The annual Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards took place at the Grand Arena at GrandWest in Cape Town on Sunday 19 November. Hosted by Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp, Maps Maponyane, and other celebrity surprises, the ‘Hollywood Glamour’ event was the perfect way to celebrate South Africa’s culinary stars.
“The top chefs and restaurants we celebrated last year have achieved so much since we last met,” said Aileen Lamb, MD of New Media, which owns Eat Out. “This is such a fantastic sign of the growth and health of our industry.”
The biggest winner of the evening was Luke Dale-Roberts. Not only did The Test Kitchen win first place for the sixth year in a row, but three of his other nominated restaurants were ranked in the top 20: Luke Dale-Roberts X The Saxon (19th), The Pot Luck Club (10th), and The Shortmarket Club (8th).
“Eleven years ago, I arrived in this country and this is the award that I wanted and set my sight out for,” he said. “It’s a huge honour and privilege to be able to accept it again this year. It’s not easy trying to maintain those standards and trying to push the envelope but I’m blessed to have phenomenal support behind me. They push it to the next level every day.”
Second place went to Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient. It also won the Eat Out Service Excellence Award and the Eat Out Wine Service Award for sommelier Moses Magwaza.
“For Restaurant Mosaic, 2017 will go down as the ultimate year,” said Chantel Dartnall, who recently won an award for best female chef in the world. “We have reached incredible heights; it’s been phenomenal. And, as everybody has already said, there’s such an incredible movement in food at the moment in South Africa. To be able to stand here, as one of the top 30 restaurants, is the most incredible honour.”
The Eat Out S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year went to Liam Tomlin of Chefs Warehouse & Canteen (a top 30 nominee), with Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia ranking 4th and Thali ranking 16th.
“I’ve also been lucky to surround myself with amazing people,” he said. “That’s what this industry is about: we all look after each other, we all share, and we all help. We’ve got serious talent running our restaurants and we’re blessed that we surround ourselves with amazing people. There’s so much young talent in this country it’s incredible. All the restaurants that have been nominated are breeding grounds for the next generation. It’s brilliant.”
Another winner of more than one award was La Colombe (ranked 7th), whose offshoot La Petite Colombe won the second annual Eat Out Retail Capital New Restaurant of the Year (previous winner was chef Scot Kirton’s Foxcroft, another top 30 nominee) as well as the Eat Out John Psillos Award for Outstanding Contribution to Service for Morne Wessels.
“The greatness of a restaurant depends not only on rigorous routine, quality and excellence, but also the ability to share a vision,” said Eat Out editor and head judge Abigail Donnelly. “These are the restaurants that shape our industry through premium ingredients, stylish places, outstanding service, and a generous passion for their craft.”
Similarly, Camphors at Vergelegen won two awards: the Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award and a 6th place rank overall. And the inaugural Eat Out Graham Beck Chefs’ Chef went to Kobus van der Merwe of Wolfgat, which ranked 13th overall.
“South African chefs are true to their beliefs and concepts, which sets them apart,” Donnelly said. “There is a gutsiness and skill on display. Conscious and ethical dining are the future and it’s remarkable that restaurants are treating this less like a passing trend. If you look at the thirty nominees, it makes you realise just how far this industry has grown in the last ten years.”
Making up the rest of the top 20 are The Restaurant at Waterkloof in Somerset West (3rd), Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort in Cape Town (5th), Overture in Stellenbosch (9th), Jardine Restaurant in Stellenbosch (11th), Foliage in Franschhoek (12th), Jordan Restaurant in Stellenbosch (14th), Fermier Restaurant in Pretoria (15th and winner of the Eat Out Style Award), DW Eleven-13 in Johannesburg (17th), Hartford House in KwaZulu-Natal (18th), and La Tête in Cape Town (20th).
“2017 has left me spellbound,” Donnelly said. “This year has been as fiercely competitive as the last; probably a bit more so as we have so many phenomenal new contenders. There have been many of those knock-your-socks-off moments as the judges and I have eaten through journeys and tours. You might not know them – and you might never know them – but they came, the saw, and they cleaned their plates. And in the process they found out exactly what was cooking in South African restaurants. It was an honour to work alongside these judges.”
The Eat Out Rising Star award went to Kayla-Ann Osborn of The Chefs Table in Umhlanga and the Woolworths TASTE Eat Out Bursary winner was Bryan Mlotshwa. He will now attend the Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
“Eat Out supports the up-and-coming but also the established legends that are dedicated, driven, and devoted,” Donnelly said. “I credit sommeliers, general managers, and all the people who work so hard to make restaurants work so well. But especially the chefs who refuse to lower the bar and who love food and serve it with the pleasure and respect that it deserves.”
The Eat Out Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award went to Letitia Prinsloo, founder of the Institute of Culinary Arts over two decades ago.
“When I started the tiniest chef school in South Africa I only wanted to have six or eight students,” she said. “Then Lannice Snyman put me on the front page of Sunday Times and there was an explosion. This was an incredible year for us. We turned 21 years old and, for the first time ever in South Africa, our school was named a centre of excellence. Then a few months later my head lecturer was awarded on an international level.”
Indeed, her initial dream was to provide South Africa with chefs that could stand on an international level. Clearly, it’s a dream come true.
Discover more great restaurants at www.eatout.co.za.