The Culinary Art of Healthy Fine Dining

Pictures: Paige Derbyshire

Duo of Vegetable Terrines



The 4th year Culinary Art students at the department of Consumer and Food Sciences at the University of Pretoria recently presented a French Bistro Evening instigated by the French Embassy’s promotion of the international Goût de France (taste of France) to be followed this coming Saturday by something completely different – a healthy fine dining dinner in collaboration with Mpho Thsukudu – a registered dietitian and published author, a specialist in the practicalities of healthy eating.

Planning for the French evening was as much fun as the actual night says guest chef Renée Conradie who spent many years in France where she enhanced her already flourishing accomplishments in the kitchen. “I was flattered to have been asked and then honoured to work with such diligent and innovative fourth year students.”

They picked a bistro evening after much deliberation because it would be the most convivial and celebrates hearty food. Their biggest challenge was to stay within a budget as they thought lamb (it was close to Easter) would be the best main course.
Two different vegetable terrines, a seven-hour lamb from the lesser known Auvergne region chosen specifically for that reason, a classic cheese platter and a deconstruction of the classic Tarte Tatin completed the menu on the night.

The planning, invitations, preparations and managing were all handled by the very capable students while the chef just kept an eye on the lamb.

As always, it was an excellent night from many different vantage points. For those dining, it was inspiring to see the students excel in these professional circumstances but also, because it’s a culinary institution, the menu reflects (is often ahead of) contemporary cuisine and its an easy way to keep in touch with what is happening in the ever-changing culinary landscape. It is most importantly also a learning experience – and sometimes the lessons are tough!


Presented by the French Embassy and Plaisir de Merle (the wine on the night), the amuse bouche introduced French flair with Lavender-inspired crisp wafers with black tapenade served with Grand Brut MCC followed by the visually pleasing terrines: a carrot, beetroot and turnip, paired with leek (served with Chardonnay).

The tasty seven-hour lamb with wine sauce served with carrots and potato (and Cabarnet Sauvignon) could not have been more hearty as suggested but a tad dry and might have benefitted from a more substantial sauce (which was the lesson on the night); and this was followed by the typically French-inspired fromage course, a selection of artisanal cheeses (with Malbec) and beautifully concluded with the deconstructed Tarte Tatin served with Pastis crème Anglaise (and Merlot).

The next food adventure by the final year Culinary Art students aims to celebrate nutritious food in a South African context, while remaining flavourful. Many people might think this is impossible but in today’s high-stress world it is no longer an option if you want optimum health.

According to Culinary Arts lecturer, Hennie Fisher, the only thing most practitioners of food health agree on, is the volume/portioning that we eat; that we should eat less – for the rest there is little sound scientific evidence about what is healthy and what not.


He notes that for many years Oprah Winfrey tried to make people understand that you could actually lose weight by eating chocolate (only just enough for one’s energy needs of course – a practice that would nutritionally be very dangerous, but not impossible). “So I suppose we are left to our own interpretation.”

On that note, he follows a philosophy of food health that trusts in eating anything which has the least processing involved. “Food is something (like humans) that is found in a specific state here on earth, and if one starts analysing what ‘processing’ of food implies, one soon finds that it automatically discounts things like coffee, tea, chocolate, cream, bread, etc. – those are all food products that have been changed from its natural state.

“If one could minimise that, and just keep to food elements in their most raw/basic state, you’d still be able to eat a potato, or eat a yummy sweet strawberry, but sugar and oils are not part of that deal.”

With this meal, the goal is to see how culinary people interpret a menu in the context of health – to see if they can create a menu that is ‘healthy’? He explains that they also hope to make people aware that fine dining and health can sit side by side in the same category.

It should be everyone’s aim to make mouth-watering food without instantly grabbing the easy taste drivers like oil and sugar. Making delicious and tasty but healthy food naturally comes with more effort, because it steers clear of the elements that usually provide instant taste gratification. “It’s all about giving the diner the same sensory satisfaction but without the elements that would be considered unhealthy and that is no easy feat. And perhaps that is our only resolve as a species for the future in terms of our food-related health; to learn how to make amazing food whilst considering our health,” he concludes.

The menu at R250 starts with an oyster and cucumber jelly and an oyster and mushroom Rockefeller (Sauvignon Blanc); an entrée of Springbok carpaccio with chickpea and rooibos cream, millet, carrot and pumpkin seed salad and cured egg yolk (Shiraz); for mains a pan seared ostrich (for obvious reasons) with carrot mash, scorched brussel sprouts, popped sorghum, Parmesan zucchini and glace de viande (single malt whisky); and perhaps most importantly/challenging, dessert with a poached apple with apple sorbet and roast pineapple with pineapple sorbet with a seed cracker, waterbessie reduction and aquafaba (water of chickpeas) meringue (sherry cocktail).

The thinking when one looks at the menu is obvious and there’s no doubt in my mind, that the students in the capable hands of Thsukudu will pull this one off – deliciously!

If anyone is interested or needs more detail, contact

In conversation and with his cuisine, Shuichiro Kawaguchi gets you smiling

Shuichiro Kawaguchi with his much loved butternut

Most people have some kind of obsession – some good, others not so much. For Shuichiro Kawaguchi it has always been food. He loves to cook and with the results, he hopes to charm – or simply get you to smile. DIANE DE BEER who has tasted his extravagant cooking, discovers his latest passion – butternut. He shares his thoughts on what he regards as a remarkable ingredient with which to experiment:



When Shuichiro Kawaguchi (Minister-Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Japanese Embassy) talks about food, it always makes you smile.

Such is his passion, one that was cultivated by his mother from an early age, that his stories and his obsession – the best kind – have that effect. In fact, he says he is motivated to cook for others because it puts a smile on their face. And he certainly does that – in conversation or with his cuisine.


He was raised in a family where food played a key role. His love of cooking was encouraged by his mother while his father loved tasty food. Once he got married, his passion for cooking became even stronger because as his family grew, he always had an audience and they kept smiling.

Not only is he an extraordinary cook, but in Africa, Japanese cuisine (perhaps sushi aside) is not that familiar and as he cooks with a French and Japanese flair combined, the results are quite stunning.

Speaking to him recently about his latest mission, it didn’t take long before I was completely hooked. This time his fancy is butternut. “I was motivated by a Japanese friend during a Facebook conversation when they insisted butternut didn’t taste good.” That’s his explanation and he is sticking to that.


He wanted to prove that she was wrong, and he knew with the specific qualities of butternut – sweet, creamy and rich – he had more than enough to work with.

It’s not that butternuts aren’t cultivated in Japan, but they’re not as good as what he has found here and they’re very expensive. He can talk with authority, because for the past year starting on July 24 last year, he has invented a new recipe with butternut as the star, daily, and has up to now, collected more than 230 recipes.

He has taken inspiration from others, but when he works from a recipe, and that’s not often, he makes it his own.

And when you ask him about the length of time this fancy is going to last, he smiles and says, as long as it takes.

Japanese Flavoured Mousse
Japanese Flavoured Mousse

He reminded me of Faust’s pact with the devil and says that he will go up to 800 or the perfect tasting dish, whichever comes first. Only then will he consider publishing a book of butternut recipes and turn his food flavours in a different direction.

He and his wife have five children, two whom are currently with them in Tshwane, and he concedes that they might be bored with butternut, but he hasn’t quite achieved the brilliance he is hoping will conclude this project.

It started with the ubiquitous butternut soup and his version persuaded him to keep going. “I started really liking the taste and was determined to prove my point,” he explains.

All his experiments have detailed recipes as well as pictures of the process concluding with the finished dish. The quality is fine dining and his family don’t have much to complain about. Few of us would argue if this is the quality of food placed in front of us – even if all of it has butternut at its centre.

Mock Deep-fried Carp
Mock deep-fried Carp

Talk to him about the diversity of the dishes and he shows a picture of butternut cookies and talks about pickled butternut which has a sweet and sour taste. Every dish is given a name like (the Munch) Scream or Flower World, Self-Portrait or Sunset in Pretoria, the names as imaginative as the project.

He has also after the number of recipes cooked, become the authority on butternut. He buys in bulk at his local greengrocer because it’s so much cheaper and prefers a young squash because it is less sweet and the texture much more flexible. The more mature the butternut, the sweeter the flesh and the more fragile, which is also useful for specific recipes.

You can even eat it fresh, he says. What he does is slice it very thinly and then dips it into salt. He also likes baking it whole, almost char-grilling at a high temperature, which results in deliciously soft butternut which he eats simply with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Because it’s not a vegetable with a strong taste, salt should be used sparingly, but that also means that it adapts easily to different taste experiments.

He has no problems inventing new recipes because his years of cooking have provided a great memory bank on which to draw and he does grocery shopping on an almost daily basis which further invigorates his imagination.

On previous postings, when he was in Tanzania, he had his own television cooking programme and in Finland he cooked for a Finnish/Japanese society to further expose them to Japanese cuisine and extend his own cooking experiences.

Having been a guest at an eight-course dining extravaganza at his home, it is evident that this is his life’s mission. “It’s like a music concert,” says the Minister who is also an accomplished violinist, “only, I entertain with food.”

