One wonders if Eat Out likes to change its rules deliberately, not only to create publicity through debate, but also to benefit the restaurants of Luke Dale-Roberts in particular? The 2016 Eat Out Top 20 nominations have been announced, and yet again the list is controversial!
What is fascinating is that the rules of the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant awards are not visible on the Eat Out website, which can be seen to denote that there are NO rules left for the awards. In the past the rules have been clear, even when Eat Out did not always stick to them in its nominations!:
#. The restaurant must be open for 12 months, from 1 November the previous year to 31 October in the current year. In the year that Pot Luck Club opened, it had only operated for 11 months and 2 weeks, yet Eat Out allowed the nomination! We wrote about this error on our Blog, and Chef Luke Dale-Roberts graciously withdrew the restaurant from the nominations!
#. The head/main chef must head up the kitchen for a full twelve month period. This is where the key problem lies this year, with three restaurants having been nominated despite the owner/head chef not being focused on one restaurant only, nor having the same head chef for one year. See more below for The Test Kitchen, The Pot Luck Club, and Overture.
In a recent Blogpost we predicted the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist, based on the known rules that have applied for the Eat Out nominees. On the basis of these rules, we excluded Chefs Bertus Basson’s Overture and Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club. But Eat Out has included the three restaurants! It is a concern that PR consultant Ian Manley defended his client Luke Dale-Roberts’ restaurants on Facebook, in response to our prediction , stating boldly that they would make the Top 20 shortlist (as has happened), with such certainty, that it seemed as if he had inside information!
Eat Out’s 2016 Top 20 Restaurant shortlist is the following:
# La Colombe: Our favorite currently, and many hope that the restaurant will rise in its ranking to take the number one slot (photograph of La Colombe Garden canapé). Very creative and focused Forest theme in the Tasting Menus. Chef Scot Kirton named as Chef of the Year by Eat Out in 2015.
# The Test Kitchen: Owning four restaurants now, Chef Luke Dale-Roberts has not been able to be at the restaurant exclusively or predominantly, in opening two new restaurants this year (Shortmarket Club and Luke Dale-Roberts at The Saxon); in traveling to Johannesburg once a month; in losing Head Chef Ivor Jones earlier this year to Chef Liam Tomlin’s Chef’s Warehouse, to open another Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia; in closing the restaurant for six weeks, and making radical changes (serving only dinners now, reducing the number of patrons, changing the booking system, changing the menu, changing the decor, and focused on the goal of being first, second or third on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017); and not all the judges having visited the transformed restaurant since it opened its doors on 10 October, after the judging of all the other restaurants had long been completed!
# Pot Luck Club: Earlier this year (end June) Chef Wesley Randles opened the Shortmarket Club restaurant, moving to the restaurant from the Pot Luck Club. Last year it was Chef Wesley who collected the Top 10 award for the restaurant, in his capacity as its Head Chef. This restaurant should not be in the running for Top 20, given the chef change during the year.
# Greenhouse: Low-key Chef Peter Tempelhoff was well-rewarded for his complete restaurant transformation last year. He has since lost his long-standing Restaurant Manager.
# Chef’s Warehouse: Bully Chef Liam Tomlin lashed out when I motivated why Chefs Warehouse does not justify a Top 20/10 award. We repeat our 2015 (and 2016) motivation again: ‘does not belong on this list at all, in my opinion, and we repeat our (very unpopular) motivation from last year after it made Eat Out‘s Top 20 list: ‘this is the biggest surprise, the same restaurant having won Eat Out Best Everyday Eatery in 2014, a category which one can say was created for Chef Liam Tomlin. In the year since winning that recognition, Chef Liam has become more pedantic in only offering eight tapas dishes (a Tapas restaurant as a Top 10 fine dining establishment is a shock in itself), which has a dog in the establishment, and a chef/owner who regularly leaves his restaurant in the care of his colleagues while he jets off to Singita, for whom he works as a consultant! There is no improvement in the restaurant since last year, so the Best Everyday Eatery of 2014 cannot (logically) become an Eat Out Top 10 restaurant in 2015, but then anything is possible as far as Eat Out is concerned! There is no menu choice as far as the main course is concerned, most dessert and starter choices are pre-made in glass jars, one receives one serving spoon only for eight tapas dishes, and the restaurant closes at 20h00! Topping that is the arrogance of some of the serving staff, the uncomfortable and limited seating inside, that little effort is made to accommodate one when it is busy, and that one cannot make a reservation to eat there. Many mutter about how expensive the Tapas has become, at R450 for eight dishes for two!’. Chef Liam has announced the opening of another Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia, an Indian restaurant in Gardens, and I have heard about a third restaurant which will be headed up by Chef John van Zyl’.
# Nobu: This is a complete surprise, not talked about as a ‘must go’.
# Indochine: Talented Chef Virgil Kahn is highly regarded for his Asian menu. On the Top 20 shortlist for the past three years now.
# Jordan Restaurant: Angry Chef George Jardine expressed that he was not impressed with his 10th ranking at the Awards last year. With a second restaurant opened in Stellenbosch this year, will the restaurant make Top 10?
