Tag Archives: Sydney Morning Herald

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 7/8 June

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Franschhoek Wine Valley has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Barossa Valley, having similar wine tourism goals and characteristics.  Both wine regions have excellent wines, top restaurants, and good accommodation.  Tourism and wine industry expertise will be shared between the regions, and programs planned include exchanges for chefs, winemakers, sommeliers, and cellar assistants.  Experience of festivals, customer service benchmarking, sustainable wine-making, and wine tourism practices will be shared. (received via media release from Smart Communications & Events)

*   A hard-hitting video from USA asks ‘How much has really changed on South Africa’s wine farms?‘ since the protests in De Doorns two years ago, critical not only of some farm owners but also of the government.

*   The FIFA World Cup, which kicks off next week, will generate $4 billion for the soccer federation, 66% up from the revenue it earned from the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

*   Noble Hill wine estate on the outskirts of Franschhoek has brought the Japanese Hitachino Nest beer range to our country, Continue reading →

Should SA Tourism not check what is written about Cape Town before it is published?

Yours Truly Dan-20140306150809239202-620x349Yesterday the respected Sydney Morning Herald published a super article about Cape Town  and its food and beverage entrepreneurs in the main (‘Cape Crusaders‘), the visit by its writer Rachel Olding having been sponsored by SA Tourism.  Containing two errors, one significant in its incorrect name for Table Mountain, it raises the question as to whether SA Tourism should insist on seeing copy first before it is published, not a popular nor common offer made by writers!

The writer’s focus was on the entrepreneurs in Cape Town, ‘bringing fresh new energy to Cape Town‘.  She adds: ‘In Cape Town, like so many international cities, they’re increasingly clad in plaid shirts, plugged into the hottest global trends and leading a hipster revival mixing the best of different eras and cultures with their own Capetonian touch’.  She quotes a tour guide that Cape Town has baboons to remind one that Cape Town is in Africa, feeling more European in its nature!

Yours Truly on Kloof Street and on Long Street (owned by Daniel Holland); the Grand Daddy Hotel; Royale Eatery (described as ‘hip new‘ which it is not!); Deluxe Coffeeworks (owned by Carl Wessel and Judd Francis) on Church Street and in Gardens; the Old Biscuit Mill; A Store is Good on Kloof Street (owned by Dario Lette);  Supremebeing and Wardrobe on Kloof Street; Frankie Fenner Continue reading →

SA restaurant food on a par with best of Australia, but service lags far behind!

South African restaurants are on a par with the best restaurants in Australia in food quality, says Chef Darren Roberts, who has just returned from a visit to his country of origin. Compared to twenty years ago when he first came to South Africa, this country has made great strides in developing its own unique cuisine.

Grande Provence may not have made the 2012 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants at the awards last year, but Chef Darren said that he respects sole judge Abigail Donnelly, and the awards, being a yardstick for excellence locally. As a Top 20 finalist, he did say that the restaurants in the 11 – 20th positions were not acknowledged on the awards evening, even though most of their chefs attended, and that this is a weakness of the awards system.  He felt that the local restaurant evaluation system should move to a rating similar to the Australian Chefs Hats (awarded by the Sydney Morning Herald restaurant guide) or Michelin stars, so that top restaurants achieving a cuisine quality are recognised, and are not limited to ten, nor should they be ranked, particularly as no feedback is provided by Eat Out as to why a restaurant has achieved a particular ranking.  He shared that not making Top 10 can be very harmful to a restaurant, some of its staff moving on to or being poached by Top 10 restaurants.  Chef Darren was far more critical of restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw, who had clearly got the rating of Grande Provence wrong, not only in its own right but also relative to other restaurants (e.g. rating Salmon Bar higher). He had also got some basic information wrong, e.g. criticising ‘guinea fowl’, which has not been served in the restaurant for years.

