When I saw a link on Facebook to an article ‘10 Best Restaurants in Cape Town 2017′ I was intrigued enough to read it. I found it an interesting reflection of restaurant and chef politics, in that ’14 of SA’s top chefs‘ fed back where ‘they go for a bite when they are not whipping up feasts in their own kitchens’. The article was introduced with a misleading paragraph hinting at ‘under-the-radar eateries, where chefs craft deliciously unpretentious dishes that hit the spot’. Yet the Top 10 list as generated by the chefs only has one restaurant that might be described as ‘under-the-radar eateries’.
The first issue with the article is the list of ‘SA’s top chefs‘ invited to share their favorite restaurants. One may question whether Chefs Justine Drake, Kerry Kilpin, Reuben Riffel, and Rudi Liebenberg are worthy of the honor of the ‘top chef’ description, not having received an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Award ever, or in many years. Serious Chefs Luke Dale-Roberts of The Test Kitchen, Scot Kirton of La Colombe, Bertus Basson of Overture, Peter Tempelhoff of Greenhouse, Michael Broughton of Terroir, Gregory Czarnecki of Waterkloof, George Jardine of Jardine’s, Glen Williams of Foxcroft, and Eric Bulpitt of Faber were the ten remaining Chefs providing their lists of favorite eateries. The most impactful judge is South Africa’s first Michelin star chef Jan-Hendrik van de Westhuizen, who regularly travels between Cape Town and Nice, home to his JAN restaurant.
Interesting too is the number of restaurants each chef rated: Chef Eric Bulpitt only rated Chefs Warehouse, not reflecting his close association with Chef George Jardine, who has been Chef Eric’s mentor! Chef Gregory also only rated one restaurant, being Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch, and none in Cape Town! One wonders how the question was phrased, and whether the question specified ‘Cape Town’? Chef Justine Drake also only rated one restaurant, Chefs Warehouse. Surprising is Chef Peter Tempelhoff’s only rated restaurant, South China Dim Sum Bar, not supporting any of his Eat Out Top 10 restaurant peers!
Interesting is the exclusion of Chef’s Warehouse and Canteen’s Liam Tomlin from the list of Chefs evaluating their favorite restaurants. Some chef rivalry is clear, in that Chef Luke Dale-Roberts does not rate La Colombe, while La Colombe’s Chef Scot Kirton rated The Test Kitchen, reflecting his professionalism. Chef Scot trained under Chef Luke, when they both worked at La Colombe! A complicating factor is that six of the fourteen Chefs do not live in Cape Town, and may therefore prefer to spend their evenings off in Stellenbosch, Paarl, and/or Somerset West restaurants, and not drive to Cape Town. Comments to a Facebook share of The Inside Guide article raised some interesting issues: does it reflect chefs’ ‘ego and self preservation’? Is Chefs Warehouse & Canteen popular because it is open on Mondays when many other restaurants are closed? Do they not rate The Test Kitchen because they cannot eat there spontaneously, and at short notice? I added on Facebook: ‘are Chefs good judges of other restaurants? Clearly their egos get in the way in enjoying eating at other chefs’ restaurants. Or are they just showing how human they are?’. Rust en Vrede is the only Non-Cape Town restaurant in the List of Top 10 ‘Cape Town‘ restaurants.
According to the article, the following restaurants were ranked from highest support to lowest:
# Chefs Warehouse & Canteen – rated by 9 Chefs
# La Colombe, Greenhouse, South China Dim Sum Bar – rated by four Chefs
# The Test Kitchen, ASH Restaurant – rated by three Chefs (owner Ash Heeger worked for Chef Luke, and he is one of the fans)
# The Foodbarn, Rust en Vrede, and The Shortmarket Club – 2 Chefs rated these restaurants, including a rating of The Foodbarn by its former Chef Kerry Kilpin
# La Mouette – only rated by one Chef (George Jardine).
As the only international chef on the judges list, I checked out the Cape Town favorites of Chef Jan-Hendrik: Chefs Warehouse, La Colombe, Greenhouse, ASH Restaurant, and The Shortmarket Club. Chef Jan-Hendrik rated the largest number of restaurants, perhaps reflecting how far removed he is from the local Cape Town restaurant politics!
The Inside Guide headline is misleading, in setting itself up as a list of Top 10 Restaurants in Cape Town, when it is only a list of local chefs’ favorites.
The Inside Guide: ‘The 10 Best Restaurants in Cape Town 2017′. www.insideguide.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein