A Culinary Tour of Cape Town
I was contacted by the lovely folk at the Irish Food Board earlier this year to assist them in putting together a week-long, fairly intense culinary tour of Cape Town for a team of 12 of their members. Daunted but thrilled with the challenge, I roped in my dear friend Dawn Jorgensen, who creates safari and dream holiday packages to Southern and East Africa. Little did we know that in addition to crafting an itinerary we’d be invited to accompany our guests too. So, out went the plans of hiring a regular tour guide. It was us and them, and did we have a fun week!
I trawled my little black book and along with Tom Collins, the insight and innovation analyst at Bord Bia, we fashioned an itinerary that showcased the best, tastiest and industry-related experiences that the Board was after for their inspiration and scouting mission to the Mother City. Dawn and I wanted to share as much of the Mzanzi spirit with our guests as we could. The best feedback we received, unanimously from everyone, was that they wanted to return with their families to Cape Town and surrounds to enjoy and savour at leisure.
We were met with the hospitality South Africans are rightfully known for and nothing was too great or too small a request. An example: one restaurant generously opened way before trading hours especially for us, having taken our orders in advance so that we could be in time for the next appointment.
The experience, for both Dawn and I, was a combination of rewarding and educational. We were forced at times to look at the local food scene in a new way, and to think about habits, trends, the price of labour, all the while discussing and comparing Irish and South African produce, production methods and technology as well as ethics.
Many of our guests come from families belonging to a trade or farming concern for generations – butchers, farmers, bakers and so on. The collective expertise of our group was humbling and as we shared our local experiences, we lapped up the insight they continuously shared, sometimes bursting into song. Them, not us. As can be expected from the fun-loving Irish.
A highlight for us, was the midweek South African braai (barbeque) we held on the roof top of the Grand Daddy Hotel, where we were adressed by our charming, erudite host Michael Oliver . Sharing the stories about their journey in the food industry Julie Carter of Ocean Jewels, Richard Bosman of Richard Bosman Quality Cured Meats, Matt Allison, urban farmer and ever-evolving stay at home dad and Jason Lilley, artisan baker whom we visited at his Bree Street store earlier in the week. Over peppermint tart and more wine, in the early hours of the morning, we listened to stories about home and melodious song after song. A very special night.
These are some of the images from our week together. There were meetings, strategy sessions, supermarket and market visits scouting for innovative packaging and design, in between the eating and drinking. All work, all play!
A heartfelt thank you to all our people who gave us their time and expertise, as well as those who answered our our cold-calls and emails, making many important meetings and experiences possible. And thank you to Tom and Helen King for assigning us with this task. It was the impetus Dawn and I needed for a project we are working on as a result, and we will share more as soon as we can.