Food markets were high on the agenda across the whole visit as it has been identified that this style of catering is cheap and versatile and therefore well suited to this little island.
The Orangezicht City Farm market on Saturdays has a stunning backdrop at the base of Table Mountain in the area behind the Mount Nelson Hotel.
The surrounding market gardens supply the market with dew fresh greens of all colours and sizes.
Veggie stalls are backed up by a mass of home prepared goods such as chutneys, breads, cakes and confectionary. Food stalls offer Dim Sum, Salads, Paella and plenty of coffee! One of the most interesting stalls was a guy making ice cream with liquid Nitrogen-.something I have seen done by Heston Blumenthal.
Moving on from there we then travelled to Stellenbosch where yet another market has evolved.
On Route 44, just outside of town there is a small village of tents, stalls and a stretch of grass with a stage at the end. This was the second experience of the combination of live music and food and boy does it work well.
There must have been in the region of 1000 or more people milling around, eating, people watching and generally enjoying their day. All age groups and nationalities took advantage of the warm sunshine with no one going anywhere in a hurry.
Our food experiences that day included representation from the following countries: Thai Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Mexico, USA, France, Greece, Korea and of course a Massive hit of South Africa in not only food but the massive array of wines to sample.
Monday’s visit to Unilever’s test kitchens in Century City gave us all an opportunity to sample many of the convenience offerings from one of the world’s biggest catering food suppliers.
We were shown a variety of stocks and sauces plus seasonings and magic things to do with instant mash potato!
The gang were split into teams and then were given a couple of hours to come up with a meal using a number of ingredients and the Unilever products.
There was no clear winner as all entered into the challenge with enthusiasm, butternut squash had never been cooked in so many ways in one kitchen!
The Last Word in Constantia is a small luxury hotel owned by the Mantis Hotel Group.
This was another opportunity to examine what our international visitors might expect from a hotel and why they might return to that same hotel year after year.
One of the great selling points of this place were the enormous rooms (Suites actually) with sumptuous and calming décor enhanced by massive windows onto tropical gardens. As the hotel has only 9 suites, the level of service here is naturally top notch with guests almost feeling as if they are almost family by the time they leave.
Following our Constantia visit we managed to fit in a lightning tour of Kirstenbosch Gardens. The world famous gardens had just opened their Tree Canopy Walkway; a cross between a bridge and a flyover for people to walk above the treeline.
St Helena has many valleys and even more trees, some of which are only found on the island so perhaps some day a budding entrepreneur might think that this walkway would work well.
The views from this swaying platform were amazing, look at the pictures. The fact that it swayed was communicated in the notice before walking onto the walkway and I am glad I had read it as you could see the surprise on faces of those who hadn’t.
Three more big highlights to go before heading back to St Helena! The first was a morning spent at the Cape Town convention centre at the Hostex Exhibition which just happened to be on whilst we were in town.
This is an annual coming together of the major catering suppliers across South Africa. It was an eye opener for many of our team and all came away with brochures, samples and one even bought a pizza oven!
More of these events should be visited by Saints as the concentration of information in one area is a great advantage.
Our trip to the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa had been eagerly anticipated as we had driven past the hotel at least three times in the previous week and just wondered at the magnificence of the location.
It must be the most stunning location on the western cape as it is situated around 10 miles out of town on a pristine piece of coastline with a mountain backdrop.
What more would you need!
Numerous awards and accolades have been bestowed upon the hotel and spa in the 12 years it has been owned by the Red Carnation group of luxury hotels. We could see how well justified they are during the four or so hours we spent in the company of the hotel’s management team.
One of the most unique things about the hotel is the massive variety of South African Art on walls, floors and even a sculptured leopard in the middle of the bar.
Our finale to the visit was afternoon tea in the lounge with the stunning backdrop of the 12 Apostles Mountains just outside the window. We just didn't know where to look...was it the dainty cakes or the view which was the most attractive.
Perhaps if I return and do the whole thing again I might just make up my mind.
The final day before boarding the RMS St Helena back home was spent at the CPUT Hotel School which is one of the best Hotel Schools in South Africa.
Our team were shown the facilities, which included a working restaurant and bar area plus fabulous kitchens.
A superb lunch was enjoyed which was cooked and served by the first year students….. so a big thank you and credit to them for achieving such a lovely meal so soon into their training.
Our voyage back to the island gave all time to reflect on the array of experiences and learnings of the three weeks. There is great excitement to share new knowledge and skills back home and there will be plenty of opportunity to do this. St Helena being in such a remote location has many challenges ahead.
I hope that this trip will enable some to consider other solutions to problems and new ways of achieving results. Time will tell!
This was the week that each of the team went their separate ways in order to gain specific experience in the area of their own expertise.
We had work experience scheduled in local gastro pubs, a baking course in Stellenbosch, local supermarket’s food to go and front desk training at the Taj Hotel.
Our three students were embracing their shifts at the Cape Grace Hotel with gusto and returning to our guest house each evening with tales of new skills and new friends.
We were also treated to a show round of an in-flight catering facility which was just mind blowing and something I would recommend to ALL caterers at some time in their career.
The key point here was the incredibly high levels of hygiene and detail which come into place when making meals to go onto airplanes. The words of Riaan Blignaut MD will remain with me for a long time “airline food will never been the most exciting food in the world but it will ALWAYS be the safest”. Just to put it into perspective, I couldn’t take my Camera in as they don’t allow any glass on the premises! I did manage to persuade them to let me use a small camera so we do have some record of the visit!
Friday was a 4.00am start for us all because we had an invite by the owner Patrick Moreau of Cassis to visit one of the best Bakery/Patisseries in the Western Cape. Our fatigue soon departed on entering a wonderland of baking smells and sights. Our arrival was planned to coincide with the departure of bread and pastries which had been prepared that night being sent out on delivery across town. There were loaves and rolls and cakes and buns and tarts and macaroons and more. All looked just picture perfect as if ready for a cook book photo shoot.
We then observed some of the practices in place for the following day, tons of puff pastry being handmade and also Macaroons and a variety of breads and rolls.
Reward for the early start was a French style Brunch at the Cassis Café in the Garden Centre Mall. We endeavoured to sample as much of the menu as possible, managing to consume Croissants, Croque Monisieur, Pain au Chocolate and some gorgeous little potato puffs made from choux pastry plus a variety of pastries and macaroons and a cooked breakfast! All agreed it was well worth the early start.
We have just returned from the long awaited Hospitality upskilling visit to Cape Town. The objectives were varied although to caption them I would say we were looking at all aspects of the industry with a view to bringing back information, inspiration and a way forward. This ranged from health and safety through to customer service and food styles.
10 Saints from all aspects of the industry joined me on the adventure.
Our expedition was a great success, to the extent that I didn’t have time to update this blog whilst on the road. The sheer variety and volume of experiences have intrigued, enticed and inspired our group.
To say the trip has changed lives might be a tad overstated, however the initial signs are pretty positive.
Cape Town in May can be cold and damp. This is a point many of us forgot and I for one spent much of the first week wishing I had packed warmer clothes and especially my socks!
Day one covered a trip down to the Two Oceans Restaurant on Cape Point, this restaurant serves up to 1000 very high quality meals a day in a fantastic setting, miles away from anywhere (sound familiar?). The difficulties of getting supplies and staff were discussed and comparisons made with St Helena.
We also spent a morning at the Cape Grace Hotel on the Waterfront. This was a highpoint for me as we have had a special relationship with the Cape Grace team and three of my sudents were spending part of their visit working in the kitchens of the hotel.
The morning commenced with breakfast in Signal, the hotel’s main restaurant. There was much to be impressed with as the hotel has been voted one of the best in the World! We didn’t even start to dent the buffet which contained fruits of all varieties, cakes, pastries and breads, cereals and yoghurts, meats, fish, fresh juices and much more. The choice of main courses is no less impressive with the full breakfast including steak being a favourite!
The tour of the basement whiskey bar and bedrooms gave the group some idea of the quality at which international Five Star Hotels operate. The talk by Barry Ross, the Head of HR was inspiring with an insight into why the hotel is one of the busiest in Cape Town and why it receives so many accolades: it’s all about the customer.
Weekends in Cape Town are all about food and getting out and about. The Old Biscuit Mill is one of the most popular destinations and rightly so.
. It certainly gave our visitors ideas on how to start a small food business with next to nothing and what quality can be achieved even though the stall is a couple of planks resting on boxes!
Wish we had more of these places in the UK although I guess the hygiene police would put a damper on the proceedings………..I didn’t see many coloured chopping boards!