For the third year running Jenny Handley Promotions has recognised top restaurants, and is an interesting predictor of Eat Out Awards, even though they do not always coincide. The 2019 Awards winners and Gourmet Guide were revealed on Monday. A total of 25 restaurants and their chefs were recognised with one, two or three Plate awards.
I had to laugh in reading the media statement from Jenny Handley Promotions, placing its Plate awards on a par with Michelin stars awarded in many countries, and Chef Hat awards in Australia! In South Africa it clearly is the Eat Out Top 10 awards that local chefs aspire to, and which make their cash registers ring! The media statement alludes to this Plate award system using ‘global standards for evaluating and rewarding fine dining restaurants’, the Plate awards initially having been marketed as using Michelin inspector techniques and scoring to judge our local restaurants. This is nonsense of course, when one hears that free meals are requested for owner Jenny Handley and her PA, immediately making restaurants aware of a meal being judged for an award! The media statement further states that the Plate Awards are ‘…acknowledged for its impartiality and credibility’. Once again no one has said this publicly, except Jenny Handley Promotions about its own awards! In announcing its visit, and in begging for freebies, this award system has no credibility!
Even more laughable is the concept of benchmarking our restaurants with top international Michelin star ones, using examples of a ‘seafood restaurant’ and a ‘country manor restaurant’, yet no such local restaurant equivalents appear in its list of 25!!!
“It took many years of global research to understand what sophisticated diners want in an unforgettable restaurant experience. Dining at world-class establishments has given me not only the honour of interviewing the chefs that make it happen, but also to compare our restaurants, and to be justifiably proud of our homegrown chefs,” says curator and originator of the award, Jenny Handley. ‘Rather than comparing SA restaurants and chefs to one another, the JHP Gourmet Guide benchmarks according to global icons. A seafood restaurant will be compared to, for example, Le Bernardin in New York which holds three Michelin stars and was voted number one in New York in four out of five years. A country manor restaurant could be compared to Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, holder of two Michelin stars’.
‘Whilst we cannot change the concentration of fine dining restaurants in certain regions, like Cape Town and the winelands, we consciously ask for nominations from all over the country. Initial visits are anonymous, and only the visit at which the chef is interviewed, is announced and hosted. Restaurants that rate highly are considered for a plating. As consistency is one of the more important criteria, over 30 in all, chefs can only be evaluated for a plate after completing a season in the restaurant. One aspect of fine dining we can change is upskilling people who wish to work in this engaging, exciting industry. As there is no barrier to entry, people with the right attitude can start at the bottom and develop aptitude,’ Handley said.