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!