Eat Out Awards 2016: who will make the Top 10 restaurant list?

eat-out-2016-logoTomorrow the Eat Out Awards will be held, the culinary highlight of the year. For the second year running the event will be held as a lunch at GrandWest, but tomorrow the Awards event will be held in the show auditorium. The event has been sold out for the past month, the first time ever, a reflection of the keen interest in the 2016 Eat Out Awards. 

As is tradition, we predict the Eat Out Top 20 restaurant list, and then react to Eat Out’s Top 20 list. We also predict the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants just before the Eat Out Awards. This year our Eat Out Top 20 prediction created a stir, and Chef Liam Tomlin from Chefs Warehouse threw a wobbly in reaction to it, being a bully in lashing out in anger.

We criticized Eat Out‘s inclusion of The Test Kitchen and Pot Luck Club, both restaurants owned by Chef Luke Dale-Roberts, as well as Chef Bertus Basson’s Overture restaurant in its Top 20 Restaurant list for this year. In each of the three cases, there have been chef changes during the twelve month period, in contravention of the Eat Out rule that the most senior chef must be present in the kitchen throughout the full year, from 1 November – 31 October. In addition, The Test Kitchen was closed for six weeks, and was transformed completely, with new furniture and decor, now only offering dinner, reducing the number of patrons to 40, and splitting the serving of the 21 course menu into two venues: first the Dark Room (serving cocktails and the first seven courses), and then the Light Room, where the remaining 14 courses are served. There are rumbles in the industry about the change in the rules, without them having been announced, and seen to favour Chef Luke. We have commented over the years that Chef Luke’s restaurants do appear to receive preferential treatment, and it would appear that the rules have been bent this year in respect of both of his longer-standing restaurants. Oddly the rules were not featured on the Eat Out website initially!

Eat Out reacted as follows to our request for clarification of the Chef rule: 

‘Dear Chris,

Thank you for your email. For the sake of clarity, we will be publishing the criteria on the website.

The criteria remain as they always have been for the Awards. We have consistently awarded the highest-ranking chef for each restaurant. The industry has changed somewhat in recent years, with many chefs owning multiple restaurants, however we still require that the highest ranking chef be in charge for a period of 12 months.

This applies to restaurants such as those owned by Luke Dale-Roberts, as well as Margot Janse, Bertus Basson and George Jardine.

For the new awards, including best new restaurant, please find the info on the judging tab: 

http://www.eatout.co.za/award/2016-eat-mercedes-benz-restaurant-awards/

Please let me know if you have any further queries.

Kind Regards, 

Aileen Lamb

General Manager’

Our response to her email is as follows:  

#   The reference to multiple restaurants of Chefs George Jardine and Margot Janse is weird, as Jardine Restaurant is not eligible to be nominated this year. Margot Janse has no second restaurant, to our knowledge!

#   How weird that the restaurant nomination criteria should have been hidden, when they can now be published?

#   The rule of the highest ranking chef being present for twelve months contradicts the nominations of Pot Luck Club and Overture, while The Test Kitchen transformation three weeks before the end of the judging period  should not make it eligible either, given that Head Chef Ivor Jones has left, that it was closed for six weeks for a complete transformation, and that Chef Luke is not in the kitchen all the time, traveling to his restaurant at The Saxon every month.

Given the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant list, we have no choice but to work off it to predict our Top 10 restaurant list, presented below in no particular order:

#   Given that The Test Kitchen is a given, and that it is rated as the 22nd World’s 50 Best Restaurant, it is a given that it will be on the Eat Out Top 10 list, despite the bending of the rules! Feedback we have received from The Test Kitchen diners is that there is no menu theme, the dishes being random elements.

#   La Colombe is excelling, and has a focus on its Forest theme, which is brought through in all the dishes on its 11 course Tasting Menu. Many in the industry feel that La Colombe deserves to be named as the Top  restaurant in our country this year. Its Chefs Scot Kirton and James Gaag travelled to the USA in June, visiting World’s 50 Best and Michelin star restaurants in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, returning inspired from the experience.

#.  Greenhouse is doing well, and its dishes are masterpieces.  Chef Peter Tempelhoff keeps a low profile, and devotes his attention to Greenhouse, plus the other McGrath restaurants,

#.  An Eat Out Top 10 list without Chef Chantel Dartnall of Mosaic at The Orient, known for her creative plating, is unthinkable. The restaurant has the most impressive winelist in the country, and Chef Chantel and some of her team travel internationally every year to seek new inspiration. 

#.  Chef Constantijn Hahndiek of Hartford House is creating a stir with his dedication in creating a new Tasting Menu every day, and rarely repeating dishes, pushing himself and his team hard. He is a fan of liquid nitrogen, and uses it creatively in his dishes. He sources very locally, from the Midlands, and shares with pride the origin of his ingredients when he does the reading of the menu to his patrons. He continues a tradition of excellence set by Chef Jackie Cameron, who worked at Hartford House for ten years. She now heads the Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine in Hilton. Hartford House GM Duncan Bruce is very knowledgeable about wines, and pairs interesting wines with Chef Tijn’s dishes. He is a charming host.

#   Chef Chris Erasmus of Foliage is dedicated to his restaurant, barely being away from it. Many would say that it is now the best restaurant in Franschhoek. He is a forager, and does the trendy wood-fire cooking. 

#.  The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français cannot be seen to be missing from the Top 10 List, given that Chef Margot Janse has been at Le Quartier Français for the past 21 years, and that she is leaving at the end of April. Speculation is that the restaurant’s ranking will drop, given the lack of innovation in its menu, many dishes still being on its menu. All credit must go to Chef Gerald van der Walt for being the power behind the stove!

#.   Chef Michael Cooke of Camphors at Vergelegen is a dedicated forager, and has a bountiful vegetable and herb garden at Vergelegen for it, with cattle too. He is an alchemist who likes to experiment with fermentation and pickling. His Tasting Menu design commences with the Vergelegen wines, and he and his team design dishes to pair with the wines. 

#.  Chef Gregory Czarnecki of the Restaurant at Waterkloof entered the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant List for the first time last year, waiting his turn for a number of years. His plating is exceptional. It is a shame that he no longer shares the creativity of his dishes on Social Media. 

#.  The Pot Luck Club: As a Tapas restaurant, it does not belong on the Top 10 Restaurant list, but belonging to Chef Luke it is likely to get into the Top 10 list! Chef Wesley Randles left the restaurant to open The Shortmarket Club for Chef Luke during the course of this year, which should make it ineligible to have been nominated as a Top 20 restaurant! 

Given our prediction of the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant List above, the following restaurants are unlikely to make the top Honours on Sunday:

#.  Jordan Restaurant: Last year the restaurant came in at 10th position, and Chef George Jardine expressed his anger at the Awards at what he clearly perceived to be an insult to him and his team. He now stretches himself between Jordan Restaurant and his Jardine Restaurant, which he opened earlier this year.

#.  Overture: it lost its Head Chef Adele Grewar recently. Chef Bertus is stretching himself thin, having just opened Spek en Bone in Stellenbosch, and soon opening Bertus Basson at The Ritz revolving restaurant.

#.  DW Eleven-13: is the only Johannesburg restaurant on the Eat Out Top 20 list. I found Chef Marthinus Ferreira to be very angry when I ate there in September, complaining about Eat Out visiting his restaurant when he was in hospital, and for wasting his time and money if they are nominated but do not make the Top 10 list, wanting a guarantee of a Top 10 slot from Eat Out before making his way to Cape Town!  I felt rushed when I ate there, and experienced a decline in the eating experience relative to a year ago.

#.  Pierneef à La Motte: after a really bad year last year, not receiving any recognition in any awards, the restaurant appears to have improved somewhat.

#.  Chefs Warehouse: We have motivated with a number of reasons why this Tapas restaurant does not belong on the Top 10 Restaurant list, despite Chef Liam Tomlin’s pedigree and past awards he has won in Sydney many years ago!

#.  The Kitchen at Maison: Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg has made the Top 20 list for a number of years, but has not yet made the Top 10 list. Commendably he travels internationally every year, seeking inspiration, having been to Peru this year. 

#   Indochine: A second restaurant at Delaire Graff, it has made the Top 20 restaurant list for the past three years, but has not reached the Top 10 slot. Chef Virgil Kahn is highly rated for his Asian cuisine. 

#  Rust en Vrede: the restaurant did not make Top 10 last year for the first time, having been the number one restaurant in 2010 when Chef David Higgs was in the kitchen. 

#   Nobu was a surprise nomination. It has recently lost its manager, but has gained the charming and very wine-knowledgeable Carl Habel as its GM, with an amazing memory of past patrons’ wine preferences.

#   Terroir makes the Top 10 Restaurant list in alternate years, it would appear. It is solid and dependable, but with little change to its menu and interior decor, and is very expensive.

It is a shame that the main restaurant of Delaire Graff and Grande Provence have been excluded from the Top 20 restaurant list for two years running, the pre-judging of both these restaurants being done by Hetta van Deventer, the Culinary Director of Pierneef à La Motte, a blatant conflict of interest as the restaurants compete against each other!  Even worse is the exclusion of Tokara from the Top 20 list this year. Disappointing is that the very talented Chef Jean Delport of Benguela on Main was excluded from the Top 20 list. 

Eat Out has already announced that the Eat Out judges this year have been Abigail Donnelly from Eat Out, Chef David Higgs of Marble, and Chef Carianne Wilkinson from the Silwood School of Cookery. 

At the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant awards ceremony tomorrow, winners will be announced for the following additional awards:

#.  Eat Out S. Pellegrino Aqua Panna Chef of the Year,

#.  Eat Out Nespresso Service Excellence Award

#.  Eat Out Wine Service Award

#.  Eat Out Nederburg Rising Star,

#.  Eat Out Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award

#   Eat Out Boschendal Style Award

#.  Eat Out Retail Capital New Restaurant of the Year

#.  Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award.

We trust that Eat Out will open up the playing field to some of the younger chefs, who are demonstrating their passion and creativity, relative to the long-established chefs, who appear on the Top 10 list year after year.

Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards 2016. Tel (021) 417–1257 www.eatout.co.za  Twitter: @eat_out Instagram: @eatoutguide

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here  Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein

 

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