# Overture: Chef Bertus Basson shares his time between Overture and Bertus Basson @ Spice Route. He is opening Bertus Basson @ The Ritz on 15 November, does menu consulting for other restaurants, and regularly cooks at events held at other venues. His Overture chef Adele Grewar has left, and will return to the Spice Route restaurant. Given her departure as Head Chef and Chef Bertus’ frequent absence from his restaurant, he should not be eligible for the Top 20 shortlist, let alone for Top 10! Last year the restaurant did not make Top 10 for the first time!
# Rust en Vrede: Very quiet and under the radar. Did not make Top 10 last year, having made the number one slot under Chef David Higgs.
# Terroir: Up and down rankings on the Eat Out shortlist. Decor inside disappointing and not updated. Excellent service under the guidance of Manager Collette Deg.
# The Tasting Room: A regular on the Top 10 list, but the ranking may drop this year, many finding the Tasting Menu lacking innovation. For the first time in many years the restaurant headed by Chef Margot Janse has dropped out of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list, not even making the top 100 list this year!
# Foliage: An eager forager in Franschhoek, Chef Chris Erasmus has a strong following, with fire-based cooking.
# The Kitchen @Maison: Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg makes his own charcuterie, and travels internationally annually, for inspiration. This year it was Peru, where he ate at top restaurants.
# Pierneef à La Motte: Last year the restaurant did not crack any restaurant evaluations, so is lucky to make the Top 20 restaurant shortlist this year!
# Waterkloof : Very creative presentation, service disappointing on a visit a year ago. First Top 10 ranking last year.
# Camphors at Vergelegen: Low key, but creative wine and food pairing, with wine as a focus, for the Tasting Menu. Vegetables, herbs, and fruit available in abundance on the wine estate, as is cattle.
# Hartford House : Exceptional creativity, Chef Constantijn Hahndiek changing his Tasting Menu daily and never repeating any dishes (photograph left).
# Mosaic at The Orient: An outstanding contender, meticulous attention to detail and presentation. Annual international trip by Chef Chantel Dartnall to refresh knowledge and gain inspiration.
# DW Eleven-13: Angry chef. Disappointing meal relative to 2015, in September.
At the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant awards ceremony 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.
Restaurants that did not make the 2016 Top 20 list are the following:
#. Grande Provence: Chef Darren Badenhorst is very low key, and his restaurant has been left out for the second year running. We wrote last year about the conflict of interest in that the first level Eat Out judging done for the restaurant is by competitor Pierneef à La Motte Culinary Director Hetta Van Deventer. Eat Out denied the conflict of interest when challenged last year.
#. Delaire Graff Restaurant: I have experienced the quality of Chef Michael Deg’s menu, plating, use of vegetables and herbs from the estate, its quality award-winning wines, and the service. None of it is secondary to any other of the Top 20 restaurants nominated. Once again, the conflict of interest has been to the detriment of Delaire Graff, in that Pierneef à La Motte’s Hetta Van Deventer was the first level judge.
#. Benguela on Main: I rate Chef Jean Delport highly, his creativity and plating being superlative (photograph right). The former Sommelier was a major downfall, but good news is that he has left the employ of the restaurant.
#. The Werf at Boschendal: Chef Christiaan Campbell, formerly at Delaire Graff, has been at Boschendal for almost two years now. He is a champion for sustainable cooking, and has an enviable large vegetable and herb garden created for his kitchens. Beef is also raised on the wine estate. Service was a huge let-down in the first month of opening, but should have improved by now.
# Tokara: A shock is to see that Tokara has dropped out of the Top 20 list, the first time since the restaurant was taken over by new management and the kitchen by Chef Richard Carstens.
Eat Out has already confirmed its judges (only three this year, compared to the usual four), having done so at the Awards event in the past:
# Abigail Donnelly, chief judge and editor of Eat Out.
# Chef David Higgs, a choice criticized by many, as he is known to most chefs, especially the ‘old guard’! This could create an element of bias.
# Carianne Wilkinson of the Silwood School of Cookery
Another judge was said to be Cape Talk‘s John Maytham, and sources close to him confirmed this, but Eat Out has not!
The 2016 Eat Out Awards ceremony will be held at the GrandWest Arena for a second year, on the performance stage, on 20 November. Chefs Luke Dale Roberts of The Test Kitchen, Peter Tempelhoff of Greenhouse, Eric Bulpitt of Faber at Avondale, Gregory Czarnecki of Waterkloof, Giles Edwards of forthcoming La Tête, and Michelle Theron of Pierneef à La Motte will be cooking at the Gala Lunch, with canapés by Chef Scot Kirton of La Colombe. Tickets cost R1495 per person.
POSTSCRIPT 17/10: Chef Marthinus Ferreira of DW Eleven-13 has blocked us on Facebook as a result of our writing about his restaurant above!
POSTSCRIPT 17/10: We wrote to Eat Out this morning, seeking clarification from Abigail Donnelly re the Eat Out nomination eligibility rules. General Manager Aileen Lamb replied this afternoon on Abigail’s behalf, frustrating in not addressing the issues raised in my email to Abigail:
# 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 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.
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:
Please let me know if you have any further queries.
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:@ChrisvonUlmen Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein