The Mothers of Londolozi

Londolozi

In Africa, everyone is a mother at some time.

As Boyd Varty, who grew up in the wilds of Londolozi in the Sabi Sand, writes in his book, Cathedral of the Wild, “In Africa there is nothing unusual in putting a small girl in charge of a very small boy. I still love to sit in rural villages now and watch the hierarchy of care play out in direct proportion to height. Survival here is about everyone contributing, no matter their age.”

Motherhood is about more than simple biology. It means different things to different people.

Leading up to Mother’s Day this Sunday, 10 May, we are celebrating a “Mothers of Africa” week. We’re on a search to discover just what motherhood means to the mothers of our family at Relais & Châteaux Africa. Starting with the mothers of Londolozi… for whom, perhaps, the answer lies in the very name, Londolozi – the Zulu word for, ‘Protector of all living things’.

Londolozi

Londolozi has been the home of the Vartys – the subjects of today’s profile – for 86 years. It has welcomed guests from all over the world to join in the community they have forged with the land. A community that unites the local Shangaan people employed at the lodge with staff from all over South Africa, staff who have made their home here.

Mother – and soon to be grandmother, Shan Varty, raised her children, daughter, Bronwyn – soon to be a mum of her own, and son, Boyd, in the reserve. Here they continue to work together, hand in hand with the land, today. Land where wild leopards and rogue elephant herds roam freely… land where, in the early eighties, new mom, Shan lived off the grid with husband, Dave, with no running water or electricity and two tots to raise.

But Shan’s strength outweighed the challenge. “Mom attacked motherhood in the bush the same way she attacked everything else: with an enormous sense of practicality and flair for improvisation,” writes Boyd.

Discover more about motherhood in the wild – in Mother Africa – through Shan and Bronwyn’s eyes in our Q&A below…

Shan and Bronwyn Varty

What does being a mother mean to you?

Shan: Motherhood means completion and the ultimate lesson in abundance, love and protection. I have the great privilege of getting this reflected and magnified everyday in the bush through nature.

As a mother, what have you tried to instill in your children about life, love and the wilderness?

Shan: Drawing my inspiration from nature and my years living in the bush I have always tried to instill in my children a deep sense of respect. It is important to have respect for yourself, for those around you and for nature, to be kind to others and to take the time to really explore your true nature. Don’t be afraid to walk your own individual path.

Shan and her two children Boyd and Bronwyn Varty

What does becoming a mother mean to you? 

Bronwyn: Becoming a mother is a very exciting and daunting experience as I step into the unknown. I am a believer that children choose their parents and that each soul has their own journey. All I can say at this point is that love will be the cornerstone that I build this new relationship on.

What do you hope to instill in your child about life, love and the wilderness? 

Bronwyn: My hope would be that my child has a deep sense of self and that he adventures on many levels, always knowing that family, health and nature are his safe harbour.

Bronwyn and her brother Boyd

“In Africa there is nothing unusual in putting a small girl in charge of a very small boy.”
– Boyd Varty
Above: Bronwyn & Boyd in their younger years.

What has working together and growing up in such a unique setting as Londolozi together been like? 

Shan: Working in a family business is always a juggling act – you wear so many hats and you need to establish which hat you are wearing and when – mother, daughter, finance director, menu selector, operational supporter, interior designer, travel co-coordinator…  It is important to have role clarity and strong communication and then divide a very strong line between personal life and business life. Sometimes you have to say to each other, I am now speaking to you as your mom or I am now speaking to you as your business partner – there needs to be clarity in everything that you do.

Bronwyn: We have been blessed to have been given the gift of this lifetime to share so much time together. The fact that each day is spent in nature is a double bonus. We celebrate the fact that we are as close as two people can be living our lives together independently.

Tsalala Cubs and Vehicle

Above: The other mothers of Londolozi and their Tsalala Cubs

Tell us: What does motherhood mean to you?
Next up in our Mothers of Africa week, we will be speaking to more members of our tribe at Relais & Châteaux Africa.

A Manifesto For Making The World A Better Place

R&C

 The Spirit of Relais & Châteaux

 “If we do not live as we think, we soon begin to think as we live.”
– Fulton J. Sheen

On the entrance to each of our hotels and lodges around Africa sits a gold Fleur de Lys, that distinctive mark of the Relais & Châteaux family. It is our family crest, a symbol of the principles that have united us for our 60 years of history, the principles that we hold ourselves to to this day.

The 20 Commitments of Relais & Châteaux are more than a code of guidelines for our properties and the experiences they offer. They are part of the greater vision that we have for the world, a vision to create positive change. More than just words, they are unflinching values our innkeepers embody and live. They are the spirit of Relais & Châteaux.

To give you a hint of what to expect from your travels in Africa with us, take a look at our manifesto below and here, through the eyes of the President himself.

R&C Vision

Image taken at Bushmans Kloof in the Cederberg

1. Offer a “cuisine” that is representative of local traditions and environments and reflects their global diversity.
2. Receive guests in a way that respects the individuality of each Relais & Châteaux property location, landscape, decor, and its unique way of good living and fine dining.
3. Welcome guests as friends, in an atmosphere where the host Relais & Châteaux property share its passion for “living well”.
4. Initiate strong relationships with local farmers and fishermen and develop a Conservatory that protects and promotes biodiversity.
5. Encourage responsible fishing to protect the biodiversity of the oceans.

Fishing on the Zambezi

6. Contribute to renew natural resources by reducing food waste and using seasonal products locally sourced.
7. Limit the environmental impact of Relais & Châteaux properties with regards to energy, water and waste by employing the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) system of checks.
8. Associate the finest tastes with nutrition and health to show our guests how fine “cuisine” and well-being go hand in hand.
9. Develop a system for training young people in each region in the art of good taste, food preparation and service.
10. Be part of the regional culinary culture and share our knowledge to teach and enrich the Food Arts as part of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity and as the 10th Art Form.

R&C Vision

Image taken at Anjajavy L’Hotel in Madagascar

11. Sign contracts with small local producers who supply our restaurants, offering them an appropriate price allowing them to grow their products without chemicals or GMO, avoid overproduction and the depletion of natural resources.
12. Set up a plan to train the young in the spirit of the “artisan journeymen” where they can learn the skills our professionals use daily throughout the world.
13. Give our personnel good working conditions and salaries that allow them to achieve the level of excellence of Relais & Châteaux so they become our ambassadors everywhere they go.
14. Develop “the art of taking care and being attentive to someone’s needs and desires” by conveying, in a personal way, our pleasure to serve, making the experience at Relais & Châteaux a unique, fulfilling and inspiring moment.
15. Create relationships with local authorities to participate in the planning and initiation of programs for local development.

R&C Vision

Image taken at Morukuru in Madikwe

16. Participate in the promotion of manual jobs, which stress the importance and value of working with one’s hands, allowing young people to realize professional goals.
17. Explain these 20 principles to our clients so that they can improve the way they plan their holidays, in a responsible manner.
18. Invest locally to help communities unite the cultural and practical links between the city and the countryside.
19. Create global alliances, starting at the local level, between people working with different means but sharing the same objectives (to diminish food waste, develop local and sustainable food production, maintain biodiversity).
20. Share the Vision among the owners of Relais & Châteaux, chefs, dining, hotel staff and wine experts, and ensure through local and international events, that our actions and our words contribute to “make the world a better place through cuisine and hospitality” and to recognize the “Arts of Living” as the 10th Art.


This is our vision of Africa…

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…