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!
In order for a smooth transition from student in a small island training centre to trainee in a world class hotel kitchen with 50 staff, we planned for someone in the hotel to come over to assess the levels of skill of the students and to cover an induction to the hotel.
When we heard that Malika, the executive chef was coming we were thrilled!
To say the week was a success is an understatement. The restaurant was buzzing the whole week with the students making batches of kebabs, sushi, homemade sauces and chutneys. Malika concentrated on a South African street food called Roti, this is a buttered flatbread which is cooked and then topped with a variety of flavourful toppings such as chick pea curry, pickled aubergine, and oven dried tomatoes, salad leaves and basil, cucumber in yoghurt and toasted sesame seeds. It’s a flavour explosion and one that was raved about by all who consumed one or in some cases FOUR!
Hujis Haerlem, my bed and breakfast with bougainvillea by the pool
Heading back to St Helena for the next tranche of preparation for the arrival of the airport in 2015 I am once again passing through Cape Town.
My previous visit coincided with winter here, which is far more benign than that of the UK but nonetheless wet and windy with a few good days dotted about here and there. Rainy days were taken up with visits to well-known restaurants and the customary female habit of appraising the local stores for items as mundane as Woolite hand washing liquid (three varieties over here) and looking for a 6x magnifying mirror (didn’t find one). Sunny days were warm and comfortable enabling me to cover plenty of ground.
As a first visit to Cape Town, the motive to visit anything on the must see (and photograph) list of this well documented city was pretty high. I managed to do this fairly easily as temperatures allowed me to spend a full day out and about with my ever faithful 12kg of camera equipment at my side!
Good job too as I must profess on this visit I have been here for two days now and the camera shutter has yet to be released! ITS TOO HOT! Temperatures during the day have hit between 30 and 35degrees C. I ventured out to the Adderley Street flower market yesterday morning with camera and tripod eager to take some more pictures of the fabulous array of local blooms. The camera didn’t leave its bag, even the flowers looked tired, although I must say that it was a Monday and having spoken to some of the ladies who sell the flowers I am a week too early. Next week being Easter is going to bring in the bumper crop of the current season’s flowers and I will be in St Helena by then!
So it was back to my lovely bed and breakfast where a pot of fresh coffee under the bougainvillea gazebo by the pool made me wonder why I had set out for town in the first place.
Today's lunch was taken perched on a hill above the district known as Bo Kaap. I was lucky to be taken out by an ex colleague who now lives here as to walk up the hill to this place would have finished me off! This area is the home to the Cape Malay people who live in multicoloured houses and who cook in a way which is true fusion cuisine! Asia, Europe and Africa are represented with spices and cooking style. Restaurants are Halal with no alcohol served and are family run.
Bo Kaap Kombuis has the advantage of fine views and a terrace to admire the city from, Looking at the menu I could understand some of the items but had never come across items such as: Denning Vleis, Sosati and Geel rys so in for a penny we ordered Denning Vleis and a Sugar bean curry.
The Denning Vleis was excellent, leg of lamb which had the texture of Confit of duck and the taste of a sticky barbecued meat, almost treacle in colour the main flavours were tamarind and pepper. Surprisingly the accompanyments to the dish were a piped duchesse potato with sprinklings of something akin to Garam Masala over it, a salad topped with a glow in the dark marachino cherry, cubes of roasted aubergine and courgette and a mound of white rice. What a variety! Although I dont think they would have won masterchef the meat was fantastic with only a very slight glow of heat to it. I have tamarind in my fridge at home and I am now committed to getting to know this flavoursome item and its magical tangy acidity.
The bright yellow Sugar Bean Curry was interesting and well made with loads of tumeric in it and chunks of lamb on the bone floating amongst the beans. The beans looked like jelly beans in shape although all cream coloured, with a nice texture, a bit like black eye peas. The accompanying Roti (Flat Bread) was a highlight with a buttery smokey flavour and texture of a thick crepe. My only disappointment was that my dish lacked the glow in the dark cherry which had rekindled memories of snowballs, knickerbocker glories and sweet martinis! Maybe I'll get some on the ship!