It is no hardship to tear myself away from my computer, clients and deadlines to be inspired by chefs and their creativity. Having a quick catch-up with head chef/owner Mike Bassett, known for his craft, is leading the charge in terms of sustainability at the stately Vineyard Hotel in leafy Newlands. He ensures that they source ethically raised, sustainable produce through initiatives like ABALOBI.
Germaine Esau, chef de cuisine at one-plated Myoga, is playing beautifully with fresh and foraged ingredients, plating like a pro and pulling dishes together to create indelible food memories. I asked Germaine how the food landscape has changed for him in the last year, and he was confident in replying, “There is less flamboyance, it is more about the product. If there is smoke and nitrogen, it is carefully thought-out theatre, not for the sake of it.” Classically French-trained, so flawless technique will always be a foundation of his food. “The season guides us. We are serving the best produce, served at prime, cooked in the best way.” Dishes on the elements menu are linked to earth, wind, fire, water and aether (quintessence).
I was joined for a tasting spree by fellow food passonista, chef and author Marlene van der Westhuizen, to talk about plates, hers and ours. She has been winging her way around the country launching her beautiful new recipe book, Plate. On the cover is one of Mervyn Gers’ first successes with clay, a plate from the M Collection. Whilst we compared industry notes, we too relished each plate that Germaine presented, practicing for his new autumn menu that launched this week. From the confit carrot bao with coconut and nam jim emulsion and delicious homemade breads to scallops, from avocado presented in a myriad of ways to venison cooked to perfection. Desserts vied for our vote – would the light rendition of Pina Colada win, or the decadent chocolate dessert? It was a tie. I asked Germaine what he chooses to eat in down time with his wife and toddler. “Whole wheat toast with scrambled egg, tomato sauce (hopefully homemade?) and a good cup of coffee!”
Whilst they may have toned down the theatre a tad, there is still intrigue and a wow factor. Fewer elements, in harmony, makes sense.