Entries tagged with “Design Indaba”.


Cape Town StadiumWhat excellent news it was to see on Twitter yesterday afternoon that now former Councillor Grant Pascoe has defected to the ANC for ‘personal reasons’, a decision Mayor Patricia de Lille (who appeared to be a close friend), said caught her by surprise.  She announced that he has been stripped of his position as Councillor and as Mayoral Committee member of Tourism, Events, and Marketing with immediate effect.   We have been very critical of Pascoe’s lack of marketing knowledge and leadership, once again leaving our City’s tourism industry without a marketing plan for the forthcoming winter, which kicked in earlier than usual last week!

The announcement was made by the ANC, and not by Pascoe himself.  The political party said: ‘Councillor Pascoe joins an overwhelming number of South Africans, who despite finding themselves in other political parties, recognise the ANC as the only organisation with the track record, capacity, and determination to build a South Africa’.  Pascoe explained that he was unhappy with the direction which the DA was taking, and had discussed this internally.  To avoid a fight, he decided to leave. He said he feels ‘at home‘ in the ANC, EWN reported! Yet on Pascoe’s Facebook page for his ‘political organisation‘, his ‘About Grant Pascoe’ still states: ‘The Democratic Alliance is South Africa and Cape Town’s best hope for a better future for all our people‘!

Pascoe served as a City of Cape Town DA Councillor for 13 years, and as a Mayoral Committee member for eight years, the last four of which were heading up the Tourism, Events, and Marketing portfolio.  Two years ago he initiated the creation of a Tourism, Events and Marketing directorate, which reported to him and is headed up by Anton Groenewald.  Pascoe’s sole contribution was to bring soccer events to Cape Town, which made no impact on the tourism industry in terms of bookings, reflecting his personal interest in soccer.   From the outset we have criticised Pascoe’s incompetence in the Tourism portfolio: (more…)

Cécile and Boyd FoundationOn Friday The Guardian published a very lengthy article about Cape Town’s role as host of World Design Capital 2014 (WDC), and highlighted the unusual locations of design gems in Cape Town, including the townships and previously run-down city areas, as opposed to art galleries.  Unfortunately this is the second international article about Cape Town in two days with errors!  The article highlights what a visitor to Cape Town should see during this design-centred year, and contains shocking news for the Tourism industry.

Journalist Lisa Grainger anticipated visiting upmarket galleries, style emporiums, and seeing craft art, but instead she spent most of her week in Cape Town in townships with guide Fernie, to experience real creativity born from poverty. ‘Because it is in these townships that some of the most inspiring people live: people who are incredible, positive, engaging, brave. And I want visitors to see the good there is here, the real heart of South Africa’, he explained to her.  

She was told by Priscilla Urquhart, PR and Media Manager of Cape Town Design NPC, the company responsible for implementing World Design Capital 2014 for Cape Town, that our city’s budget (supplied by the City of Cape Town) is R 40 million, compared to close to R60 million spent by Helsinki two years ago, when that city carried the honour. Budget constraints prevented the creation of City-led design projects in Cape Town, but allowed the city’s design industry to offer its design projects for consideration, and about 450 have become official World Design Capital 2014 projects, summarised in a fold-open brochure. There is no showcase for these projects, the Design Indaba and Guild design fair having been the only two exhibitions where some of the work linked to some of the projects could be seen, unfortunately having run concurrently at the very busy end of February.

A shock is reading Urquhart admit to the journalist that ‘the WDC programme wasn’t designed to attract tourists, but to try to (more…)

WDC 2014 logo Whale Cottage PortfolioThis is one of the hardest blogposts I have written, with a moral dilemma of being an invited guest at what one expected to be a social highlight for the year. The Gala Dinner for Cape Town hosting World Design Capital 2014 turned out to be an embarrassment in poor organisation and food!   We trust that Cape Town Design NPC, the company operating the year-long design accolade, will forgive its frankness.

