Entries tagged with “Culinary Olympics”.


SAA has been in the news in the past few days for all the wrong reasons, eight of its eleven Board members having resigned in what must signal the lack of confidence in the management of the airline and its future.  As our tourism industry is strongly reliant on SAA to bring tourists to the country, and to Cape Town specifically, the SAA situation is of vital importance to all tourism players.

Cheryl Carolus, Chairman of the SAA Board, is one of the Directors who resigned, with Bonang Mohale, Russell Loubser, Louis Rabbets, Jabulani Ndhlovu, David Lewis, Teddy Daka, and Maggie Whitehouse, but she has not motivated her decision.  Russell Loubser has been vocal, saying that SAA, SA Express, and Mango deserve the support of the South African government, being its largest shareholder, but that they are not receiving it, reported The Citizen. Loubser called for emotional, financial, and moral support, given the economic downturn and the competitive airline industry. The operations of the company have had to be executed in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act, he said, which meant that they could not run the company as a commercial enterprise, in which they would ordinarily hire and fire staff, or change routes. ‘But a company like SAA which is totally dependent on the government requires in return the total support of the shareholder. And right now it is finding it difficult to work with the shareholder’.  Issues that have been tabled for months do not get resolved, Loubser explained, particularly the burning issue of an additional R6 billion which the airline requested from the government to execute a strategic plan which had been approved by the government. He said that in the past three years since he had been a member of the SAA Board, the company had ‘never been properly capitalised’.

The resignations were precipitated by the delay in the tabling of SAA’s Annual Report by the deadline of 30 September, as the auditors had not finalised the financial statements, and the funding request not having been finalised with the Treasury, reported The Times. The funding requested is to cover fleet replacement costs, the introduction of a premium economy class, and the extension of business class cabins on long-haul flights. Yet Ms Carolus stated that the Minister is ‘lying’, as the financial statements have been completed, and withholding them is ‘illegal’, reflecting on the Board directors, reported The Times today. The Annual Report for SA Express was also delayed.  Last year the financial statements for SA Express had to be withdrawn, when found to be ‘materially misstated’. Last month the Minister fired all except one Board member of SA Express, for accounting errors going back to 2008!

Earlier last week Ms Carolus had summarised the Board’s achievements as flying to new destinations, sacrificing domestic routes to the benefit of international routes, modernising and increasing the fleet, and in addressing fraud and corruption.

Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba appointed eight new directors to caretake the Board positions, with Vuyisile Kona as the new Chairman, and Andile Mabizela, Andile Khumalo, Bonisizwe Mpondo, Dr Rajesh Naithani, Carol Roskruge, Raisibe Lepule, and Nonhlanhla Kubeka as the new Directors, representing expertise in the fields of aviation, management, state governance, and finance, and which he said would assist the government in ‘propelling the airline to greater heights‘!  The Minister issued a statement, describing the resignation timing as ‘bizarre’, and condemned ‘the leakage of confidential government information’ as an ‘abuse of free speech’, without explaining what information leak he is referring to.  The Minister also explained that the term of most Board members would have come to an end anyway, at the scheduled AGM on 15 October.  The Minister assured staff, passengers, and suppliers that the Board resignations would not disrupt the operations of SAA.

Cape Town’s tourism industry was badly hit by SAA’s decision to close down its Cape Town – London direct flight route in mid-August, selling one of its three slots at Heathrow, and creating a Southern African hub in Johannesburg, forcing all international SAA flights to land in Johannesburg, and then connect to Cape Town on a domestic flight.  This strategy is proving fatal for tourism, as we continuously receive feedback that international flights arriving simultaneously at OR Thambo airport are causing Passport Control and Baggage Collection congestion, meaning that the connecting flights are missed by international visitors, for which SAA tries to cash in on ticket change charges!  This is a dreadful first tourist impression of our country!

The declining quality of SAA’s food and beverage service and poor hostess service was well-documented by German wine writer Mario Scheuermann, who flew from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, to attend CapeWine 2012 in Cape Town last week.  He wrote that the wines were of sub-standard quality, and ran out two hours after take-off, that the food was dreadful (his photograph), and that the mineral water had run out before landing in Johannesburg.  The party of German VIP visitors missed its connecting flights due to the congested airport facilities, and had to wait for three hours to catch a new connecting flight to Cape Town!

Despite this sounding unpatriotic, we would encourage international visitors to fly to Cape Town with any airline other than SAA, and to avoid flying into the country via Johannesburg at all costs!  Direct Cape Town connections are or about to be offered by BA and Virgin from London, by Edelweiss from Zürich, by Lufthansa from Munich, by Emirates from Dubai, by Air France from Paris, by Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, and from Amsterdam by KLM.  Maybe  the cancellation of SAA’s Cape Town-London route is a blessing in disguise for our city, given the poor reports about the airline’s service and quality!

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Swedish guests checking in at Whale Cottage Camps Bay today praised the ease of connection via Swiss from Copenhagen to Zürich, and then the direct flight by Edelweiss to Cape Town, for its friendly service and fantastic price of R 5500 each for the full return trip.

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Today it was announced that the government has given SAA a ‘guarantee’ of R5 billion!

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Southern African Tourism Update has published a letter today from a tour operator reporting on two client flight cancellations due to overbooking, handled unsympathetically by SAA staff.

POSTSCRIPT 3/10: Mario Scheuermann has shared the details of his return journey on SAA two days ago.  The food quality was slightly better, there was more wine available but the quality offered still was poor.  There was a problem with the cooling, so all beverages were warm, i.e. not cooled!  The service was equally poor.  Interesting would be to hear the evaluation of the food and wine offering by the SA Culinary Olympics team, which was on the same flight to Frankfurt!

POSTSCRIPT 7/10: The Times reports that the smaller independent airlines are furious that SAA has been given a R 5 billion lifeline by the government, saying that this is driving low-cost airlines out of business. Nine out of 11 airlines that started operating locally in the past 20 years have gone into liquidation, mainly due to an oversupply of domestic seats, ‘a legacy of the optimism of 2010′. Now 1time wants a bail-out by the government too.  The small airlines are asking for a cut in the fuel levy, as well as reduced fees for ACSA, Air Traffic Navigation Services, the SA Weather Service, and the Civil Aviation Authority.

POSTSCRIPT 10/10: Southern African Tourism Update reports this evening that the new Chairman of the SAA Board is questioning why the Cape Town – London route was cancelled, and is apparently in talks with the Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille to reinstate the route.  One wonders why he is not talking to our Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde, the CEO of Wesgro Nils Flaatten, and/or Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold!  One of the three SAA slots at Heathrow have been sold, which may make the reinstatement difficult.

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

The Twelve Apostles Hotel is located at the foot of the mountain with the same name, with a wonderful view on to the Atlantic Ocean, and whales and dolphins can be seen from it on occasion.   Last night it took a step to move closer to Camps Bay, by inviting the Camps Bay Accommodation Association  member guest houses to dinner at its Azure Restaurant.

The impression created throughout, from the time that the guest house members entered the hotel, a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World and voted Best Hotel in Cape Town in 2010 by Travel & Leisure USA, was two-fold:  Belonging to The Red Carnation Hotel Collection South Africa, every member of staff interacting with the public proudly wears a red carnation in his/her shirt/jacket pocket, a very clever touch in creating brand awareness for the hotel group, which has other interests in South Africa, being The Oyster Box and the regularly award-winning Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, in addition to properties in London, Geneva, Guernsey, Florida, and Dorset.  Secondly, each member of staff that we met during our evening at the hotel went out of their way to be friendly, to chat, and to become one of our group, sharing pre-dinner drinks, and seated with us at dinner at Azure.

Horst Frehse is the new GM of the hotel, a doyen of GM’s, and for many years he was “Mr Grande Roche”, followed by Singita. He moved from Asara to the Twelve Apostles in December.  He personally greeted every guest house member, and apologised for not being able to join us for dinner.  He announced that the Spa will close for two months, to undergo a R5 million renovation, whereafter it will be operated by the hotel itself.  Hotel Manager Brett Davidge and his team were present.  A nice touch was that Chef Henrico Grobbelaar flew back from a meeting in Johannesburg especially to prepare the meal, and he chose the guest house group to try out two new starters and two main courses he is including in his new winter menu, to be launched on 1 June.  He personally introduced the menu, and came to us after the meal, to obtain feedback. Chef Henrico told us that he is wanting to focus more on seafood in his new menu, and that he is sourcing ingredients locally and fresh, seafood coming from Hout Bay. Chef Henrico was a FIFA Executive Chef during the World Cup last year, was Sunday Times  Chef of the Year in 2009, and leads the South African team for the Culinary Olympics.

Azure is a very large restaurant room, but divided into two halves via a central table, with big blue and silver vases and lots of candles.  One side has a fireplace, adding atmosphere, and it was cosy and warm in the room, despite the wintry weather outside.   The colour blue given to the name of the restaurant is reflected by day through the lovely seaview from the restaurant, and from Moroccan-style blue lights by night.  Tables have tablecloths, good quality large material serviettes, and were laid with Hepp Exclusive cutlery and good glassware.

The bread basket contained a wonderful selection of home-made breads and rolls, including rye bread, wholewheat bread, and olive bread, as well as bread sticks, impressive in its presentation.   The starter choices were a most delicious Grilled Yellowfin Tuna served with a sweetcorn relish, avocado puree and cilantro vinaigrette.  The tuna looked beautiful on the plate, almost like marrow bones.  The other starter was a salad of roast beetroot, zucchini, parsnip and Fairview goat’s curd with black olive paint.  The tuna starter was by far the most ordered, and was an absolute hit.

The main course choice was lamb loin with stirfried tatsoi, mizuna, julienne vegetables, lentils and spicy peanut sauce, a fusion dish that Frehse had requested of the chef.  The generous portion of pan roasted kingklip with cauliflower white bean truffle puree, mushroom and adzuki with Port miso veal jelly was excellent.  It was nice to see a fish knife for the kingklip. There was no choice of dessert, as Chef Henrico wanted us to try Mrs Bea Tollman’s Lemon cheese cake with Honeycomb ice cream, a special recipe that Chef Henrico described as the one of the best in the country, and which takes three days to make.  

Azure’s current menu is low key in being typed pages bound in a black holder.  Its introduction lists the fynbos that is added to the food preparation, this having been the speciality of previous chef Ricardo de Carvalho.  It states that the Abalone for its main course has been ‘purchased in terms of Section 13 of the Marine Living Resources Act 1998, and is in keeping with Live Aquaculture Abalone harvesting’.  Starters range from R60 for a trio of cold soup, and a chicken noodle soup, to R 175 for Bea’s Eggs Royale, three scrambled eggs served in their shell, with smoked salmon, black caviar and oysters. Main courses start at R110 for mushroom and tofu lasagne, to R 455 for Crispy fried abalone.  Steaks cost around R150.  Desserts cost R70, with Bea’s cheesecake costing R85.

It is clear that The Twelve Apostles hotel group is ultra professional, and all guest houses left with a bag of information about the hotel’s facilities, including the current Azure menu, and about its sister property Bushman’s Kloof.   Thabang Rapotu was an excellent sales executive in encouraging a group of us to book for the “Tea by the Sea” afternoon tea next month.  The guest house guests were invited on a tour around the hotel, and were shown some guest rooms too, the hotel using the opportunity to educate our group about its facilities.  Malusi offered excellent service in looking after the water and wines, and I enjoyed the Rust en Vrede Merlot 2009.  A most generous and enjoyable evening was spent with the Twelve Apostles Hotel team, and the guest houses left the Twelve Apostles feeling that Azure is the best restaurant that Camps Bay has, and that they would recommend it to their guests for fine-dining in future.

POSTSCRIPT 26/5: Thanks to Kurt Ackermann for pointing out an error as to the tuna used in the starter last night.  I must have misheard Chef Henrico, and I called him this evening to check with him, after seeing Kurt’s comment.  He has assured me that he used Yellowfin Tuna, on the Green SASSI list, and I have corrected it above. 

Azure, Twelve Apostles Hotel, Camps Bay.  Tel (021) 437-9000. www.12apostleshotel.com (The website contains the menu but not the winelist.  It is a pity that the Image Gallery does not contain any photographs of the food served at Azure, other than of the seafood platter).

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

The South African Culinary Team won two silver medals at the 11th Salon International de la Gastronomie in Luxembourg, which was held recently.

The team won the medals in two categories: for a display of culinary art consisting of eight sections; and the second was a three-course menu prepared for 105 persons within a six-hour time limit, for which the ingredient theme was “land and sea”. 

The Culinary World Cup showcased the work of 2300 chefs from 51 countries, and is the second largest culinary competition in the world.   The South African culinary team consisted of Twelve Apostles’ chefs Henrico Grobbelaar (team leader) and Peter Gyorgicsek, Hunter’s Lodge’s Tanja Kruger, The One&Only Cape Town’s Roberto de Carvalho, as well as Kevin Miller, HD Fraser, Nadin Pospech-Demmier and Charl Gyzen.

The SA Culinary Team will participate in the Culinary Olympics in 2012.

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

Tanya Kruger, talented chef at Hunter’s Country House outside Plettenberg Bay, has been selected as one of the chefs to represent South Africa in the IKA Culinary Olympics in Germany in 2012, reports The Herald.

Kruger is the winner of the South African 2008 Chaine des Rotisseurs Young Chef’s competition, and represented this country at the international competition in Paris last year.

For the next four years the chefs’ team will practice, meeting monthly.   The Culinary Olympics is the most prestigious international chefs’ competition.  Last year, the South African team was one of only two countries to win a gold medal.

South Africa has won Gold in the Restaurant of Nations section of the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung at the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany, reports Travelwires.     The Culinary Olympics take place every four years.

Cooking for 110 persons, the team of ten top South African chefs prepared a three-course meal reflecting South Africa’s unique cuisine.  The menu consisted of a crayfish starter, springbok loin and shoulder as main course, and was crowned with a naartjie and chocolate malva pudding.   They won Gold alongside the chefs from Singapore, the only two countries to be awarded gold medals.

Congratulating the SA team on their golden achievement, Moeketsi Mosola, CEO of S A Tourism,  said :” South Africa has a rich culinary heritage and they did us proud in representing it”.

Bertus Basson, chef at Overture restaurant on the Hidden Valley wine estate outside Stellenbocsh, is the only Western Cape chef to be included in the South African chefs’ team participating in the Culinary Olympics, which started in Erfurt in Germany yesterday. 

Other chefs in the South African team are all from Gauteng, and include Garth Shnier of the Sandton Sun, Rudi Liebenberg of the Saxon Hotel, Trevor Boyd from the Sheraton Pretoria, Marli Roberts from Unilever Foodsolutions, Dilene Cranna from the Sheraton Pretoria and Vicky-Lynn Gurovich from the Saxon Hotel, reports the Sunday Times.

More than one thousand chefs from 40 countries will be participating in the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung.