Earlier this month we announced our prediction for the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist (with difficulty, out of thirty contenders), as well as the judges who have been seen at our local restaurants. Yesterday Eat Out announced the four judges in a silly video, and our judges prediction was spot on!
Three of the four judges are brand new, Eat Out having let go the services of Andy Fenner (judged the past two years, and a conflict of interest as he himself has a – very poor – ‘restaurant’ in his butchery! Another conflict of interest is that he supplies top restaurants with meat!); of Garth Stroebel, a veteran chef who has been in the kitchen and co-run a chef school; and of Chef Reuben Riffel, with five restaurants and most recently having been a MasterChef SA judge in Season 3.
The new judges are as follows:
*. Abigail Donnelly is the head judge, no surprise at all, yet some restaurants still have her photograph in their kitchens as a ‘pin-up’! I have heard of two disaster stories relating to Abigail’s visits, the most ouch one being when a new hostess did not recognize Abigail, and she could not (initially) offer her a table when she arrived unbooked! She uses a false name when she books, yet her staff have ‘warned’ some restaurants by calling to check for availability on weekend days.
* Fabulous Chef Jackie Cameron, who opened her Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine in Hilton in April this year, after ten years at Hartford House, where she herself won Eat Out Top 10 a number of times. Again, Chef Jackie is well-connected and friends of a number of top chefs, so when others (not ever she herself) posted photographs of themselves with her at Top 10 restaurant contenders on their Facebook pages it was a give away!
*. MasterChef SA Seasons 1, 2, and 3 judge and Executive Chef of the Tsogo Sun Group Benny Masekwameng, who stood out by his patronage of Cape Town and Winelands restaurants, when he would usually only have eaten at Tsogo Sun hotels when visiting Cape Town! In addition, Chef Benny loves Facebook, so when he posted photographs of The Kitchen at Maison, and The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, it was obvious! What was confusing is that he also ate at non Top 20 contenders, such as the very new Charango on Bree Street. One can just hear chefs mumbling about Chef Benny as a choice of judge, and that our local top chefs could be equated to MasterChef amateur cooks! In the Eat Out judges announcement video, Abigail praises Chef Benny’s palate.
*. Siba Mtongana is a food blogger, a Chopped South Africa judge, and has a ‘Siba’s Table’ cooking show on The Food Network. She went under the radar, and we are not Facebook friends, so I personally did not pick this up. However, she was recognized by some restaurants, and so I was told that she was at a number of top 20 restaurants in July and August. Scary for the Top 20 contenders is Siba’s favourite (cringeworthy) restaurant choices, revealed in an interview she gave to The Inside Guide (she lives in Cape Town) : The Grand on the Beach, Reuben’s at the One & Only Cape Town, Nobu at the One & Only, Tuscany Beach, Willoughby’s, Wakame, and the Fat Cactus!
In the Eat Out video, Abigail speaks so fast that one had to replay it a few times (perhaps done so on purpose, as Eat Out is on a mission to gain clicks!). She shares the trends that they have observed: bread combinations, meringue shards, jasmine, and ash butter, summarizing that the judges were exposed to ‘multi-sensory food experiences‘.
The Top 20 Restaurant short-list has not yet been announced by Eat Out. Last year this was done in the first week of October.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Tel (021) 433-2100 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here