The Gala Dinner was the first substantial function organised for World Design Capital 2014,  the New Year’s Eve concert having been an event shared with the City of Cape Town, and was intended to be for all the people of Cape Town.  Only 270 guests were invited to the Gala Dinner, and included Cape Town Mayor de Lille and Stellenbosch Mayor Conrad Sidego; Minister of Science and Technology Derek Hanekom; sponsor company representatives such as Media24 Chairman Ton Vosloo; members of the diplomatic corps; top designers; members of the Board of Cape Town Design NPC; and a large media contingent, both local and international.  Given the calibre of the guests, the fact that almost everything was wrong with the evening was an embarrassing disaster!  The dress code was formal with a touch of yellow, given the World Design Capital 2014 colour for the year.  The men seemed better in adding the yellow touches via gold or yellow ties and bow ties, while the ladies struggled to find something yellow in their wardrobes, including Cape Town Design NPC CEO Alayne Reesberg.  SurprisingWDC2014 Gala Dinner Alayne Reesberg was how many guests wore jeans and open shirts, despite the dress code specification.

The dinner was set up in a temporary structure for the Guild Fair, the decor exhibition which is running in conjunction with the Cape Town Art Fair at The Lookout in the V&A Waterfront.  Tables seating 20 guests each were set up in long rows, with no WDC2014 Gala Dinner Yellow beaded animals Whale Cottage Portfoliodecor other than sets of three yellow/gold Monkeybiz beaded animals on the tables.  The last time I was in the neighbouring The Lookout venue was for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards in November, and the New Media Publishing team had done a fantastic job in decorating the massive venue. On Friday night there were no design features at all, and lighting was big industrial spotlights, (more…)

J&B Met 2014The 37th J&B Met will be held at the Kenilworth Racecourse today, the longest standing sport event in the country.  More than 50000 fashionistas, socialites, and horse racing fans are expected to attend the event which has a jackpot of R2,5 million generates about R68 million for Cape Town and the Western Cape, and creates an income of R14 million for fashion design alone.

The theme this year is ‘Made to Conquer – Dress Victoriously’, and will inspire the J&B Met attendees in buying their outfits for the most prestigious society event.  The J&B Most Elegant Couple Competition will acknowledge the most creative interpretation of the theme.  Shop windows of fashion outlets in top Cape Town shopping malls will be dressed to match the theme.

Western Cape Tourism Minister Alan Winde lauded the economic impact of the event: ‘The J&B Met illustrates the importance to our economy of events tourism. It’s one of 19 events which contribute more than R1.3 billion to our regional GDP. In the previous financial year, these major events attracted close to 200 000 tourists to the Western Cape. Over the next few weeks several signature events will be taking place including the Mining Indaba, the Design Indaba and the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. With its R2.5 million main prize, the J & B Met is a premier fixture on the Western Cape’s events calendar. I believe the Western Cape economy is the real winner of the Met, as the event attracts over 50 000 visitors and generates an estimated R68 million for the province. It’s a key economic driver and plays an important role in job creation, most notably in the events tourism space‘.

Entrance to the J&B Lifestyle Village ‘powered by 5FM’ costs R495 (includes entrance, parking, entertainment such as Goldfish (more…)

Bastille Festival WinetimesEvents hosted in the Western Cape generated R1,3 billion for its economy in the last financial year, said Alan Winde, Minister of Finance, Economic Development, and Tourism at the Wesgro AGM last month.

Close to 200 000 tourists were attracted to the province by the 19 events, which included the Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour, the ABSA Cape Epic, the Vodacom Funny Festival, and the Knysna Oyster Festival. The largest money spinners by far for the province in terms of their economic impact are the Cycle Tour (R450 million), Design Indaba (R326 million), and the ABSA Cape Epic (R218 million).

The Minister said that the events list is diverse, reflecting the diversity of the province.  Some events are held in the ‘traditional off-peak season, which is in line with the efforts to ensure the Western Cape is an all-year round destination’.  Unfortunately few of these winter events benefit the tourism industry of the Western Cape, with the exception of the Franschhoek Bastille (more…)

World Design Capital 2014 FrameCape Town Tourism is confident that our city’s designation as World Design Capital 2014 will attract more tourists to our city next year, reported Southern Africa Tourism Update earlier this month.  The year-long event will also position Cape Town on a different platform, and already the first signs of the event are to be seen in Cape Town.

‘World Design Capital provides us with an opportunity to showcase Cape Town as a caring, innovative city in a double-decade-old democracy. The tourism industry has a vital role to play in demonstrating the living story of Cape Town through experiences, tours and our collective destination knowledge. We need to think beyond our traditional tours and packages to offer something that speaks to an evolving and exciting urban brand – not just for World Design Capital 2014 but beyond‘, said Enver Duminy, new CEO of Cape Town.

The International Advisory Committee (which includes Ravi Naidoo of (more…)

Yesterday afternoon Anton Groenewald, Executive Director of the City of Cape Town’s new TEAM (Tourism, Events, Arts, Marketing) Directorate, addressed the French networking group CAP40 at the Alliance Française on the topic ‘Perspective on strategic and policy intiatives to grow the Tourism business in Cape Town‘.  He was described as the ‘keyholder that can unlock tourism to the Cape’. Groenewald has become the most powerful person in Tourism in Cape Town, and has a considerable budget.

Groenewald is an interesting man, very honest (often at his own expense) and direct, very goal-orientated, non-political in his actions, and charming even though he may be ruthlessly honest.  He is not always ‘media-correct’ in his honesty, yet he does not seem to mind being quoted, no matter how sensitive his response may be to the parties he may be commenting about, as we discovered last year when Cape Town Tourism was blowing its own horn about the number of Twitter impressions it had created by inviting four international bloggers to the city. For Groenewald it is all about the bottom line, his mantra being ‘commercialisation’ to achieve revenue targets. His department has promised Cape Town Tourism R117 million for the three year period from 1 July 2013 onwards, but with demanding revenue and commercialisation targets to be achieved. He certainly means business, and was honest in admitting that a head of Cape Town Tourism who has been in the position for nine years no longer is fresh enough to be on top of her game.  He confirmed that its outgoing-CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold did not need any encouragement to not renew her contract.  They will shortly start recruiting a replacement CEO nationally as well as internationally.  His no-nonsense attitude shows when he stopped Cape Town Tourism PR (more…)

A visit to The Woodstock Exchange last week reflected how Woodstock is growing in stature as Cape Town’s design hub, not only in terms of digital design, communications design, but also in terms of food. The Woodstock Exchange opened in December, and has an interesting mix of design-related tenants, restaurants, and food suppliers.

Superette is the most visible tenant from the striking grey and yellow building exterior, taking one of the largest spaces of the building, and its branding is visible from the street on the windows and its canopies.  A number of trendy Vespas are parked outside, and they add to the design attractiveness of the building.  A central passageway has a listing of all the tenants in the building, the upstairs floors occupied by the design agencies with trendy and interesting designer names, such as We are Awesome. Social Plus One, Nice One Steve, Wetink, Wolf & Maiden, Sons & Daughters, and Smellsgood.

My first stop was at Honest Chocolate, where I found Michael de Klerk, in an almost replica of their Wale Street shop, but with a massive back end space, in which they now have a team making the chocolate. They have expanded their repertoire to include three very unusual ice cream flavours, each having a super food added to them, for example Lucuma (a Peruvian fruit) Coconut, Chia (a seed) Chocolate, and Spirulina (seawood) Mint Chip, and costing R34. Michael explained that raw cocoa in itself is a superfood, and the added flavours complement their chocolates. We spoke about their first Design Indaba attendance, where they ran a competition for chocolate bar wrappers, which they extended on to their Facebook page.  He said that The Woodstock Exchange tenants support each other and that they network.  They had considered the V&A Market on the Wharf, but had been worried about the winter trade, Michael said.  Tel 082 736 3889.

Michael referred me to his next door neighbour Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour, a quirky interior giving a parlour feel, with a chest of drawers, and very clever use of old suitcases serving as shelving to display antique tea cups and picture frames. Jessica Bonin started her business in 2010 in an old Jurgens caravan, which she moves to events, or is at Oudekraal with other food trucks.  She wanted to start a ‘tea-volution’, and sells special looseleaf teas, which are classified as being black, white, green, yellow, Oolong, and Puerh.  She describes her business as a ‘Purveyor of magical infusions and tasty curiosities’. Tel 0836282504

Dark Horse and Kingdom are a mix of two design elements forming a whole inside the shop. Dark Horse is a local design studio offering apparel, homeware, and furniture.  Kingdom is a ‘curated exhibit’, I was told, of art, vintage pieces from antique shops sourced from India, Berlin and Denmark.  I was attracted by the hats, some having a vintage feel about them but are brand new. They also sell designer sunglasses, crockery, and jewellery.

Simply Wholesome was a huge disappointment, the shop assistant Gloria being extremely suspicious, withholding information, and not customer-friendly. She emphasised their free-range pasture-reared and grass-fed products of chicken, eggs, bacon and beef.  A big sign in the shop spells out their dedication to sourcing quality products ‘fresh from the farm’, which they monitor at source regularly, they claim. They sell some ready-made pies (R28), quiches (R28), sandwiches (the egg mayonnaise sandwich was on a nice seeded roll but had barely any filling), biscuits, muffins, milk, cheeses, butter, seasonal vegetables and fruit, home made marinades, gluten-free biscuits, raw honey, olives, peach slices, apple cider vinegar, satin tea bags, chutney, pickled onions, Madecasse chocolate, and yoghurt. They also sell teas under the Organic label from The Tea Merchants, the business of the co-owner.  I did like the glass tea pots, with matching glass cups.  They only sell take-out products, and do not have any seating outside their shop to even allow one to eat their sandwiches!  This was the only unfriendly experience in the whole centre.  Tel 021 447-6426.

I just missed the kitchen being open at Ocean Jewels, and bought a packet of calamari (R45) to make at home.  They still have their stand at the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill, and are widely regarded as selling the best quality fish to consumers.  Her sit-down prices are very reasonable, with tuna and salmon burgers and salads costing around R50. Fishcakes, potato wedges and salad costs R30, and hake and chips costs a little more.  They sell prawns, clams, mussels, crabsticks, scallops and smoked salmon too. Tel 083 582 0829.

The friendliest of all the outlets was Pedersen & Lennard and {Field Office}, a furniture design and coffee shop all in one, a sister branch to the one in Barrack Street.  The space in the Woodstock Exchange is larger and has more light, opening on to a sunny deck.  The manageress Roberta Grantham is ex-Botswana, and the friendliest I have experienced in a long time.  She made the visit there an absolute pleasure.  Other than making Deluxe coffees, they do not prepare any food, selling Willy’s Foods’ sandwiches (R35), pies with interesting ingredients such as beef red wine, lemon and chicken, curried vegetable, and beef chocolate chilli (R30), and salads; and lovely lemon polenta cakes (R15), chocolate brownies, milk tart slices (R20), and cup cakes (R15) made by The Little Bakery.   Tel (021) 447-2020. Monday – Friday 8h00 – 17h00.

I arrived at Superette just after the kitchen had closed at 16h00 (an hour before the restaurant closed!), and I was unable to order anything other than liquids from the waiter. When the manager Vuyo returned, he was charming, and I asked him for a simple rye toast with cheese and avocado, which tasted like heaven after an afternoon in the centre and not being able to eat (other than the milk tart) elsewhere in the centre because of the kitchens having closed!   The interior is large, with lots of yellow, a stand selling deli items (including olives, olive oil, Secateurs wines by AA Badenhorst,  honey, nougat, Rosetta coffee – also in the centre but which I did not see, Fruit crisps, Dunk biscuits, rusks, Prince Albert olive oil, tomato chili), and plants hanging from the ceiling, much like Dear Me has.  They serve an all-day breakfast, in a price range of R35 for kippers to R70 for a smoked salmon egg basket.  They also offer toasted banana bread, mushrooms  and beans on toast, and an interesting sounding Nutella-stuffed French Toast! Sandwiches cost R55 – R65, including one with Bratwurst! Bangers and mash costs R65.  A nice touch is that a glass of water is brought to the table automatically.  Tel (021) 802-5525.

The Woodstock Exchange, 66 Albert Road, Woodstock.  Tel (021) 486-5999.  www.woodstockexchange.co.za Twitter @WdstockExchange

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

Franschhoek is upping its gourmet game, with two local chefs having spent some weeks at Noma in Copenhagen, the number one restaurant on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and bearing a 2-Michelin star rating since 2008, in the past three months. Both Chef Shaun Schoeman from Fyndraai Restaurant at Solms-Delta and Chef Chris Erasmus from Pierneef à La Motte returned inspired and have fine-tuned their menus and cooking to incorporate Nordic cuisine into their local gourmet offering.

The restaurant’s philosophy is on the homepage of its website:

“In an effort to shape our way of cooking, we look to our landscape and delve into our ingredients and culture,
hoping to rediscover our history and shape our future
.”

Chef Chris Erasmus, Pierneef à La Motte

Yesterday I met with Chef Chris Erasmus, a week after his return from Noma, at which he had spent close to a month.  I asked him why he had taken the time to leave his post as Executive Chef, and start from scratch at Noma. Chef Chris said he wanted to study how Chef René Redzepi had taken a restaurant which had been laughed at initially for focusing on Nordic cooking, initially not very exciting and then synonymous with ‘whale blubber and fish eyes’ (like Bobotie would be for South African cuisine, he said), and taking it to the number one restaurant in the world, and having kept it there for three years running.  What Chef Chris does at Pierneef à La Motte, in foraging from nature, and in cooking what one has, is reflected at Noma too. Chef Chris has Daniel Kruger growing a range of unusual herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers for him at La Motte,  with only one of 13 items in the salad farm grown, and the balance foraged,  while Noma is supplied by specialist producers.

Chef Chris was impressed by the systems of the restaurants, each person working for the restaurant knowing what is going on.  A meeting is called by the Restaurant Manager prior to service, in which they discuss any specific dietary requirements of guests, so that the chefs are prepared for this upfront, and not told about them when the guests arrive.  The Restaurant Manager, from Australia, is in the running for a Restaurant Manager of the Year Award in Denmark. Chris said that his knowledge is amazing, having spent so much time with the chefs to get to know the dishes that he can cook them himself. There are 45 kitchen chefs, with another 25 volunteers unpaid and just there to learn more from this leading restaurant.  Only two of the chefs are Danish, the others coming from the USA, Australia, Germany, and Mexico in the main.  The rules are strict, and one is expected to follow them 100%.  A mistake made a second time will lead one to be told to leave. Staff are treated politely, even though Chef René can lose his cool on occasion. No dishes are allowed to be photographed or distributed via Social Media by staff or volunteers.

There are three kitchen sections that the volunteers go through, starting with the Preparation Kitchen, foraging produce, and getting them ready. Chef Chris spent less than a week here.  The second level was the Hot Kitchen, dealing with the restaurant service, and here Chef Chris gave more than expected, already coming to work at 5h00 in the morning (instead of 9h00), and usually getting home to the hostel he was staying at at 2h00 instead of the usual 23h00.  This allowed him to work with the other chefs and learn from them, and to show them how eager he was to learn, so that he could move through the three kitchens.  The third kitchen is the experimental Test Kitchen, which has two scientists and a chef, creating new dishes. Lactic acid fermentation is the foundation of many of the new dishes, a natural process bringing out the Umami in food, eradicating the need to add salt or sugar to food.  There is no salt on the restaurant tables, nor is it added to food.  The maximum sugar content of any dish is 12%. They make their own Miso paste too, taking a few months, ant purée, fermented crickets, and more. Chef Chris shared that he tasted bee larva, having a very rich creamy wax taste.

Chef René greets each guest as they arrive at his restaurant. He works seven days a week, even though the restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Chef Chris came to work on Mondays, again to learn as much as possible.  Noma has an excellent Head Chef and Sous Chefs, on whom Chef René can rely while he is busy with the guests, and spends time in the Test Kitchen. The chefs serve the guests.  Waiters cannot work at Noma if they have not studied to be a waiter for three years at a local college.  The role of the waiters is to explain the dishes to the guests. Guests are served 16 ‘snacks’ as a start to the Tasting Menu in rapid succession over 12 minutes, literally a mouthful each. This is followed by four courses, the size of our starters, being a vegetable dish, a meat dish, a fish dish, and a dessert, at a cost of about R2250. The restaurant is flexible in what they serve, to allow for dietary requirements. The Test Kitchen’s role is to add new dishes to the menu, and Chef Chris saw five new dishes being developed in the time that he was there. One of the dishes developed while Chef Chris was in the Test Kitchen was ‘Lacto Plum and Forever Beets’, served with lemon verbena and fennel soup, the beetroot being roasted for three hours, and its leathery skin then peeled off, the inside tasting like liquorice.

To learn from each other, especially the visiting chefs, they have Saturday night ‘Projects’ after service, in the early Sunday morning hours, presenting their own dishes, which are evaluated by the fellow chefs and the scientists.  Chef Chris missed the opportunity to present a dish.

Chef Chris has been inspired by his experience at Noma, and changes are already being made to his current menu.  He has added Lacto-fermented Porcini broth to his menu, inspired by Noma, made by adding salt to the mushrooms and vacuum-packing them, until they ferment at ambient room temperature. This creates enzymes which break down the bad bacteria, bringing out the natural savoury flavour.  The summer menu will be much lighter, with far more foraged herbs and flowers, and some unique vegetables grown for him by Daniel.  Artichokes, peas, and broadbeans are at their best right now, and Chef Chris showed me the some of his vegetables and herbs, which had been picked for him at 10h00 yesterday morning.  They are only using Raspberry Vinegar now, instead of vinaigrettes.  He will focus on only using vegetables and herbs from the La Motte garden.

Chef Chris has invited Chef René to visit (he was in Cape Town for what seemed literally a flying visit in February when he addressed the ‘Design Indaba’).  He was inspired by his experience, and it is visible in his big smile, and new passion for his craft. While others may not have had such a good time, he said that ‘you get out what you put in’. He lost 15 kg in the time, just working and sleeping for a short while.  He can’t wait to go back in a winter time, to see how they use all the preserved foods they prepare in the summer months, such as pickled rosebuds, and fermented plums. Having had to start at the bottom at Noma, he has a better understanding of his staff, yet expects ’150%’ of them, Chef Chris said.  One of his American co-volunteers at Noma started at The Test Kitchen in Cape Town this week.

Chef Chris’ Noma experience, coupled with the fantastic vegetable and herb garden on the farm, are sure to earn Pierneef à La Motte an Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Award in November!

Chef Shaun Schoeman, Fyndraai, Solms-Delta

In June, Chef Shaun Schoeman of Solms-Delta’s Fyndraai Restaurant spent two weeks working in one of the kitchens at Noma.  Chef Shaun’s feedback was that the simplicity of Noma’s menu, which lists items like ‘pike perch and cabbage’‘cooked fava beans and beach herbs’ and ‘the hen and the egg,’ belies its sophisticated appeal, as evidenced by the backlog of keen diners waiting for bookings. Noma is known for its contemporary reinterpretation of Nordic cuisine. This includes a return to the traditional methods of pickling, curing, smoking, and fermenting as well as the integration of many indigenous herbs and plants. Redzepi himself has worked with the world’s best, having spent time at both El Bulli in Spain (when it was the world’s number one restaurant), and the French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley.

“There are many similarities between the kinds of indigenous elements we use here at Fyndraai and what chef Redzepi has become known for in his cuisine,” said Shaun, who felt that he could only benefit from doing a stint at the world-famous Noma. After his acceptance as a stagier, he packed his bags and flew to Copenhagen, where he joined a production kitchen staffed by over 50 chefs from around the world, all there to learn the philosophy and techniques of this influential chef. “Everyone who works at Noma, no matter what their experience, starts in the production kitchen,” explained Shaun, where the standards for preparation and hygiene are exacting and the hours extremely long, with shifts of up to 14 hours. Only after three months will Chef Redzepi consider moving a stagier into the main service kitchen.  Every morning, a group of the production kitchen chefs go out to the nearby seaside to forage for fresh wild herbs and leaves, like nettles, wild rocket, sea coral, and wild garlic. Upon their return, they set to work on their pickings, cutting leaves into uniform sizes, all done on a tray kept over ice. “Temperature is extremely important as the herbs must be kept cold, but never below the temperature of the fridge.”

For a Franschhoek-born and bred native, it was an amazing experience for Shaun. He was overwhelmed by the incredible fresh fish and seafood that came through the production kitchen daily, including live crabs and luscious sea scallops still in their shells. All vegetables were organic and specially grown for the restaurant. A great example of Noma’s high standards was the daily sorting of fresh green peas into varying sizes!  But aside from the differences in product and handling, when it came to the indigenous plants themselves, Shaun found that they were not dramatically different from the plants he relies on at Fyndraai, which are grown in the estate’s Dik Delta Garden. “We have many versions of the same plants, the major difference being that the Scandinavian herbs have more subtlety. South African indigenous herbs are sharper, which means that you really need the knowledge and training to harness their flavour without overpowering dishes.” Shaun returned from Copenhagen infused with energy and appreciation for the wide variety of herbs he has at his discretion, which collectively he refers to as “my baby.” He uses only indigenous herbs grown on site, so management of ingredients is crucial. That said, he feels he has a great deal of flexibility – one of the perks of a kitchen garden – and is always able to find a pleasing substitute if one herb is temporarily depleted.  The ingredient he’s most crazy about is citrus buchu, which he says is the most fantastic herb he’s ever worked with. “It’s got a sexy, citrus flavour that really lifts everything it touches. It works equally well with savoury dishes or desserts, and can be used in anything from infusions to a flavouring in bread rolls.”

He’s also extremely partial to spekboom, a small-leaved succulent also known as ‘elephant bush’, which is very versatile. At Fyndraai, it receives various treatments, from a quick stir-fry to lightly-dressed salad greens, and from pickling to its use as an ingredient in a cold cucumber soup. In its pickled form, it’s one in a range of signature Dik Delta products Shaun has recently started producing and selling on the farm. Some of the others are lemon and wild rosemary chutney, lemon and gemoedsrus (fortified Shiraz) marmalade, and wild herb rubs. Customers love taking these products, which they cannot find elsewhere, home to their own kitchens to experiment with.  “The indigenous herbs play sometimes starring, and more often supporting roles in the food we create at Fyndraai, depending on the nature and flavour of the plants themselves,” Shaun said.  The key is quantity, and knowing how much to add to a dish, and when to add it. Sometimes they are added directly to dishes, at other times infused into sauces, used to create syrups which provide complementary flavours to a dish and even as flavourings in ice cream!  The plants are propagated at Dik Delta, the large ‘kitchen garden’ on the wine estate. The two-hectare veld garden is overseen by a team of trained Solms-Delta residents. It yields crops of dynamic herbs, many of which were on the verge of extinction before the birth of this valuable culinary-bio project.

Today, the garden is the restaurant’s source for everything from wild asparagus to spekboom to makatan, an indigenous melon which Shaun cooks into one of the Dik Delta preserves. The garden is in full spring flower, with sunny yellow patches of honeybush, which flowers will be picked and dried for honeybush tea, and the dark mauve flowers of the Bobbejaantjies (little baboons) or Babiana. While this striking flower is most often used as an ornamental plant, it has a highly nutritious bulb or corm that can be eaten raw or cooked; it tastes a little like a potato and can be used as a vegetable in stews or in salads. Since Fyndraai opened four years ago, cooking with these plants has been an ongoing learning process for Shaun as well as his staff, all of whom were initially kitchen novices. This had many advantages, because they had no preconceived notions or bad habits to break. He is extremely proud of his kitchen crew, who handle the complex menu and its preparations with confidence and expertise.

Pierneef à La Motte, La Motte, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8000.  www.la-motte.com Twitter: @Pierneeflamotte

Fyndraai, Solms-Delta, Delta Road, off R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 874-3937.  www.solms-delta.co.za Twitter: @Solms_Delta

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

It was appropriate for Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development, and Tourism Alan Winde to speak to the Cape Town Press Club about Tourism yesterday, and to announce that his department is working on a plan to establish Cape Town as a hub for the Southern Hemisphere wine industry, in creating a platform for the wines of Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia, given that it was the opening day of CapeWine 2012, probably one of the most significant wine-related tourism events ever held in Cape Town.

Speaking at a Cape Town Press Club lunch at 6 Spin Street yesterday, Minister Winde highlighted that events are an important driver of tourism in the Western Cape, and he highlighted how important wine tourism is for our province, it being a unique tourism product for the Western Cape.  The CapeWine 2012 and Vindaba exhibitions are therefore vital in focusing attention on our highly regarded wine industry, and in attracting local visitors to the Cape.  The Minister related that 41 % of the Western Cape tourists are locals, of which close to 90% are from other parts of the Western Cape, and only 10% are from Gauteng. The Minister would like to see the domestic tourism proportion increase to 50%, to make the Western Cape less susceptible to the impact of the international economy, the effect of the international recession having been felt since 2008.

The Minister welcomed the delegates attending CapeWine 2012 to Cape Town, and invited the public to visit Vindaba on World Tourism Day on Thursday. He said: “Wine tourism in the Western Cape generates income in excess of R5 billion per annum and creates thousands of jobs. We will continue to support the sector to ensure that it grows even bigger and employs even more people. It is also important that liquor and wine traders in our Province operate responsibly. We want traders that are successful and consumers that are healthy”.

Minister Winde also announced a number of other tourism related initiatives he and his department are working on:

*   direct flights between Cape Town and Miami, feeding into the USA as well as South America.

*  a Tourism Business School, to raise the ‘level of competence’ of tourism staff

*  the reduction of the abuse of liquor by implementing stricter rules for the restaurant industry and liquor trade

*   spend more money on tourism marketing, and less on computers in tourism bureaus. He emphasised the importance of spending marketing monies in attracting more of the Gauteng market to the Cape.

*   ensure that SAA has enough capacity to bring more Gauteng tourists to Cape Town – over the past long weekend the flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town were fully booked, which kept potential tourists away from the Western Cape.  He will also address the feedback received from the important wine media, wine trade, sommeliers, and wine lovers attending CapeWine 2012, the German contingent having been on a SAA flight with unfriendly staff, poor food, and very poor wines, the latter running out in Economy class within two hours of the commencement of the flight. The water on board had run out the next morning.  The connecting flight to Cape Town from Johannesburg was missed due to the simultaneous arrival of a number of flights, causing congestion at Passport Control and the baggage retrieval, which meant a three hour (unscheduled) wait at OR Thambo airport.   Minister Winde emphasised that Brand South Africa commences when tourists get onto the plane to South Africa, and not when they set foot in our country or province.  A shock statistic is that there are 36 flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg daily, the 9th busiest route in the world!  It is also equivalent to the number of flights between the USA and Africa.

*   the legislation to allow the incorporation of the previous Cape Town Routes Unlimited into Wesgro is being written

*   Cape Agulhas is being upgraded, with the addition of new benches, the renovation of the lighthouse, and the addition of new signage on the N2.

*  the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe is a cause for concern, and the Minister has received representation from the three Mayors of the towns on the route, as well as a petition with 6000 signatures, calling for the reinstatement of this historic rail route.

*   in the Cape events are vital, and the Minister mentioned the success of the Loeries which had been held in Cape Town over the long weekend, the annual Design Indaba, the Design Capital 2014, the effect of the planned doubling of the Convention Centre which could attract a conference with 16000 delegates being bid for currently, the International Jazz Festival, The Pick ‘n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour, the Wacky Wine Weekend, and the ABSA Epic Cycle Tour.  Ravi Naidoo has achieved such a good international reputation for his work on Design Indaba, that he has been invited to set up Design Shanghai, the Minister shared.

Overall, the Minister wants to see the contribution of Tourism to the economy of the Western Cape increase from the current 10% to 15%.  The success of CapeWine 2012, and its large international contingent attending this prestigious event, must be a sign to the Minister and the local wine and tourism industry what value there is in investing in the marketing of our province’s liquid gold, and its Wine Routes linked to it!

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