Tag Archives: food bloggers

Restaurant Marketing: how to improve business!

restaraunt-marketing-ideasAn American article guides restaurants with 25 Restaurant Marketing Ideas, Tips and Strategy to win in the food business’, most of which are applicable to South Africa too.  Local restaurants are not known to be good at marketing their food and service!  The list of ideas suggested is as follows:

1.  Photographs are THE way to market restaurants, via Instagram in particular, ‘high-quality, drool-inducing photos’ being the best way to promote a restaurant.  It is worth investing in an excellent food photographer.

2.   Loyalty Programs on online food apps attract attention and reward loyal custom.

3.  In the USA Yelp is vital, positive reviews being a massive marketing plus.  It has not been heard Continue reading →

‘Restaurant Babylon’: are SA restaurants snorting, spitting, and swearing too?!

Restaurant Babylon 2The ‘Babylon’ book series by Imogen Edwards-Jones, written on the basis of interviews with staff from the relevant industries, has become highly popular for its depth of behind the scenes insights told in a 24 hour operating day.   Her latest book is ‘Restaurant Babylon’, which was published last year, sharing the ‘saucy secrets of the world’s finest kitchens’.

The fictional Le Restaurant,  brasserie Le Table, and Le Bar are located within close proximity of each other in London, Le Restaurant being Michelin-starred.  The narrator is the restaurant owner.  For her book the writer interviewed sommeliers, chefs, maître d’s, owners, and ‘insiders’ working in the restaurant industry in the UK.

As Valentine’s Day is around the corner, it is apt to start with this event, being one of the most lucrative for the restaurant industry, with mark-ups and heavy drinking generating good profits for restaurants.  Christmas Day lunches and New Year’s Eve events are equally profitable.

Some of the key insights into restaurants are the following:

*   restaurant staff survive on extremely little sleep, as they enjoy a drink or more after they finish service, being hungover the next day.  Alcoholism is rife.

*   chefs burn out, due to the long hours, the stress, and lack of light in closed kitchens.  This leads to absenteeism, temper tantrums, and inconsistent cooking.

*   drug-taking is rife, to cope with the pressure and to stay awake, to cope with the hangover, or to be ‘sharp’ for service!  ‘Cocaine is everywhere‘ said the author in an interview.

*   claiming ‘organic’ ingredients ‘just makes the place look amateur‘.   The origin of one’s fish, meat, and vegetables is far more important to patrons.

*   some chefs over-order, and sell on their surplus, pocketing the income.

*   theft by staff is common, especially in the bar, selling bottles out of the back door and pocketing the income,  or pocketing cash income.

*   mark-ups are better on pizzas than they are on 7-course tasting menus!   Side dishes of chips, Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2 episode 9: ‘Food Bloggers’ blown away by pizzas in windy Camps Bay!

Camps Bay 2 Wild JunketLast night’s episode 9 was interesting, in that it was shot away from the MasterChef SA kitchen, and that ten ‘Food Bloggers’ were invited to judge the pizzas made by two teams of Finalists, the first team challenge of Season 2.  The South Easter created havoc for the Finalists as well as for the bloggers. The ‘Blogger’ participation was a huge let down, and serving the guests pizza to judge was an insult.

The episode began with the Finalists descending on the kitchen of their house, to be confronted with a box of aprons and the instruction to divide themselves into two groups of seven.  The names were written on pieces of paper, and a Le Creuset pot served as the vessel from which the names for the two teams were drawn.   They were then driven to Maiden’s Cove, between Camps Bay and Clifton, a parking space with a beautiful view of Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles, Chef Pete Goffe-Wood saying that Camps Bay ‘is one of the iconic locations in Cape Town‘.    The challenge sounded simple –  Limoncello and The Good Life Food Trucks arrived, and the two teams were randomly allocated a truck each as their home base to prepare 12 savoury and 12 dessert pizzas each within 90 minutes.  Pizza ovens had been erected, one per team, and a small pantry was set up, the two team representatives having 3 minutes in which to grab their ingredients.  Chef Andrew Atkinson reminded the Finalists that team work is the hallmark of a quality kitchen.  They were also told (misleadingly) that the guests were ’10 of South Africa’s top food bloggers‘, and ‘are discerning customers‘!  Chef Pete won the dessert pizza section of an international pizza competition in Australia last year, the Finalists were told. Continue reading →

MasterChef Season 2 episode 8: Cheese tasting leads to Bouillabaisse Pressure Test, Tumi Moche gets the chop!

MasterChef 2 8 Bottom 6 Pressure Test Whale Cottage PortfolioAfter chickening out in episode 7, six of the fifteen Finalists had to go into the Pressure Test, one of them having to go home, being Tumi Moche, probably a hard choice for the judges, as the Bouillabaisse that the bottom three had to prepare was praised by them.  Herman Cloete enjoyed his plating MasterClass at Restaurant Mosaic.

The Test episode started with a cheese tasting, four Woolworths cheeses presented to each of the six Finalists, to be looked at, smelt, andMasterChef 2 8 Camembert Whale Cottage Portfolio tasted. Leandri van der Wat was devastated, as she had already shared in the previous episode that she hates cheese, and never cooks with it nor eats it.  They were given cottage cheese, gorgonzola, feta, and camembert to taste and identify.  Amanda Beck, Mary Martin, and Sanet Labuschagne were released from the Pressure Test in getting most of the cheeses correct, leaving Tumi, and the sisters Leandre and Seline van der Wat, to go into the Pressure Test. Continue reading →

MasterChef SA Season 2: what can we expect? No Tsogo Sun restaurant prize!

The publicity for the start of Season 2 of MasterChef SA is still surprisingly low key, with little PR for the new series having been seen to date.  A number of changes relative to last year’s Season 1 can be expected when Season 2 kicks off on M-Net tomorrow at 19h30, the biggest being that the value of the winner’s prize package has dropped dramatically to about R1 million, from R8 million in Season 1:

1.   There will be two shows a week, for 13 weeks on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, at 19h30, with 26 episodes in total.

2.  The show content will be less focused on cooking, and more on the human drama, with in-depth interviews with the contestants, video diaries, fun moments and ‘extended storylines’. Interviews with experts, guest chefs, and the judges will also feature.  There will be more masterclasses, and more rewards, M-Net Publicist Ingrid Engelbrecht has told the Sunday Times.

