Ellerman House Takes To The Desert


“It is the unknown around the corner that turns my wheels.” — Heinz Stücke, German long-distance touring cyclist

In search of of the unknown, of the wild and wonderful of Africa, Paul Harris (Owner of Ellerman House in Cape Town) and daughter, Nicola Harris, joined this year’s Challenge4ACause in the Damaraland Desert of Namibia. Representing Ellerman House, they pedaled alongside many other faces of the Relais & Châteaux team.

Here is a glimpse at the experience through their eyes, as they travelled across one of the most inimitable and isolated wilderness areas in the world, for six days, covering 360 kilometres on mountain bikes, to raise funds for rhino conservation and other projects in Africa.

For more information about the challenge and charities involved, read our blogs: Great Things Are Done When Men & Mountains (& Deserts) Meet, and, A Wilderness Experience With Heart.

R&C: What was Challenge4ACause like as an experience?  

Paul: It was an amazing experience, with great people. No cell phones. No city lights, so the stars were like diamonds in the sky. Rugged terrain. Spectacular landscapes.

R&C: What were the highs 

Paul: Finishing without falling, the beer at the end of the ride, and being together around the fire at night.

R&C: And the lows?

Paul: The fear of falling along the way… what with the terrifying steep declines with rocks and sand.

For Nicola, it was a similarly amazing week. The highs for her were not having contact with the outside world, “being able to be completely present,” she said, as were the scenery, the night skies and the group of people. The lows were “the five hills in the last 5 km of day two, after spending seven hours on the bike in the scorching heat”.

Ah, so they are human, after all.


In the Words of – Chef Peter Tempelhoff

In an interview with We Are Africa, The Collection by Liz McGrath’s Executive Chef, Peter Tempelhoff, spoke of a few of our favourite things… inspiration, travel and Africa. In our series of insights from the Relais & Châteaux Africa and Indian Ocean tribe, we bring you the first words of wisdom from “South Africa’s gastronomic genius.”

On inspiration

My inspiration is multi-faceted, though there are the two main sources: the people I surround myself with and the local bounty of the region -The Fairest Cape.

Lunch at #GreenhouseCT by @rowaneva #greenhouseexperience #capetown #capetownmag

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On travel

I truly believe that all young aspiring chefs need to travel, as food really is an international language. Learning how other cultures balance flavours, create textures and enhance tastes opens your mind and breaks down the barriers of culinary conservatism. My palate has always been pretty constant, it was my repertoire of cooking skills that really benefitted from my travels.

On the menu: beer, crisps and pretzels. {link in bio of full offering} #greenhousect #capetown

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On cooking in Africa

I love the potential of African food; the first meal was eaten in Africa, so there is an amazing amount of history and lore that could be unearthed about African food. Despite the late start of South Africa onto the culinary scene, the country has made amazing strides to catch up to the rest of the world. I love being around this kind of energy.

My connection with Africa runs deep; every waking day I appreciate how good we have things on the southern tip of Africa. Living so far from the rest of the world, where importing food is poor economics, is actually a blessing in disguise. Why would I want to cook with peaches in winter or oranges in summer, why would I want a piece of fruit or meat flown 10 thousand kilometres for me to put it on a plate and feed it to a guest? I love being inextricably linked to the seasons and at one with the African earth, I love being so dependent on the rainfall for my porcini mushrooms and the sunshine for my hanneport. I love being at the mercy of all 4 seasons, because it is at the knees of Mother Nature that one learns versatility and creativity – it is here that a chef becomes humble and finds himself.

On trends

There are a lot of local chefs using modernist techniques in their cooking now, the secret is using it in moderation and only when necessary to enhance a flavour or a texture. The local scene has also seen an increased amount of chefs pushing the boundaries with daring combinations and ultra-creative plating techniques.

In South Africa there is a rise in carb-less cooking as well as a shift towards ancient preserving techniques like fermentation. I think both have their merit and can enhance the dining experience.

On reimagining South African food

Terroir cooking and conserving the culture of the region in which one is cooking is immeasurably important and definitely not country specific. Food is what nations are built on and as such preserving its culture is a means of preserving the country’s own culture.

Discover Peter Tempelhoff and his team’s creations at Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort, a Relais & Châteaux hotel in Cape Town, South Africa.

Follow Peter on Instagram for more inspiration.

Read the full interview with We Are Africa here.

10 Questions with Chef Tim Okoth of ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya

You’ve heard the saying…

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” – James A. Michener

It might be your personal travel ethos – to embrace the unfamiliar. But it might also be as foreign to you as the new land you find yourself in. We all have a different way – of seeing, of being, of travelling. Surrendering to newness doesn’t come as easily to some as it does to, say, James A. Michener. But you have to admit, the real, overwhelming charm of travel that knocks you off your feet lies in the joy of doing just that – giving in to the strangeness, of the food, the customs, the religion, the people.

Throughout our travels across Africa and the Indian Ocean, we have tasted, sniffed, caressed, and glimpsed some peculiar foods and it has only enriched our experience and understanding of the country.

Kenya is one such place, with a range of dishes and cooking styles and influences that complement the wildlife safari with a culinary safari that is just as wild and wonderful.

One man taking people on that journey is Tim Okoth, Head Chef at ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya. The tallest chef in Africa (or at least one of the tallest). Get to know Tim in our 10 Questions below.

An Unlikely friendship that’s neither forced nor dictated upon ..

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What has working at ol Donyo Lodge taught you about yourself, life and love?
I have learned to take pride in whatever is local, in our culture and our food. Catering to a diverse clientele has pushed my levels of creativity and enabled me to value more the art of pleasing with memorable dining experience.

How did your path lead you to ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya?
The first time I ever heard about ol Donyo Lodge was through another chef who told me they had a vacancy in their kitchen. I gave it a shot and applied.

How do you bring a taste of the land and terroir into your dishes?
My working background plays a major role in my approach to cooking. I research and try to relate Kenya’s food culture, with its Swahili, Indian and Arab influences, to my dishes.

What kind of cuisine do you focus on at the lodge?
My main focus over time has been simply to keep  it fresh, artistic and light. However, I’ve been found leaning mostly to Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean flavours since they relate well with me but I also add a lot of twists to popular classics.

Duck for lunch with orange vinaigrette

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Your favourite dish on the menu right now? And why?
Lamb rack, urad dhal and wine poached root vegetables. Besides lamb being popular in Kenya, it’s my favourite meat and combining it with dhal makes me feel like I’m fully representing the Kenyan palate. The vegetables infused with some sweet and sour flavours also compliment the dish even further.

Where do you source most of your produce from and who are some of your favourite local food suppliers?
We have kitchen garden that caters for most of our salad needs. I also source some fresh produce from the nearest local market taking advantage of whatever is in season. The rest I source from suppliers near the city capital, my favourite supplier for meat being The Well Hanged Butcher. I basically focus on how consistent my suppliers are in delivering quality.

Lentil cakes with roast lemon and cherry Chutney

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What new trends are currently inspiring you? Or old traditions?
I like the idea of going light in balance, making seemingly heavy/filling dishes bite size.

Some labor of love indeed #macaroons #oldonyolodge

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The best way to spend a day at ol Donyo Lodge when not working?
Spending some quiet time alone in my house or playing a game of volleyball.

What do you love most about working in the bush, in particular at ol Donyo Lodge?
The well-equipped kitchen in terms of bush standards, and the wide platform and resources at my disposal.

Your most memorable day on the job?
My first experience with strict kosher guests early in my first year and making an impression with what we served them.


Salt-caramel Pear tart tartin, mincemeat ice cream & nasturtium # chef joshua

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Sweet filo cigars,tamarind-chilli peach salad & a white chocolate truffle cream.

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Tree tomato mousse

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“Great Plains Conservation’s ol Donyo Lodge is a Relais & Châteaux property, with all the class and sophistication that implies. The food conjured up by chef Timothy Okoth is no exception. He loves to use fresh ingredients in season to produce in-depth flavours with subtle spices, like his signature anise and coconut simmered chicken, or chickpea and rosemary flatbreads. His osso buco has a delicious hint of fennel and his lamb shank is possibly the most succulent and delicious I’ve ever tasted.” – Roxanne Reid, Travel Blogger