A personal visit to Australia last month allowed Chef Darren to eat at Rockpool in Sydney and at the Lake House outside Melbourne, both 2 Chef Hat rated. The Lake House’s Alla Wolf Tasker has been at the forefront of the development of Australian cuisine. Chef Darren praised Chef Bertus Basson’s Overture for being on a par with the Lake House.  While the cuisine in South Africa’s top restaurants is on a par with Australia, Chef Darren was bowled over by the excellent service he experienced, saying that our restaurants are very far behind in this regard. The service is so professional in top Australian restaurants that it almost makes the meal!  The cost is far higher in Australia, his two-course meal with a glass of wine costing R850 at the Lake House, and R800 for one course and a glass of wine at Rockpool.

Chef Darren has seen a marked improvement in South African cuisine, remembering that about 20 years ago his Rivonia restaurant Two Faces being marked down on a top restaurant rating because they did not serve a ladies size steak, then a criterion of excellence! Chef Darren was once described by The Star as ‘L’enfant Terrible’, for being a trendsetter, and for doing things differently.  South African cuisine has great potential to go back to ‘its most exciting African roots’.

Chefs don’t make money, Chef Darren lamented, and cook for love. In this profession, ‘the passion gets into one’s blood’, and it’s not possible to get it out again. This is why poor reviews are taken so personally by chefs, he said.  In this context he is critical of MasterChef South Africa, in its prize of a year as the Chef of MondoVino restaurant at Montecasino in Johannesburg. By implication it ‘cheapens’ his profession, in that not one of the Finalists will be able to run the restaurant on being announced the winner in July, he feels.  To get to where Chef Darren is now, he did a four year apprenticeship in Melbourne, being taught cooking as well as life skills by his colleagues in the main, and at L’Heiner in Vienna.  He recommends that young chefs go to Australia to gain experience, and then backpack through Asia, rather than going to London for international experience. Chef Darren predicted that more European chefs would be coming to South Africa, as the recession makes itself felt, and returning from overseas to get back to the sun.

Chef Darren is on the brink of leaving the country, having been the Executive Chef at Grande Provence for the past two years.  He will be taking up the position of Group Executive Chef of Mason’s, the largest tour operator in the Seychelles, with three luxury lodges, and a further one being built, on Denis Island and in Mahe.  Collectively about 300 rooms will be catered for every day. In addition, he will oversee the cuisine on four super yachts.  Chef Darren has previously worked for the company in the Seychelles, and he has a soft spot for the island country, owning land on it too.  On Denis Island they will be about 80% produce self-sufficient, growing their own fruit and vegetables, having a piggery and hatchery, with rabbits, duck, and milk. Only beef is brought in.  Charcuterie will be developed by Chef Darren’s team when he arrives next week. Chef Darren said that business is booming in the Seychelles, an archipelago of about 300 islands, with beautiful turquoise sea water and white sand beaches, in a country where Creole is the official language. The cuisine on the Seychelles is Creole, weighted to North India, with coconut milk, fish curry, lime, crab curry, and yellow lentils featuring strongly.  At Mason’s guests would experience a  Creole evening, a barbeque evening, and eat a la carte on the other nights of the week. Lunches are a Creole Buffet, with fish presented less than two hours after having been caught.  Breadfruit, Cassava, and palm hearts are local delicacies.

Chef Darren will be missed for his creative French fine-dining with an Pan-Asian twist menu and plating, for his dry sense of humour, and for his fresh thinking.  His successor is Chef Darren Badenhorst, and the two have worked together for the past year, and they will stay in touch.  Chef Darren Badenhorst has added three new dishes to the Grande Provence menu, and the attention to detail in each, and the vast number of carefully selected ingredients, is impressive, continuing the work of Chef Darren Roberts. I recently tasted the soft shell crab starter on pan-fried sushi with sesame seed, with a soft boiled yolk presented in a beautifully crafted kataifi pastry, with red pepper aioli, and finished off with soya and wasabi pearls. Yesterday I tried his new Ballontine of Chicken with a bone marrow centre, truffle of pomme duchess, carrot and cardomom pureé, morel mushrooms, cracked black pepper, and fresh Japanese truffle, an artistic portrait that could have been framed and hung in the Grande Provence Gallery!