3.  There is a ‘significantly higher’ standard of cooking than in Season 1, according to Ms Engelbrecht, as the Season 2 participants had a better understanding of what was expected of them from having watched Season 1, reports the Sunday Times.

4.   There are fewer Finalists, now called ‘contestants’: 16 instead of 18.

5.  Season 2 was filmed at Nederburg at the beginning of this year.

6.  The same judges Pete Goffe-Wood, Andrew Atkinson, and Benny Masekwameng are involved, and Chef Arnold Tanzer is the Culinary Producer once again.

7.  One episode (9 July) will feature food bloggers, including Andrew Lieber from Gourmet Guys, Ishay Govender from Food and the Fabulous, Candice Bresler from The Gorgeous Gourmet Blog, and Sam Linsell from Drizzle and Drip.  We have been told that Jane-Anne Hobbs, Anel Potgieter, Nina Timm,and Andy Fenner were also invited to participate in the episode filmed at Maiden’s Cove, between Camps Bay and Clifton, but were cancelled in the last minute, as were we.

8.  Gordon Ramsay is a guest chef and judge, a Tweet by Chris Whelan has indicated.

9.  Nederburg is the wine sponsor again, and is offering eight ‘online master classes in food and wine pairing’, conducted by its cellar master Razvan Macici, a new clip posted on the Nederburg website every two weeks, its PR consultancy De Kock Communications has announced.

10.   Fledgling Bakoven restaurateur Zahir Mohamed of Baked Bistro auditioned for MasterChef Season 1 and 2, and he features in the first fifteen minutes of the first episode tomorrow, an interview in yesterday’s Sunday Times has revealed. Mohamed is the son of Shawn MacLachlan, who owns a catering company looking after Manchester United and its fans.  Other contestants are Cape Town based Zane Jacobs, Tiron Eloff from Randburg, Alta Wasson from Stilbaai, and Khumo Twala from Johannesburg, according to the Sunday Times.

11.  The winner’s prizes offered by the official sponsors have been announced by M-Net:  R400000 cash from Robertsons, a VW Golf 7 (new sponsor replacing Hyundai), five nights at the Maia Luxury Resort & Spa in the Seychelles from Tsogo Sun, one year’s free shopping to the value of R100000 at Woolworths, and a year’s supply of Nederburg wines plus a sommelier course.  The modest Tsogo Sun prize is a surprise, given the generous two year restaurant contract which Season 1 winner Deena Naidoo received at Montecasino!   We have been told that the hotel group does not expect as high a viewership of Season 2, and that the controversy surrounding the Montecasino restaurant prize led Tsogo Sun to drastically downscale its contribution to the winner’s prize package.

12.  The bar has been raised for MasterChef SA Season 2, relative to MasterChef Australia, the producers wishing to exceed the standard of the latter.  Lani Lombard, M-Net’s Head of Communication, has said about Season 2: ‘The first Season of MasterChef South Africa definitely inspired amateur chefs to get more creative. We noticed very early on during the Audition phase that the contestants’ standard of cooking was significantly higher this year and because of that, the show provides pressure-cooker entertainment right from the start’.

12.  MasterChef SA Season 3 is likely to follow.

In January I was the only blogger to be be invited to a Media Day on set at MasterChef SA at Nederburg.  Our blogpost (edited by M-Net) of the Media Day provides more background information.

MasterChef SA Season 2 starts cooking on Tuesday 11 June at 19h30, after the last episode of MasterChef Australia.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @Whale Cottage

MasterChef South Africa: has Season 1 been a success?

It is interesting to analyse how successful MasterChef South Africa has been, its final 19th episode being broadcast this evening, the winner of the first season being announced in the special 90 minute Grande Finale.  It would appear that the reality TV cooking program has been enjoyed by many South Africans, yet some aspects about it were disliked.

To judge the success of MasterChef SA we looked at quantitative information:

1.  Audience Ratings (ARs) are used by the South African advertising industry to quantify the success of a TV program.  ARs = Reach x Frequency, or the % of the Target Market reached.  It was explained by a media strategist that the AR statistics do not reflect viewership of M-Net repeats, and therefore they do not reflect the full number of viewers.  The AR of 0,8 achieved for MasterChef SA exceeds the expectation of 0,5 on an ‘All Adults’ target market filter, she said, and described the program as ‘world class’, ‘professional’, and with good production values.  A food TV producer felt the opposite, saying that M-Net must be very disappointed with the viewership achieved, its ultimate goal having been to sell more decoders.

2.  On Twitter the @MasterChef_SA account has grown to 11253 Followers.  One may have expected more Followers, for the stature of the programme.  When one reads the Timeline after an episode, the mix of South African Tweeters is evident, attracting commentary from male and female viewers, and from different language groups.  @RobertsonsSpice has only achieved 733 Followers, a very poor performance.  @Woolworths has 33 466 Followers, an exceptional number, but had embraced Twitter prior to its MasterChef SA sponsorship.  @Nederburg only has 1265 Followers, also disappointing for this sponsor.

3.  On Facebook the MasterChef SA page has 8511 likes, Robertsons Herbs and Spice has 1373, Nederburg 7544, and Woolworths an amazing 193676 likes!

4.  The YouTube videos of the Robertsons’ Masterclasses by Chef Reuben Riffel show the viewership, and it is understandable that some of the earlier videos would have the highest viewership.  The first Masterclass in week 1 (16 March) was for a ‘Cheesy Garlic Bread’, and has achieved 4154 views in the past four months.  ‘Stuffed Chicken Breast’ (30 April) has 3335 views to date. ‘Crepes’ (20 March) achieved 3201 views. ‘Pepper Sauce’ (19 March) was seen by 2882 viewers. ‘Chocolate Braaied Bananas’ (16 March) has achieved 2864 views. ‘Milktart’ (2 May) has 2732 views to date, and ‘Roast Chicken’ (15 May) has 2252.  The other videos have had lower viewership, some extremely low.  The viewership figures must be disappointing for Robertsons, and we could see a sharp drop-off in viewership growth two months ago, midway through the series. The dishes demonstrated by Chef Reuben were hardly of a ‘Masterclass’ stature!

5.  Arnold Tanzer was the leader of the MasterChef SA culinary team of eleven, which included Chef Vanie Padayachee from Le Quartier Français too, working behind the scenes in testing every recipe that the Finalists had to prepare, often more than once, checking the preparation times, and making sure that the challenges were ‘doable’.   Interesting was the article in the Sunday Times, detailing the quantities of food and liquid that the 19-series programme went through, supplied by Woolworths in the main: 62 kg mussels, 300 kg fish, 500 kg beef, 400 kg lamb, 165 kg chicken, 2592 free-range eggs, 250 kg of cheese, 215 kg of fresh herbs (mainly mint, thyme, and dill – there is no mention of Robertsons’ herbs and spices, which are not stocked by Woolworths), 100 kg mushrooms, 100 kg butter, 600 l Ayrshire milk, 200 kg onions, 240 l sunflower oil, 144 l olive oil, and many more ingredients.  These quantities used benefited the suppliers of these products.

6.  Twitter was a new social medium to most MasterChef SA Finalists, and they were encouraged to open Twitter accounts.  Deena Naidoo has by far the largest number of Followers at 1986, followed by Sarel Loots (1331), Jade de Waal (1254), Ilse Fourie (1019), and Lwazi Mngoma (1018). The other Finalists have very much lower Follower numbers.

Qualitatively, it was interesting to observe:

1.  Initially, no one went out on Tuesday evenings, being glued to their TV screens.  From Twitter one could see that after the first four weeks life started getting back to normal, and event organisers were not afraid to schedule functions on Tuesday evenings any longer.  The hype about MasterChef SA never reached that of the Australian series when flighted locally.

2.  Many TV viewers, especially men, were initially not interested in watching the program, but the talk on Twitter and in social circles enticed them eventually to watch the program. Towards the end of the series we saw fewer proactive Tweets about MasterChef SA, and fewer people talking about the reality series socially.

3.  Most restaurant staff were unable to watch, as they were working at the time of the program.  If they had access to a PVR, they watched a recording afterwards. Most of them do not seem to own a M-Net decoder, and seemed surprisingly uninformed about the reality TV series, or were not interested in it, most chefs seeing it as ‘amateurish’.

4.  Viewers expressed their extreme dissatisfaction with the judges’ decision to eliminate Guy Clark and not Jade de Waal in episode 9.  There was talk on Twitter about the elimination choice being a ‘production decision’, and many said that they would no longer watch the program due to the perceived rigged choices made.

5.  The program sponsorship will have benefited Woolworths and Nederburg, but the impact on Robertsons’ sales is not expected to be significant:

*   Woolworths has run superb food advertising during the MasterChef SA episodes, well matched to the theme of each episode, and creating amazing appetite appeal. In the episodes too the Woolworths Pantry was well-branded when the Finalists had to source their ingredients. Significant discounts offered to Woolworths card holders must have brought more feet into their stores. The sponsorship is said to have taken attention away from the embarrassing Frankies beverages debacle. Surprisingly the in-store branding of their sponsorship of the reality TV series was low key, with small banners at the tills.  The initial uproar caused by two recipes of the Woolworths Pantry guest food bloggers appeared to have blown over quickly.  The Woolworths sustainable seafood commercial linked to the seafood episode shot at Paternoster caused controversy, because the content of the advertisement was not reflected in its stores.

*   A media strategist interviewed for this blogpost fed back how she had started buying Nederburg wines again, now finding it trendy to do so, as a result of watching MasterChef SA. Despite the show being filmed at the wine estate, there was little Nederburg branding in the episodes.  Its commercials were less impactful than those of Woolworths, and many say that the ‘ingredient’ composition of the Nederburg wines shown in its commersials, to demonstrate the flavours of the wines, may have been taken literally, if viewers did not know better. Surprising was the low key product placement of Nederburg wines, given that the MasterChef SA kitchen was built for the show on the wine estate. A bottle of Amarula received prominence in a Mystery Box for a dessert, one episode focused on food and Nederburg wine pairing, which highlighted that Deena had little wine knowledge, and one episode featured the celebration of the harvest at Nederburg. Disappointing for Nederburg would be Deena Naidoo winning MasterChef SA tonight, as he does not appear to be a wine drinker, given that the prize includes a sommeliers’ course, and a year’s supply of their Winemasters Reserve range wines.

*   Robertsons went through the Social Media wars since MasterChef SA started in March, its endorsement by Chef Reuben Riffel having raised credibility and advertising honesty questions, and its Social Media Manager Sonia Cabano having been dismissed soon after she took on the job.  The end result is that Chef Reuben’s Robertsons’ endorsement has cost him credibility as a chef, and he appears to now be written out of the Robertsons’ advertising, only one of the five or six spice brand TV commercials featuring him in each of the last few episodes. A further blow to Chef Reuben’s credibility is his very recent endorsement of Rama margarine, also a Unilever brand. Robertsons did not manage its sponsorship well, in that registered ‘members’ of their Masterclass page were sent recipes unrelated to the previous day’s MasterChef SA episode, a marketing failure. In general, Robertsons went through a torrid time, and ‘MasterChef SA‘ must be a swearword inside its hallowed halls!  Its attempt at Social Media was a miserable failure in many respects, and appeared poorly managed, despite its use of the Liquorice social media marketing agency.

6.  The MasterChef SA series benefited sponsors Woolworths and Nederburg, jointly creating two wine brands specifically for the series (Grenache 2010, and a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend). It also opened the door for Nederburg to sell its Winemasters Reserve range in Woolworths stores over the four month MasterChef SA broadcast period.  There was no cross-benefit between Woolworths and Robertsons, the retailer having to publicly admit on Twitter that it does not stock Robertsons spices and herbs.

7.  Initially the response to our competitions to predict the overall winner of MasterChef SA and the weekly Finalist leaving the show was surprisingly low, but increased the closer it got to the Finale, and the fewer the options for elimination and winning the grand prize became. The readership of our weekly MasterChef SA episode summary the day after the show saw an increase week by week. Restaurant staff working on Tuesday evenings, international readers, and local non-subscribers who cannot view M-Net, and surprisingly even viewers of the program, fed back that they read our MasterChef SA weekly write-ups. We got hooked onto MasterChef SA, loving writing up each episode, and will miss the Tuesday evening programmes.

8.  MasterChef SA dislikes focused strongly on the judges, particularly the expression on Chef Andrew Atkinson’s face, his dress, and his stare at the Finalists when judging their dishes. Chefs who have met him, however, say that this is not him at all, and praise his culinary skills.  Chef Pete Goffe-Wood attracted negative criticism from the second half of the series onwards. Chef Benny Masekwameng was the most loved judge by far, always kind and supportive to the Finalists. In general chefs felt that the chef judges should have worn chef outfits, and not worn earrings and piercings, to set a good example to young chefs.  Interesting is that every guest chef wore a chef’s outfit in the series.   Initial feedback at the start of the series was critical of all the chef judges being male. After Chef Margot Janse’s appearance, she was judged by Twitterers to have been an ideal judge.

9.  The program series has been criticised for the poor quality food that the Finalists prepared for many weeks, although this criticism subsided in the last few programs, when the Finalists had to replicate dishes made by top chefs Michel Roux Jnr of La Gavroche, Peter Tempelhoff of The Greenhouse, and Margot Janse of Le Quartier Français.  Linked to this is the chefs’ criticism about the prize of a year-long (now extended to two years) contract at MondeVino restaurant at Montecasino, saying it is irresponsible, as none of the Finalists could step into the shoes of a restaurant chef, who has had years of training and experience, and said that it is demeaning to their career to imply that little or no training is required.

10.   There is no doubt that MasterChef SA has stimulated an interest in cooking, and in trying out more complicated dishes.  It probably has stimulated interest in eating out at restaurants such as Terroir, The Greenhouse, Biesmiellah, Sel et Poivre, and The Tasting Room, all featured in the series.

11.  The most gratifying end result of MasterChef SA has been the growth in the Finalists’ cooking skills, in what they learnt from the judges, and the Masterclasses held by the visiting chefs. They also grew vastly in confidence. Chef Arnold Tanzer fed back in the Sunday Times that ‘you could see the change in people as the series went on, particularly how their perception of food changed‘.  He added that he was surprised that even the film crew members were excited about what they had filmed, and wanted advice on how to make some of the dishes. A number of the Finalists have made the best of their MasterChef SA participation:  Berdina Schurink has opened Bella Sophia Culinary Café in Pretoria; Thys Hattingh has changed jobs, now working at the Compass Group as a staff restaurant consultant; Guy Clark changed careers, and now is a chef for the Madame Zingara group, at Café Mozart and at Bombay Bicycle Club; Charles Canning and Samantha Nolan have a stand at the Old Biscuit Mill market on Saturdays, following in the footsteps of Chef Pete; and Lungi Nhlanhla is now deputy food editor at Drum magazine. There is not one Finalist that has not benefited from his or her participation in MasterChef SA, being a springboard to living their passion for cooking.  Tonight it will be Sue-Ann Allen or Deena Naidoo who will walk off with the MasterChef SA 2012 crown, and one of their lives will change forever!  We wish them both the best of luck.

POSTSCRIPT 28/7: A furore has been created by The Citizen, reporting yesterday that MasterChef SA winner Deena Naidoo was unhappy about the misrepresentation of his Tsogo Sun MondoVino restaurant prize, damaging the image of the reality TV series, M-Net, its sponsors, Finalists, and chef judges.

POSTSCRIPT 28/7:  Times Live has published audience figures, to highlight the success of MasterChef SA TV series: MasterChef SA had the 5th highest viewership on M-Net between its start in March and 24 July, beaten by ‘Carte Blanche’ (265939 viewers), ‘Lincoln Lawyer’ movie with Matthew McConaughey (221411), ‘CSI Miami’ (202102), and ‘Idols’ (196698).  The reality cooking show beat ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ on viewership.  M-Net had capitalised on the trend to viewership of cooking programs in producing the local MasterChef SA TV series.  No decision has been made about producing a Season 2 of MasterChef SA next year.

POSTSCRIPT 29/8: If the article from Channel 24 is correct (it is part of the same media group that owns M-Net), there will be a season 2 of MasterChef SA, another measure of the success of the reality TV series. M-Net has not confirmed this.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

‘Master of the Trade Routes’ Culinary Challenge spices up V&A Waterfront restaurants!

The V&A Waterfront is running a spicy winter restaurant promotion to encourage locals and tourists to try out 27 of its restaurants, and to vote for the restaurant with the best ‘fusion, winter-style dish’ that is affordable too.  The promotion runs until 22 August, and reflects the Cape’s culinary roots over the past 360 years, including Indian, Malay, Chinese, French, British, Dutch, Portuguese, and French, the port of Cape Town being the melting pot of the flavours of the Cape.

The promotion was designed by the V&A Waterfront’s advertising agency Jupiter Drawing Room, and its communication quality reflects the V&A’s leadership as the best shopping mall in the Cape.  The Culinary Challenge is communicated via a Sunday Times insert, the electronic boards and posters in the V&A, and a ‘Master of the Trade Routes’ display emblem resembling a plate at participating restaurants.  Dash at the Queen Victoria hotel, Signal at the Cape Grace, The Atlantic at the Table Bay hotel, Nobu and Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town, Willoughby’s, Wang Thai, Harbour House, San Marco, La Playa,  Quay 4, Balducci’s, Meloncino, OYO at the V&A Hotel, The Quarterdeck (Portswood Hotel), Primi Wharf, Clipper at the Commodore Hotel, Den Anker, City Grill Steakhouse, Krugmann’s Grill, Karibu, Jewel of India, Greek Fisherman, Hildebrand Ristorante, Sevruga, Tasca De Belem, and, interestingly, The Grand on the Beach, are the participating restaurants.  In addition, but not participating in the Culinary Challenge as such, are Emporio Leone, offering a trio of South African dessert classics (malva pudding, a milk tart macaroon, and peppermint crisp tart truffle) at R35, and Gelato Mania, offering a gelato flavoured with vanilla pods from Mauritius.

