Are there enough top chefs left to make up a credible 2014 Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant list?


Chenin Blanc Top 10 Huguenot Cheese Brulee Whale CottageIn the past week three further Top 20 Restaurant candidate chefs have announced their resignation, making the restaurants at which they work ineligible to be nominated for the 2014 Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist.  This year is the most volatile we have ever seen as far as top restaurant chef departures go, opening up the opportunity for a fresh 2014 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards list.

The latest chef resignations are the following:

*   Chef Oliver Cattermole left Mondiall Kitchen & Bar two weeks ago, today joining the Leeu Collection as its Executive Chef for its five star Dassenberg Estate hotel and Leeu Restraurants Oliver CattermoleRusthof Country House in Franschhoek, both opening next year.  Chef Oliver has worked locally at Dash at the Queen Victoria Hotel, the Le Franschhoek hotel, and Mondiall, as well as internationally at Ivy Restaurant, La Gavroche, Novelli, and at Cannizaro House hotel.

*   Chef Brad Ball, who helped open Bistro Sixteen82 at Steenberg, leaves in two weeks to start up what sounds like a collective of three restaurants at Pedlars on the Bend in Constantia

*   Chef Christiaan Campbell leaves Delaire Graff Estate, after opening up the main restaurant more than five years ago, as well as Indochine when the Lodge opened some time thereafter.  He will join Boschendal in mid-October. (photograph of his Huguenot cheese brûlée, served at the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Association Top 10 Challenge lunch last week)

The three latest departing chefs join other departing chefs who worked at restaurants which would have been eligible for inclusion on the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist, but no longer qualify due to the rule of Eat Out that the head chef must have worked there for a full 12 months:

*   Chef Chris Erasmus, who left Pierneef à La Motte to open his own restaurant Foliage

*   Chef PJ Vadas, who left Camphors at Vergelegen, to start his own restaurant and brewery The Hog House (not yet open)

*   Jackie Cameron has left Hartford House, to open the Jackie Cameron School for Food & Wine in January

*   Chef Stefan Danz of Babel at Babylonstoren has left to join Stables at Vergelegen.

The seven departing chefs would have been likely to have made the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist, with Chefs Brad Ball, Oliver Cattermole, and Stefan Danz not having made the shortlist before, but their departures will exclude their nomination.  This excludes the following restaurants from making the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist this year:

*   Mondiall

*   Pierneef à La Motte

*   Hartford House

*   Babylonstoren

*   Camphors at Vergelegen

*   Delaire Graff Estate restaurant

So where does that leave Eat Out and its Top 20 list?  We have previously tried to predict what the Eat Out Top 20 shortlist could look like, and have amended it as follows, following the latest chef departures, listed in no particular order:

*   The Test Kitchen (Chef Luke Dale-Roberts)

*   five hundred (Chef David Higgs)

*   The Tasting Room (Chef Margot Janse)

*   Overture (Chef Bertus Basson)

*   Jardine at Jordan (Chef George Jardine)

*   Tokara (Chef Richard Carstens)

*   Rust en Vrede (Chef John Shuttleworth)

*    The Greenhouse (Chef Peter Tempelhoff)

*   Restaurant at Waterkloof (Chef Gregory Czarnecki)

*   Indochine at Delaire Graff (Chef Virgil Kahn)

*   Equus at Cavalli Estate (Chef Henrico Grobbelaar)

*   The Restaurant at Newton Johnson (Chef Eric Bulpitt)

*   Springfontein Eats (Chef Jürgen Schneider)

*   Restaurant at Grande Provence (Chef Darren Badenhorst)

*   Makaron at Majeka House (Chef Tanya Kruger)

*   Azure at The Twelve Apostles (Chef Christo Pretorius)

*   The Kitchen at Maison (Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg)

*   Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient (Chef Chantel Dartnall)

*   The Pot Luck Club

*   Burrata (Chef Annemarie Steenkamp, but her move to Bocca this month may count against her nomination)

We have scraped together 20 eligible restaurants for the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist (on the reserve list are Planet Restaurant, Terroir, and La Mouette), but some of our inclusions above go against our gut feel, with service weaknesses and lack of chef creativity observed and experienced.

While we are predicting the Top 20 shortlist, let’s get the prediction of the judges recorded too: Abigail Donnelly, Arnold Tanzer, Garth Stroebel, Reuben Robertsons Riffel (shocking inclusion, but seen eating his way around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, perhaps the MasterChef judge judging his peers?!), and Andy Fenner (double conflict of interest due to his role of supplier of meats from his butchery to top restaurants, and running his own crummy ‘restaurant’ Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants too).

It will be interesting to see what Eat Out comes up with for its Top 20 Restaurant shortlist.  Whichever restaurants are on it have the easiest odds ever to make the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list this year!

POSTSCRIPT 6/10: Eat Out announced its Top 20 Restaurant shortlist today, 14 of the restaurants coinciding with our list above.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook:  click here 

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