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 Art of Exploring Private Islands

“I had always known the sky was full of mysteries – but not until now had I realised how full of them the earth was.” – Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

It doesn’t matter how many times you might hear that everything in the world has already been discovered, that, as such, the art of exploring no longer exists, that it has lost its magic.

It doesn’t matter, because to you, each new journey into Africa and the Indian Ocean is as good as uncovering a new land. There is always something mysterious, something you don’t yet know, something worth discovering for yourself.

I get excited over seeing the sun rise in a new part of the world, or watching the moon grow full over a different ocean.

In a place like North Island in the Seychelles, 30 kilometres from the main island of Mahé, I found myself enthralled by the changes in the colours of the sea and hiking over the small island’s peaks – scrambling over carpets of fallen palm tree leaves and rugged boulders, under and beside the indigenous plantlife the hotel has re-planted as part of its island rewilding programme.

If ever there were a place to feel like an explorer of yesteryear, it is the Seychelles. Compared to Europe, the Seychelles has quite a recent history. It’s believed that not many explorers have set foot on North Island itself since it was uninhabited for most of its history, before being transformed into a family-owned farm that was abandoned before becoming the island we know today.

For those with explorer leanings, this is one place that really is relatively untouched and undiscovered, as only a few have had the opportunity and privilege to experience it.

My Family & Other Explorers

explorer – ɛkˈsplɔːrə/

noun: a person who explores a new or unfamiliar area; traveller, discoverer, voyager, rambler, globetrotter, rover, reconnoitrer, adventurer, pioneer.

Emerging from the forested hills, onto a desolate beach as dusk coloured the sky, Tarryn Retief, the island’s conservationist and I came across footprints of other serious explorers and followed them up from the sea.

There in the dark, where the beach sand ended and bush began, a mother Hawksbill Turtle was laying eggs in a hole she had just managed to carve out for her young with those hardworking flippers.

We sat with her in absolute quiet, in absolute dark, the red light of our torch illuminating the soft plop of each egg. We sat beside her while she covered them with sand, like a mother tucking her children into bed for the night. And then she started her slow amble back to sea.

Just the day before we had witnessed another mother covering her nest on the beach. With the Hawksbill classified as critically endangered, these sightings are particularly precious, and yet here in a land that felt very much like an Eden at sea, we could watch, photograph and record every sand-flick, every blink, every wave-surf. There was no one to disturb us and more importantly, no one to disturb the turtles.

As far as we were concerned, Hemingway and Columbus had nothing on us.

A Secluded Island Sanctuary

North Island is committed to ensuring the protection of the natural environment and biodiversity and has conservation at the heart of its philosophy. It has created a sanctuary where natural habitats, long neglected, were rehabilitated so that endangered Seychelles fauna and flora could be reintroduced and given a place to grow and thrive. Once exploited as a coconut plantation, North Island set up its Noah’s Ark conservation programme and managed to turn the island into a natural idyll where endangered species such as the Seychelles White-eye, Giant Aldabra Tortoise and Hawksbill Turtle flourish once more.

North Island’s eleven private villas, built from natural materials recovered on the island during its rehabilitation, are completely hidden from each other and sit beneath palm trees along the beach. It is one of the world’s most exclusive private islands.

Its tropical terrain of mountains and white beaches, filigree reefs and azure Indian Ocean invites explorers of all kinds: snorkellers, divers, fishing enthusiasts, kayakers, paddle boarders, surfers, cyclists, hikers and walkers.

Discover more about North Island here.

You Had Me At Coconut | 6 Reasons To Visit This Mauritius

energyˈɛnədʒi/ – noun: the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.

synonyms: vigour, life, spirit, fire, passion, ardour, sparkle, drive, zing, pep, pizzazz, bounce, fizz, oomph, get-up-and-go.

Energy is a peculiar creature. Never fitting one definition. Sometimes it’s up. Sometimes it’s down. Sometimes there’s a reason for its changes; most times, perhaps. But occasionally it really feels as though it requires one serious nudge. We found our nudge on an island far from home.

Landing on Mauritian soil, ocean saluted us even from the runway. It was hot and the sky was blue, perfect blue. Driving to the north of this faraway island in the Indian Ocean, flashes out the window shone with those deep green signs of life. Walking through the wooden doors of 20 Degres Sud, what shone were the faces on the other side and a pool reflecting the sun and trees, bathers and their cocktails, as though a whole world resided in it.

It stays with you for some time after you leave, this life, this island energy, and it has everything to do with 20 Degres Sud and its home on a beach in Grand Baie, with sand as white as coconut milk.

Here are six ways this boutique hotel will have you walking on water by the time the holiday is over.

  1. The whole “fall out of bed and into a pool” thing

It is quite something to step out of bed, onto your verandah and into a pool. There are rooms with private pools (not sure we need to say more on why that’s a good thing). Call it flotation therapy or meer dolce far niente, but bobbing weightless beneath a blue sky, in the hot island sun, does the human body, heart, mind and spirit a world of good.

And now you’re ready for the next step…

2. Being wild and free at sea

From the hotel, set on the water’s edge, the whole Indian Ocean stretches out, with the calm waters of Grand Baie and the remote islets of Coin de Mire, Île Plate and Îlot Gabriel. We spent our days swimming in warm baby blue sea, snorkelling in the silence of the underwater world with trumpet fish and clown fish, kitesurfing and hobbie-catting (with experienced hands assisting), and feeling the freedom of soaring in the most romantic of pirogues.

3. Sunshine, sweet sunshine

Most of us feel a lot more in love with life with a bit of sunshine on our cheeks, enveloped in a warmth that greets you with morning croissants on the terrace and stays with you during the tasting menu under the stars. It means dresses without sleeves, bare feet on the beach, and a whole lot of outdoor living.

4. Fresh fish, fruit and other fine food

There is a lightness, a freshness and a certain mystery to the meals at 20 Degres Sud. Executive Chef, Sanjeev Purahoo, mixes a local Mauritian flavour with international influences and a fine dining elegance.

And perhaps what makes it all even more inspiring is a simple matter of location…. from breakfast with your feet in the sea to lunch at L’Explorateur overlooking the bay; from dining on the terrace beside the pool, amid a coconut grove, to dinners on the oldest motorboat on the island, the M / S Lady Lisbeth. Sailing slowly in the night with cocktails in hand, it feels as though everything has come together, in a perfect dance, nothing is amiss, not a step too far or a heel turn too little.

Don’t leave without having a coconut cut fresh from the garden.

5. Rest and rest well

What happens in the Spa, stays in the Spa. That’s rule one of wellness. But for a glimpse, we’ll offer that you might want a few extra days to do nothing but the Spa, drifting between the hammam and herbal tea infusion bar, and the secluded pool and massage table, with ingredients like hot coconut oil and reflexology and hot stone treatments to renergise.

6. Because people make a place…

It’s instant.  The connection, the shift. That zing and pizzazz; energy in all its pseudonyms. It gets you with the first person you meet as you enter these doors…

You’ll see… You’ll see it, with the managers, the ladies in the Spa, the waiters and waitresses, the gardeners, the boatmen…

You’ll see it when you arrive and when you depart, and every moment in between. And you will feel it. The warmth, the heart, the fire.

Now hold onto it.

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