Each restaurant will offer a ‘signature dish‘, and other dishes may form part of a winter special for the Culinary Challenge.  Nobu’s Winter Bento Box costs R275, with a cold and a hot section of three dishes each and a dessert; Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town is offering a Steak & Guinness Pie at R125; Willoughby’s signature dish is ‘The Bomb’, a tempura prawn roll with spicy seared Tuna and Avocado wrapping, at R129; Harbour House is offering a free-range short rib at R120; The Atlantic has a 2 course offer, being Lamb Parpardelle, preceded by a cauliflower puree with smoked Franschhoek trout and poached quail egg for a good value price of R120; Hildebrand Ristorante charges R90 for its signature Chocolate and Ginger Venison; Quay 4 has Malay Kreef Curry as its signature dish for R90; and Dash is serving pan-seared magret duck breast on spiced pear purée with sage and quinoa, at R95.

Not having been to Signal restaurant since it changed from Bruce Robertson’s One.Waterfront, I chose the Cape Grace restaurant, which has painted wall murals reflecting the Cape’s historic origins, done when the restaurant changed its name, and these make Signal a forerunner for the V&A Culinary Challenge on its decor and interior design alone! There is no shortage of staff at Signal, and each one of them greets one as if one is there on daily basis.  The tables have tablecloths, with a mix of traditional wooden chairs, ghost chairs, and leather upholstered chairs. Each table has a vase with a protea, and throughout the hotel the national flower is used, suiting the ‘Proudly Cape’ promotion theme too. Cutlery is posh Hepp Exclusiv.  Three chandeliers have small copper pots with the crystals.  Seating sections in the restaurant are divided by what look like sash window frames, giving the room a Cape Dutch feel.  Its A la Carte menu states that it offers ‘Cape Cosmopolitan Cuisine’, being ‘global contemporary dishes with a unique Cape twist’. The menu introduction echoes the theme, stating that sailing boats braved the high seas to introduce the ‘world to the wonders of fragrant herbs and spices’. Using marine-inspired terminology, it continues about its approach to food: ‘Signal encourages the global traveller to plot a course over the Cape’s ancestral landscape. With ingredients encompassing responsible and sustainable food practices and dishes crossing worldwide borders, we welcome you and hope you enjoy your journey’. The black leather covered winelist contains an extensive collection of 40 wines by the glass, and 150 wines by the bottle, complementing the cuisine served. The wines are not inexpensive, but there is a wide price range offered.  For example, in the Shiraz category, the thirteen wines offered range from R72/R195 (Glenwood 2008) to R925 for Haskell Pillars 2008.

As the V&A had booked the table on my behalf, the staff handed me the beautifully designed Culinary Challenge menu automatically, but I did ask to see the A la Carte menu too.  The restaurant offers as its Culinary Challenge signature dish a ‘De-constructed Bobotie‘, being a very rare prepared bobotie-spiced Springbok loin, roasted parsnip, pickled mango purée, almond crumble, and a curried lentil jus, costing a mere R95.  One can also order 3 courses, at R195, very good value. As I am allergic to mussels, the Assistant Restaurant Manager Sean O’Brien kindly allowed me to substitute a starter from the A la Carte menu for the Aromatic coconut and ginger broth with steamed mussels and coriander foam.  The dessert was a typically South African Peppermint Crisp Tart, served with fresh peppermint ice cream, and Pastry Chef Lorraine Meaney had made gold-dusted Valrhona chocolate discs to place on top of each individual tart.  With the cappuccino friandises, being an apricot jelly slice, a beetroot chocolate blondie, and a caramel macaroon, were served.

Voting for the ‘Master of the Trade Routes’ is done by food bloggers, writers, and critics, as well as by the public, for the People’s Choice Award, in selecting the winning restaurant(s).  Food writers were spoilt with a most beautiful spice box, to encourage them to review a restaurant of their choice. A beautifully designed locked box collects the evaluation sheets diners have to complete for the voting.  Various aspects have to be rated, including presentation, taste, interpretation of the fusion theme, service, ambience, and value for money.  Clients eating at a participating restaurant stand a chance to win meal vouchers and attendance at the gala event aboard the SA Agulhas II, at which the winners out of the Top 8 restaurants will be announced.

The quality and value for money offer experienced at Signal restaurant for the ‘Master of the Trade Routes Culinary Challenge’ will make me try other restaurants that I have not been to in the V&A Waterfront in the next two months, not only for their good value, but also for the creative and spicy interpretation of the winter promotion theme.

POSTSCRIPT 3/8: The Top 8 restaurants in the V&A Waterfront’s Master of the Trade Routes Culinary Challenge have been announced in the Cape Times today: Signal at the Cape Grace hotel, Dash at the Queen Victoria hotel, Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town, Den Anker, The Grand on the Beach, Sevruga, Harbour House, and Willoughby’s.

POSTSCRIPT 31/8: Signal restaurant at Cape Grace won the Master of the Trade Routes Culinary Challenge, with Dash at the Queen Victoria Hotel coming second.  Sevruga won the People’s Choice Award, with its Miso-marinated kingklip dish.

V&A Waterfront ‘Master of the Trade Routes Culinary Challenge‘, see www.waterfront.co.za for the list and menus, and operating hours and days of the 27 participating restaurants. 1 June – 22 August.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Food Blogger ‘bun fight’ discredits MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths!

It was via Twitter yesterday that I picked up a link to a blogpost “Not so good today…”, written by respected food and cookbook writer and TV producer Anne Myers on her blog ‘I love Cooking’. In her story, she identified two instances of food bloggers writing irresponsibly in their recipes, not on their own blogs, but on the newly created website for MasterChef SA sponsor Woolworths, leaving the retailer with egg on its face, with two of its four guest MasterChef SA food bloggers being accused of unprofessional blogging.

To tie in with its MasterChef SA sponsorship, Woolworths created a Woolworths Pantry page on its website, and invited four food bloggers they felt to be at the top of their field to blog for them in return for payment: Alida Ryder writes the blog ‘Simply Delicious‘, and was named the top food blogger at the SA Blog Awards in 2010; Ishay Govender followed in her footsteps in winning the SA Blog Awards 2011 Food Blogger of the Year for her ‘Food and the Fabulous’ blog; Jane-Anne Hobbs is described on the Woolworths website as having ‘pioneered recipe blogging in South Africa’, now blogging on her ‘Scrumptious’ blog, and soon to have a cookbook published, she announced today; and Fritz Brand, who blogs on ‘Real Men can Cook’, is a more recent blogger with no known accolades (interesting is that Woolworths accepts his writing with grammatical errors, and he even misspells the Woolworths brand name on his own blog!).  Once a week the bloggers contribute their recipes according to a set theme, and receive credit for the recipes that are featured.

Strangely, no MasterChef SA branding appears on the Woolworths Pantry pages, only the ‘Cook like a Chef’ box appearing on the recipe pages, an adaptation of the in-store banners ‘Cook like a MasterChef’. The bloggers do not comment on the MasterChef SA programme at all, even though the initial Tweets of some of these bloggers led one to believe that they would be commentators for Woolworths about the reality TV cooking programme.

Ms Myers was very kind to the two Woolworths Pantry bloggers, in not mentioning their names in her blogpost, perhaps a weakness, as their names were revealed later in the day anyway. The bloggers concerned commendably showed integrity by declaring their discredited recipes in the Comments section of Ms Myers’ blogpost, and their responses are interesting.

Fritz Brand claimed ownership of the criticised Nutella Crêpes recipe, which called for five teaspoons of salt, four of which were to be coarse salt, according to the Woolworths Pantry recipe, which Ms Myers wrote was difficult to rub through the sieve, as required in the recipe.  Brand defends his recipe in the Comment on Ms Myers’ blog, stating that his recipe only called for one teaspoon of salt, and that Woolworths must have got it wrong in posting the recipe on its site! He also writes that he posted the same recipe on his own blog, without the four extra spoonfuls of salt.  The four mystery spoonfuls of salt were removed from the recipe on the Woolworths Pantry website after Ms Myers’ blogpost appeared!

Interestingly, a second Tweet about food blogger ethics circulated later in the day, with a link to Ms Govender’s blog, and her blogpost ‘Food Bloggers – The Cauldrons are boiling’.  Not knowing that she was under attack in Ms Myers’ blogpost, it sounded as if Ms Govender was having a general go at ‘bully’ food bloggers who do not have a ‘spirit of community’, who discredit others, who wave ‘their blog stats and self-importance around’, one not realising that she was in fact reacting to Ms Myers’ blogpost.  She called for an (undefined) ‘formal qualification system’ in the ‘food blogging business’ that builds ‘sensibility and comaraderie’ (sic), implying that only qualified persons may comment about other bloggers, one suspects she was trying to say.  Only on re-reading Ms Myers’ blogpost last night was it clear that Ms Govender’s blogpost was a response to Ms Myers’ very serious allegation that Ms Govender’s recipe for ‘Dark Chocolate Souffles’ had been plagiarised (an ‘almost word-for-word replica of the recipe’) from the website www.bonappetit.com. Ms Govender writes in her blogpost about ‘bully’ bloggers’ ‘crucifixion mentality’, without ‘calmly gathering facts and asking the involved people for their opinions’, clearly (but unfairly, in our opinion) accusing Ms Myers of this behaviour. On Ms Myers’ blogpost Ms Govender defends herself in writing that some standard recipes would appear very similar to others, that she has a background in intellectual property law and could never consider taking ideas from others, that she gets involved in community projects benefiting others, and is an example of the ‘spirit of community’. Ms Myers was harsh in her reply to Ms Govender, clearly not moved by it at all: ‘Ishay, defending yourself and pointing out your qualities and good deeds for the lesser priviledged (sic) will not change the way I feel about responsible blogging. I made it clear that I used the post in which the chocolate souffle recipe featured as an example of what I believe to be some of the causes of foodblogging’s detoriating (sic) credibility and vanishing visitors’.

As this blogpost is about food blogger ethics, it is interesting to observe how opinionated and previously fiercely independent Woolworths Pantry blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs, who describes her ‘Scrumptious‘ blog as ‘Recipes and inspiration from an independent African food blog’, has shifted in her definition of ‘independence’!  In her ‘About me and Contact’ page, she writes: By ‘independent’ I mean that my blog is not sponsored by anyone, and that I don’t endorse products or services in exchange for freebies, money or publicity. Because this blog is a freebie- and ad-free site, you can be assured that any branded product I recommend to you has been selected and paid for by me, because I think it’s interesting, tasty or exciting. Disclaimer: I earn my living by working as an independent food writer, recipe developer and social media consultant for a variety of clients.  Their products and services are never mentioned on this blog. Post Script; 20 March 2012: I’ve recently been appointed one of Woolworths offical (sic) bloggers for their sponsorship of the new TV series MasterChef South Africa.  I’m am (sic) paid to write blogposts and recipes for Woolworths, and will be reproducing that content on this site. You’re welcome to send me press releases, or invite me to launches, but please note that I don’t accept samples, ‘gifts’, ‘freebies’, or any similar inducements! We must commend Ms Hobbs for being the only one of the four Woolworths Pantry bloggers honest enough to declare her blogging for payment. Each of the four bloggers’ blogs carry the same Woolworths’ banner.

We predicted that MasterChef SA would be controversial, but did not expect a food blogger ‘bun fight’ to be the cause of such controversy, in addition to the MasterChef SA sponsor Robertson’s controversy, about which we reported last week.  It will be interesting to see which further controversies will develop in the remaining sixteen weeks of MasterChef SA!  The incident also questions the SA Blog Awards’ evaluation of top food bloggers!

POSTSCRIPT 3/4: In looking at the line ‘Cook like a Chef’ in the Woolworths ads linked to their food bloggers’ recipes one must ask again what the definition of a ‘chef’ is.  All four food bloggers are recipe writers but clearly not chefs.  One wonders why Woolworths would be dishonest in its advertising in projecting the bloggers to a more glorified status and so mislead their customers.

POSTSCRIPT 3/4: Woolworths Pantry has credited Bon Appetit magazine with the ‘inspiration’ for Ms Govender’s dark chocolate soufflé recipe subsequent to the publishing of Ms Myers’ blogpost, confirming that Ms Myers was correct in what she wrote!

POSTSCRIPT 4/4: For Week 3 on the Woolworths Pantry website, only recipes by food bloggers Alida Ryder and Jane-Anne Hobbs are featured, with none by Ishay Govender and Fritz Brand. The photograph of the four food bloggers is also no longer featured!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

My blog is important, because I have an opinion!

On Tuesday a blogpost on FoodBlog.Cape Town, entitled “My opinion is important because I am a blogger”, caught my eye, and was reTweeted by a number of bloggers.  On reading the blogpost a number of times, it appeared to focus on the ethics of both restaurants and bloggers in respect of free meals, and pleaded for blogs to be respected as a viable source of information.  Tongue-in-cheek, we have turned the title around in this blogpost!

In her blogpost, Kayli highlighted the poor image she feels bloggers have, with the strong statement ‘People hate bloggers’, and ‘People are bloggist’ (meant to imply anti-blogging).  She does not explain her view, nor does she give examples of such negative sentiments.  I have only seen one article that was anti-bloggers, written by Mandy de Waal in Mail & Guardian about a year ago, and  was an attack against food bloggers, and the threat that they pose to the traditional food writers in mainstream media, especially magazines. The reality is that blogs are gaining in popularity, with ordinary citizens from around the country and even internationally reading blogs, and participating in the dialogue on blogs through Comments.

We have previously written that the output of food bloggers appears to be on the decline, well-known local bloggers such as Andy Fenner (JamieWho), David Cope (‘The Foodie’), and even the polemic Spill blog publishing blogposts less frequently compared to when they started.  However, blog readership must be on the up, as more and more readers get hooked on the views of their favourite bloggers. The lack of statistics about blog reading and publishing makes it impossible to quantify the size of the blog market, relative to readily available figures about mainstream media circulation and readership.  Each blogger can read his/her readership on Google Analytics, but cannot compare this with that of other blogs.

Kayli attacks restaurants for offering free meals to bloggers, in the hope that a positive review will be written.  She told the unbelievable story of a restaurant to which she was invited, and that she had to endure the presence of the manager throughout the meal, who encouraged her to eat more and more, and then had the ‘pleasure’ of having the bill presented to her!  There must have been a serious communication problem for something so unreasonable to have happened.  One wonders why Kayli did not dispute the payment, and why she did not ‘name and shame’ the restaurant concerned.  Sharing the details of this incident, which sounds far-fetched, has no value if the perpetrator is not mentioned.  Is this a criticism one can level against the majority of bloggers – that they are trying to be too nice, and thereby compromise their own ethics by glancing over the flaws of the restaurant experience?  If ‘honest reviews’ are written for the public, as Kayli claims in her blogpost, then she must be true to the honesty she emphasises. ‘Honesty’ does not mean that faults should not be mentioned – in fact not mentioning them would be dishonest to the reader!

No blogger is obliged to write about a product or service they have experienced, as much as a mainstream media journalist is under no such obligation.   A restaurant invitation is no guarantee of any, or even of positive, coverage.  Many bloggers don’t want to offend their hosts, and would rather not write a review, than have to criticise the meal or service.  Every blogger is under the obligation to disclose the free meal, and it is likely that the blog reader will evaluate the information about the restaurant differently to the restaurant review of a meal that was paid for by the blogger.  Ultimately an anonymous visit to the restaurant is the best way to write a review, but taking photographs of one’s food and asking lots of questions can give the game away.

Kayli also mentions ‘hot-shot’ bloggers, who she says are loved, have been around for a long time, and inspire others, but then attacks them for implying that they are better because they have worked in restaurants or have trained as chefs.   I have never seen any such criticism from bloggers, and perhaps Kayli, who describes herself as a younger and newer blogger, may be over-sensitive on this issue.

Bloggers need restaurant news to feed their blogs, while restaurants (usually) benefit from reviews that are written about them. The restaurant-goer Googling a restaurant has one of five options in being informed about the restaurant:

*  Reading a short write-up on Eat Out, usually high up on Google’s page one for the restaurant

*  Similarly, reading a short write-up on Food24

*  A review by Rossouw’s Restaurants‘ owner JP Rossouw, but increasingly one picks up readers’ reviews via Google because of a special security sign-in procedure, not being conducive to JP’s own reviews being read.

*   The restaurants’ own websites, which rarely feature on the first page of Google, because they don’t have one (mainly being listed on Dining Out), or because they don’t update their websites regularly, to obtain a SEO benefit (via their own blog, for example).

*   The remaining five – six reviews on the first page of Google will be by bloggers, and would not feature on Google’s first page if they are not read regularly.  Obviously a first page Google review will ensure more frequent readership than those on subsequent pages, which means that bloggers need to get to write the reviews first, or have a huge readership to ensure that their reviews land and stay on page one.  I have never heard anyone discount a restaurant review written by a blogger, because the writer is a blogger.

Ultimately bloggers will only have their blogs read if they remain relevant and interesting to their readers. Bloggers blog because they love to write.  Blogging takes up a lot of personal time.  The dedicated and regular bloggers will be those that will retain their readers, as will be the bloggers who have an opinion, and are not afraid to express it, even if they know that they may never return to a specific restaurant because of their opinion!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club pairs food and wine blogging at Steenberg Vineyards

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was treated to a wonderful feast of Bistro Sixteen82 tapas with five excellent Steenberg Vineyards wines, and informed about their Social Media activities last week.

First to speak was Sales and Marketing Manager Anetha Homan, who has been at Steenberg Vineyards for almost five years, and at Constantia Uitsig for eight years before that.  Graham de Vries was recently appointed to manage Social Media for Steenberg Vineyards, and the ‘Totally Stoned’ Blog focuses on the wine side of the estate, but does incorporate information about Bistro Sixteen82 and Catharina restaurants.  Social Media was first introduced at Steenberg in 2007, and Tweeting and Blogging is done corporately.  Initially Anetha was so enthusiastic about Social Media, that she wanted her GM and the winemaker to blog too.  In 2009 Steenberg Vineyards did its first Twitter Tasting, and it was a creative way for the wine estate to attract attention.  This was repeated on a larger scale a few months ago. Research findings on Twitter trends in 2010 of South Africans (most Tweeters live in Cape Town, most Tweeting is done on Tuesdays, and from 7 – 8 pm) has been implemented in the Social Media strategy of Steenberg Vineyards. Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging has given Steenberg Vineyards a consumer communication channel, to pass on communication in a fun and informal manner, but even more importantly, to receive it back from their consumers.  The GM, winemaker and restaurant receive welcome messages of support. New friends have been made via Social Media dialogue, and these have become Followers and, even better, Brand Ambassadors.  Anetha cited the example of Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club member Andre Pentz, who met Graham at the previous meeting, and has since interacted regularly with Steenberg Vineyards.  The immediacy of sharing information is a major advantage. Anetha shared with bloggers her rules of Social Media engagement:

1.  No one is interested in how you feel

2.  Dare to be controversial, but do not insult. Tweeters prefer to read feel-good Tweets.  It is a shame that wine writers are tearing other writers apart, she said.

3.  Respond when written to.  Tweeters want dialogue.

4.  Show personality and passion, and don’t be too ‘sterile’ or ‘corporate’ in writing.  Customers want to be talked to as individuals.

5.   Don’t hard-sell.  Provide information

6.   Don’t do ambush marketing

7.   Add value in sending out information

8.   Re-Tweets are an important means of distributing information, and for adding Followers.

9.  Visuals have become more important, and less copy is read.

The ‘Totally Stoned’ website name was chosen as a tongue in cheek reference to the ‘stone mountain’ of Steenberg, from which the wine estate takes its name.  Graham did a fun blogpost about Planking, showing various Steenberg staff ‘planked’ on the wine estate. It was a fun colourful communication which created visual impact for the estate, and doubled traffic to the blog.  It also demonstrated the human side of the business, showing the company as a team of human beings.

Bloggers were offered a glass of Steenberg Brut 1682 MCC Chardonnay 2010 (R120) on arrival, first made by Steenberg Vineyards in 2000.  Initially it contained Pinot Noir as well, but is now 100% made from Chardonnay, with 12 – 18 months on the lees. In 2007 the first Steenberg Brut 1682 Pinot Noir MCC was made, and was launched earlier this month, having spent three years on the lees.  It costs R275.  The Sauvignon Blanc Reserve is what put Steenberg Vineyards on the map, and vintages sell out very quickly. Semillon is one of the oldest grape varieties in South Africa, haviung been planted 200 years ago, and used to make up 96% of planting.  It has reduced down to only 2%, and is often used in making Sauvignon Blanc to give it more body.  It is an excellent pairing with food.  The Steenberg Semillon 2010 comes from a 16 year block, and now spends a longer time in new French oak.  It has a buchu and fynbos character, from the plants growing around it.  Steenberg Nebellio refers to the mist they often experience on the wine estate, and the first plantings were brought in from Italy by the previous GM of Steenberg Vineyards. It has a very earthy character, and also is an excellent wine paired with foods.   Catharina Red is named after the characterful first owner of the wine estate, who had five husbands, and five grape varities have gone into the making of this blend, a more complex wine with a strong mint character coming from the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Brad Ball has been the chef at Bistro Sixteen82 for two years, having opened it at Steenberg Vineyards.  They have appointed Linda Harding as the Social Media consultant for the restaurants and hotel on the estate. Thoughts and experiences of customers are shared, and they look for interaction with guests.  They like the flexibility of being able to promote a particular dish immediately, and not wait for three months or more until they receive coverage in a magazine. ‘Our blog is our press’, Brad said, referring to it as a cost-effective communication medium.   Chef Brad has recently opened his own personal Twitter account (@BradBallBrand), to allow him to Tweet more personally, but he does realise that he still has limitations as to what he says, as he is linked to Steenberg and the Bistro.  He advised that consistency in content is important for the reader of blogs.  He says that one ‘eats with one eyes’, and that is why they post photographs of their dishes on the blog as well as on Twitter, Tweets being carefully scheduled.  The power of Social Media was demonstrated to the Bistro after they re-opened after a three week break at the beginning of the month, to a fully booked first day, and it has been full every day thereafter.  A year ago it took ten days for business to pick up again after their break.  The Bistro did not stop Tweeting while they were closed, and competitions were run, with a count-down to opening day.  The Social Media program for Bistro Sixteen82 positions it as fun, vibey and enticing restaurant to eat at.   Linda did a one-week internship with Chef Brad, and that has helped her with her understanding of the business.  Chef Brad welcomes kitchen help, to share with interested persons how a restaurant kitchen works.   Bistro Sixteen82 has four seasonal menu changes, and Chef Brad sources local produce.  The pork belly and beef tataki are absolute favourites, and cannot be taken off the menu. Produce is sourced from the hotel’s herb and vegetable garden.  Worm composting is used for the large amount of vegetable waste the restaurants generate.  Chef Brad talked about the collegiality that exists between chefs and that they meet regularly.  He would interact with dialogue about other chefs and their restaurants on Twitter, he said.  It is a reciprocal endorsement, and gives credibility.  We commend Chef Brad for being the only restaurant chef to have attended meetings of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, demonstrating his dedication to and understanding of the benefits of Social Media.

To close the meeting, Matt Allison, one of the speakers at our August meeting, shared his experience of being the only South African to attend the Mad Food Camp organised by the world’s top restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, organised by its owner Rene Redzepi last month. It was a huge honour for Matt to have been selected as one of 250 urban gardeners and chefs from around the world.  The Food Camp was the largest Northern European food festival, and alongside it ran the workshop, focusing on the relationship between restaurants and purveyors of fruit and vegetables.  Chefs are encouraged to grow their own produce, if feasible.  He was wowed by what he saw and heard, for example Amazonian ants preserved in gelatine by the chef of South American  restaurant Dom.  Matt is passionate about honouring the value of food.  He has become such an authority on urban farming, working with local Cape Town restaurants and farming his own vegetables and herbs, which he sells on Wednesdays at Starlings Café, that he was featured in the Sunday Times yesterday, and an article in the New York Times is to appear too.

Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

*   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery, and Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk of Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street.

*   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, Cape Town. Bookings can be made by e-mailing Chris at whalecot@iafrica.com. The cost of attendance is R100.  Twitter: @FoodWineBlogClu  Facebook: click here.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage