficult. For example, I can’t just pick up a shopping bag and head to the local grocery store to get ripe cherry tomatoes or baby spinach – not to mention fresh herbs. In this type of environment, it is all about planning, planning and more planning.

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Your menus include a variety of dishes in order to accommodate guests’ different tastes and dietary requirements. How does that influence your choice of fresh produce?

It has quite an impact, especially when ensuring special dietary and allergy requirements are met, coupled with working around the availability of seasonal produce. However, my kitchen is extremely flexible and we will always do our absolute best to cater for all special requests.

Are you able to ask the farmers to grow certain products for you?

I’m sure that if something specific is needed and it can be grown at the farm, they will do it with the greatest of pleasure.

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In a way, you’re in the land of milk and honey if you take into account the agriculture in the area. Do you think the local farmers export most of their fresh produce and leave behind a lower quality for locals to use?

Camp Jabulani is situated near fantastic mango, citrus, avocado, pumpkin, sweet potato, tomato and many other farms. While they do indeed export a lot of produce, there is thankfully very little difference between the exported produce and what we source locally.

Does the farmers’ produce have a huge impact on the dishes you serve, or you always look for other ways to get the ingredients if your mind is fixed on a certain recipe?

When my mind is set on a dish that I believe will work, I will do my best to create it. My suppliers may take some time finding the required ingredients, but they usually deliver what I need. If they can’t get what I need, I’ll work around the missing element by replacing it with something that will be equally successful.

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Camp Jabulani is situated in an extremely hot part of the country, how does the temperature affect the freshness of produce?

Being in the Lowveld, the climate does definitely affect produce; compared to the southern regions of the country where certain fresh produce thrives in high temperatures and humidity. But again, planning and good fridges go a long way to help keep produce at optimal level. Unfortunately, the heat here doesn’t allow us to work too much with chocolate and especially the tempering thereof. In addition, the humidity limits the use of certain snacks, as you can’t make macaroons or any sort of soft tasty snack.

Tell us about the dried mangoes. Do guests enjoy them?

Hoedspruit has fantastic mango farms that export fresh and dried mangoes. Dried mangoes are wonderful as they can be used in many ways; for example, in sauces, as garnish for plates, morning breakfast cereals, etc. They also have a high nutritional value as they are high in vitamin A, and contain higher calories than fresh mangoes.

Certain organisations and the media are in support of buying local, which has become an expectation; do you see that from Camp Jabulani guests as well, or do they not care where the ingredients come from?

Our guests regularly enquire about the produce we use; where we get certain items like our herbs, edible flowers and venison meats.

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How did you find the visit to the Hlokomela Herb Garden – was it what you expected?

Adine Roode, the owner of Camp Jabulani, introduced me to the local herb supplier, Hlokomela. I’m happy with their produce, but only recently had the opportunity to visit their operation. They really care for the produce they supply and I can honestly say the work they do there is fantastic. They provide help to local farm workers with income, medical treatment and by creating awareness within the younger generation through education.

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10 Questions with Delaire Graff Restaurant Head Chef, Michael Deg

To better understand the life behind the food at Delaire Graff Restaurant, the impetus and the intention, we caught up with Head Chef, Michael Deg, a man currently creating some of the most inspiring dishes to come out of South Africa and the Winelands. Discover more about Michael in our 10 Questions with him below – a peek we are sure will lead you right to the doors of the Delaire Graff Restaurant, on the magnificent Helshoogte Pass between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

Follow Michael in the kitchen on Twitter and Instagram.

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1. What has working at Delaire Graff Restaurant taught you about yourself, life and love?

Since taking over the reigns at Delaire Graff Restaurant, I have grown tremendously both as a chef and a person. As I’ve learned more about myself and gained more confidence as the Head of a 32 man kitchen brigade, the food and menu have evolved to reflect my style, my philosophy and the experience I want to elicit as a Chef. Finding a style is an evolution as a Chef, but I feel now the dishes, the plating and the team all work together in creating the experience to which I always aspired. It is a demanding career path, but seeing the food we produce day to day and having guests return year after year makes this a passion-driven and highly rewarding profession.

2. What is your current culinary obsession?

Taking one ingredient and trying to utilise every part of it in as many ways as possible. I love using vegetables like this; it really forces a chef to be creative. Last winter, I created a cauliflower dish where the entire dish was based on this ingredient with different variations from raw, to roasted and tempura. Currently on the menu for summer, the line fish is accompanied by textures of celery from root to leaf.

3. What can we expect from you and the Delaire Graff Restaurant this year?

A focus on cured, raw and marinated items on the menu as well as textures of singular ingredients. I’m also creating a new oyster menu for the evenings which will showcase Saldanha Bay oysters in unexpected ways.

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4. What new trends are inspiring you currently?

Keeping dishes simple with fewer ingredients, this allows the locally sourced produce to be the hero.

5. Where do you source most of your produce from and who / what are some of your favourite local food suppliers? What is your relationship like with these suppliers?

By using local suppliers and produce, not only does it cut down in food miles, it also means you have a close relationship with your farmer or producer allowing you access to the best ingredients. One of my favourite artisanal suppliers would have to be Wild Peacock. They take great pride in their uncommon produce, and are a pleasure with which to work. I try to support local farmers as much as possible with our pasture reared chicken and eggs coming from Farmer Rico at Boschendal, our free range ducks from De Denne farm and fresh berries from the neighbouring Hillcrest Berry Farm amongst others. Having our own greenhouse means fresh, seasonal vegetables, herbs, shoots and edible flowers right on our doorstep supplied to us by my colleague, Jerry.

6. How do you bring a taste of the land – namely the Cape Winelands – into your dishes?

At first, I found the notion quite challenging as I grew up on curry in Durban and later lived in Ireland for nearly a decade, but luckily I have a great team of local chefs with me. Together, we explore what produce to use and how to incorporate the local flavours around us. We use items such as Fynbos vinegar, local strawberries, cheeses from around the Western Cape, and of course, our sommeliers advise guests on local wine pairings for each dish.

7. Are you Zen master or warrior in the kitchen? What is your philosophy when it comes to cheffing and managing a team of chefs?

I really enjoy teaching and guiding young chefs, I believe in encouragement and creating an engaging, challenging and exciting environment where my chefs look forward to work each day. We work demanding hours so having a leader who shouts and is unpleasant creates a hostile environment, not to mention all that yelling and anger would be exhausting to maintain for myself. I believe you will get more out of your team when they are happy and excited, compared to the alternative.

8. When are you happiest at work?

After a good service when we get good feedback from our guests and our brigade worked as a team. It’s a good feeling when everything comes together and your guests enjoy their experience.

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

We do a tasting of pork and apples for lunch, a classic combination, at the moment with sous vide pork belly, coal grilled pork fillet, quail Scotch egg, crackling, roast plum, apple and sage purée, fresh apple and a cider vinegar jus. Pork is one of my favourite proteins to eat and cook, so this dish ticks all the boxes for me.

10. In honour of the month of love, what makes the Delaire Graff Restaurant such an ideal place for a romantic date?

With the breath-taking view of the mountains and valley, al fresco dining beneath a canopy of oak trees on our terrace is intimate and inspires romance, even proposals. With a glass of our Delaire Graff Sunrise MCC over freshly shucked oysters, I find it hard to believe that there is a more romantic setting.

View from the restaurant this evening #delairegraff #relaischateaux #ilovemyjob

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