We wish Chef Darren Roberts all the best in his new career in the Seychelles, and look forward to his regular visits back to Franschhoek, to see his family.

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

MAD Foodcamp: Chefs should go back to the roots!

If it had not been for Cape Town urban farmer, eco-activist and food blogger Matt Allison addressing us at the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings in August and September, I would not have known about the MAD (means ‘food’ in Danish) Foodcamp ‘Planting Thoughts’ symposium, which he attended in August, as the only South African in an elite group of 250 hand-picked chefs, food scientists, foragers, microbiologists, and policy-makers.  The workshop resulted in an important appeal to chefs to change the world, by going back to the roots of food growing and sourcing.

The MAD Foodcamp was held in Copenhagen, and was organised by Chefs Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer, co-founders of Noma (food photographs below from this restaurant), the top S. Pellegrino World 50 Best restaurant for two years running.  Concerned about the projected shortage of food, showing that food production must increase by 70 %, to feed an estimated population of 9 billion by 2050, Redzepi invited applications for attendees at his MAD Foodcamp. Fellow 50 Best Restaurant chefs who presented included Michel Bras from France, David Chang from momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, Alex Atala from D.O.M. in São Paulo, Daniel Patterson from Coi in San Fransisco, Yoshihiro Narisawa from Les Creations de Narisawa in Tokyo, Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz in Spain, Gaston Acurio from Café del Museo in Lima in Peru, and Ben Shewry from Attica in Melbourne, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

The following key recommendations resulted from the MAD Foodcamp:

*   Sourcing food locally is paramount, and it is available to chefs from their purveyors, and can be grown by themselves too. The impact of rising petrol prices on food prices will ensure that chefs seek more local food supply.  But local food is not always desirable, and nations should become proud of their culinary heritage again.

*   There will be a move away from meat, as it was in past generations.  Meat production impacts on the soil, energy usage, water supply, and carbon output, and therefore a new balance between proteins, cereals and vegetables needs to be found.  Chef Michel Bras said that vegetables should be made to be as important and as desirable as meat in restaurants.

*   Soil plays a role too, and Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa serves a soup made from organic soil.  Ideally, food planted should not have to be irrigated and spayed with chemicals.  Monocultures are destructive to the soil. Rice, wheat, corn and potatoes supply 60% of calories, and chefs are challenged to make something new with them, but should instead look at finding bygone varieties.

*   Food foraging is all the trend, and edible plants could help make up the shortage of food.   Ethnobotanist François Couplan has identified 80000 varieties of edible plants, documented in 65 books he has written. Many of these have greater health benefits than the foods that we know.  Author of ‘The Forager Handbook’, Miles Irving said that wild foods are the ultimate in being seasonal, local and sustainable, and that ‘there is treasure in the woods and fields’. Chefs who forage need to know which plants and other foods are plentiful, and which are scarce and endangered.

*   Urban gardens are an answer to food shortages too, and we have seen Matt becoming a local urban farmer, renting unused land from the City of Cape Town to grow vegetables.  It is estimated that New York could produce 3 million tonnes of food per year on city rooftops, in parks and in private yards.  City beekeeping is being encouraged, and this honey is cleaner and healthier than that from the countryside, less contaminated with pesticides.

*   Insects are a valuable source of protein, and can also be used to address food shortages.  Chef Alex Atala encouraged delegates to eat Amazon ants, tasting of lemongrass and ginger. Other edible insects include ant eggs, grasshoppers, and termites.

*   Farmers should return to the old-fashioned way of hands-on farming.  Chefs are encouraged to connect with farmers, and to buy directly from them, rather than via agents or suppliers.

*   The focus should be on children and to re-introduce them to non-processed food, to teach them ‘what real food tastes like’, said Chef Daniel Patterson.

Matt Allison was interviewed about the MAD Foodcamp by Katie Parla for the New York Times as well as for her Blog.

MAD Foodcamp: www.madfoodcamp.dk

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