Corona Virus: How South African Chefs are responding to the COVID-19 Lockdown, some selfless, some selfish!



As a restaurant writer it is interesting to me to observe how our country’s leading chefs are coping with the Corona Virus lockdown. Ten out of ten to the chefs giving unselfishly to their communities. Less impressive are the chefs trying to raise monies for their staff or selling vouchers to cover their cash flows. Surprisingly few are using the captive audience of Lockdown diners to communicate with them!

To write this post, I checked what some of our leading restaurants and their chef owners are up to since the start of Lockdown on 27 March. The Lockdown regulations specifically prohibit restaurants from remaining open or from offering meals via Take-Away deliveries. I checked out their Instagram accounts, supplemented by their Facebook pages.


Chefs Chris Erasmus of Foliage and Darren Badenhorst of Le Coin Français 

Franschhoek has an amazing community spirit, and this Village was the first off the mark to create a charity organisation, called Disaster Management Franschhoek. Foliage and Le Coin Français restaurant kitchens, a few meters apart, are being used to prepare lunches and food parcels for ‘vulnerable community members’ in Franschhoek, as a means of also feeding the Franschhoek workforce, not receiving payment during the Lockdown period. Front-line workers such as doctors, emergency staff, police, and traffic police receive a hot plate of food daily, and five hundred families have received dry food parcels identified by their community leaders as being the most needy. Inhabitants of a Homeless settlement near Klapmuts receive a daily hot meal. Resident volunteers assist, by peeling potatoes, and doing many other tasks. Local residents donate vegetables and fruit from their gardens, while local butchers and restaurant suppliers are supplying ingredients. Chef Chris Erasmus says he expects his restaurant to remain closed for business for quite a while still, and will focus on this community project. He encouraged locals who have stockpiled to share some of their supplies, to serve the community. 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏


Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg of Janse & Co

In addition to offering a ‘Janse at Home’ experience, whereby Janse Artisanal Food and Deli Bags, with a mix of home-made pickles, chili sauces, Tobasco sauce, charcuterie, delivered to clients’ homes, the restaurant is also selling vouchers at discounted prices for future eating experiences at the restaurant. I love that its post says ’Can not wait to welcome you back!’.

But far more impressive is that they are cooking with Ladles of Love, one of two community food suppliers, especially to the Homeless settlements created by the City of Cape Town, where homeless persons are fed three times a day. They write that between 2000 and 2500 meals per day, the demand climbing week by week, are prepared in a central kitchen in Roeland Street, working with mostly cooking-untrained volunteers. Industry suppliers and retailers have contributed to this charity effort, including Salvin Son of a Butcher, Spar, Foxcroft,  Dish Food & Social, and ABALOBI. More hands and ingredients are required. 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏


Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen of JAN 

Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, of JAN Restaurant in Nice in France, our most South African restaurant in the world and one of only two South African Chef-led Michelin-star restaurants in the world.  He certainly is the most creative South African chef by far. He has an Innovation Studio in Cape Town, and is planning to open KLEIN JAN at Tswalu in the Kalahari in November, the latter luxury game reserve owned by the Oppenheimers, so no shortage of money there. He is the most prolific poster, on Facebook and Instagram, maintaining a presence daily.

Instead of selling vouchers, Chef Jan-Hendrik is giving spiritually and unselfishly, in two ways:

#  His JAN Journal Volume 3 can now be accessed for free

#  He has developed a weekly Lockdown Meal Plan for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, with recipes provided, a valuable aid to families and singles running out of ideas of what meals to prepare during the enforced Lockdown. He provides the Plan one week at a time, so that one is drawn back to the JAN Journal. (Photograph above)



Chef Chantel Dartnall of Restaurant Mosaic 

Chef Chantel provides tips via Instagram and Facebook, as well as recipe and preparation information for some of her restaurant dishes, as well as family favorites such as pancakes. 👏👏👏


Chef Rikku O’Donnchü of Exhibit A 

Chef Rikku was an avid Social Media poster, but has gone very quiet. His Exhibit A restaurant is offering Dining vouchers, with a 15% discount off the total bill when redeemed. No posts since 17 March.



Chef Pete Tempelhoff of FYN

On Instagram the offering is disappointing, a bread, a cocktail, and a burger dish, none reflecting the cuisine of FYN, are shared.

Disappointing is Chef Pete’s begging for financial support, for his staff as well as for the cash flow of his restaurant. Perhaps he could have saved the R60000 plus legal fees in trying to ban me from dining at FYN, and he would have had more money in his pocket now in this trying time!

Restaurant Review: FYNally, I get to eat a R62000 dinner at FYN Japanese style Fyn-dining restaurant, almost perfect!

He writes by email to past guests:

With the extraordinary state of the world economy we have decided to suggest 2 options of support, the first is a donation which goes directly to our staff and the second is a voucher purchase which is redeemable against a future FYNexperience. 
As most of our staff depend on tips to survive, we are asking for donations for them, this money will go to all the staff and not the restaurant. 
The other support mechanism we are offering will go to the restaurant to pay staff, suppliers and cover the basic bills to stay afloat. This support is being sold as a gift cards for future dining experiences. We’re hoping those of you who want to help the restaurant survive the crisis will purchase a digital gift card and help us generate immediate cash flow.
So please use this gift card button, to buy your voucher or make your staff welfare donation and a heartfelt thank you for all your support.’ 


Ag shame 😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡


Chef Luke Dale Roberts of The Test Kitchen, The Pot Luck Club,  and Salsify at The Roundhouse

Chef Luke Dale Roberts has used the Lockdown period to request funding for his staff, as well as to announce the permanent closing of The Shortmarket Club, and by implication, of the next door Commissary.

Chef Luke Dale Roberts’ The Shortmarket Club restaurant the first Corona Virus victim, in closing for good!

Chef Luke personally is not a Social Media, preferring for the spotlIght to fall on his restaurants.  I saw a very home-made amateurish video made in the home of Chef Luke, preparing a Tuna Barigoule Salad, with his son walking past and dipping his finger into the marinade for one of the dishes, while it was filmed! He kept stating that he did not have the key ingredients for the dishes in his home! Not known for his dress, it was far too casual an effort presented on The Test Kitchen Instagram account, the restaurant slotting in at number two on the 2019 Eat Out Top 10 list! There have been vetkoek, spinach salad, and a number of other home-cooked dishes, none at the level made in his restaurants.

Ag shame 😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡


It is clear to see that a positive profile of giving and being community-involved will win restaurants and their chef owners kudos in this period of Lockdown hardship, which will surely be to their benefit when life returns to reasonable but a changed normality post the Corona Virus.


Please share news about any other community food projects, and Chef iniatives during the Lockdown period to


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein


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