If you want to try one of Kawaguchi recipes, here’s a simple but delicious sample:

Almond Butternut Cake
Almond Butternut Cake

Almond Butternut Cake:


1 Cup Butternut puree
Almond flour  200g
Sugar  200g
Wheat Flour    150g
Eggs   8
Butter  250g
A few drops of Almond essence




1: Pre-heat the oven at 170℃.
2: Combine all the ingredient except butter together and mix well, then add melted butter and mix well.
3: Put the dough into a cake pan with a bake sheet on the bottom.
4: Bake for about 45 minutes until done.
5: Serve with whipped cream or ice-cream

Check Him Out On M-Net’s Masterchef, But Yotam Ottolenghi Is All About The Sweet Stuff With His Book Sweet

The three Masterchef judges with Yotam Ottolenghi

IF  you’re a Yotam Ottolenghi fan, switch on your TV tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday (February 26,27 and 28) and watch M-Net. The chef of the moment on local screens, DIANE DE BEER spotlights his latest book Sweet by Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (Edbury Press):



If you haven’t heard of Yotam Ottolengi yet, now’s your chance.  He is currently the inspiring celebrity chef on the Australian Masterchef season being broadcast on DStv’s M-Net and should be there until mid-week.

He’s an amazing chef and first caught the world’s attention with his first cookbook, Ottolenghi, which he did together with Sami Tamimi.  Jewish from Italian and German descent, he met Tamimi, an Arab-Palestinian at a London artisanal pastry shop where the two of them worked together discovering that they had grown up in Jerusalem only a few miles apart – naturally on opposite sides of the conflict which makes their (in-the-kitchen) coming together all the more special.

It is an intriguing tale of these two men who had to travel all the way to London and meet at their place of work, in a kitchen, after which they opened their first deli together. In their book Jerusalem, they tell the story of how the flavours and smells of the city is “their mother tongue. Everything we cook and everything we taste is filtered through the prism of our childhood experiences: foods our mothers fed us, wild herbs picked on school trips, days spent in markets, the smell of soil on a summer’s day, goat and sheep roaming the hills, fresh pitas with minced lamb, chopped parsley, chopped liver, black figs, smoky chops, syrupy cakes crumbly cookies.”

Their books tell you everything about the chefs and in his latest Sweet, Ottolenghi has teamed up with Helen Goh, someone he has come to appreciate for the finest qualities she brought with her all the way from Australia where she had a professional history as a pastry chef and a psychotherapist. “What we shared,” he writes in Sweet’s introduction is “this kind of intensity and commitment that has been a constant throughout Helen’s different roles in Ottolenghi.”

While she I accomplished and has many talents, more than anything else, it is with her cakes – and, he says, he uses the term very loosely here, to mean anything from “a dreamy chocolate chip cookie, to a light-as-a-feather meringue roulade, to a rum and raisin bundt with caramel dripping down its sides – that Helen carved her inspired mark on our food.”

He also makes it clear that Sweet as the title suggests is a book filled with sugar. “There’s so much sugar in this book that we thought about calling it, well, Sugar. It’s all about celebrating the sweet things in life. Even though they are aware of the current concerns about the adverse effects of sugar, this is a recipe book full of over 110 wonderful sweet things.”

If you want to know how to slip into Ottollenghi’s heart, it’s around a spread of food. “I bonded with Sami in this way all those years ago, then with Ramael Scully, co-author of Nopi: The Cookbook, who taught me to love miso and appreciate a few new cooking techniques. My friendship with Helen was formed mostly around a piece of cake.”

If sweet things are your passion, there can be no better test than this one. Flipping through the pictures featured are enough to get those juices flowing and when you realise how passionate the two pastry specialists are about cakes and anything sweet, that has to be your ultimate yardstick. You cannot take sweet advice from someone who doesn’t completely buy into the celebratory confection of it all. It’s easy to see that these two do.

And if you haven’t met Ottolenghi and his amazing recipes yet, first catch him on M-Net tonight, tomorrow and possibly Wednesday as well (they did say all week and the first one was last Thursday), turn on the TV at 5.45pm and see this amazing man in action.

He says this is the first time he has agreed to participate in this kind of competition, because he felt that this Masterchef was more about the personal development of the contestants than the competition.

You will lose your heart to the chef and his food.

Tshwane Foodie Adventures Plentiful in The Village Where the Mood is Mellow

Platter of dimsum
Platter of dimsum at Cowfish


Tshwane has become quite the foodie town in the new millennium and its playing power is diversity. There’s not much you’re not going to find in the capital city when talking cuisine.

The latest stomping ground, for the past two years at least but still growing and evolving, is an area called The Village in Hazelwood. There are many favourites starting with the Italian granddaddy, Alfie’s Italian Café in Hazelwood Road as well as its offshoot just around the corner, Alfie’s Pizzeria and Deli in 16th street.

On either side, there’s Salt that offers modern deli fare and Culture Club – Bar de Tapas that does a mean and very generous tapas menu as well as one of the popular Burger Bistros (the original is in Pierneef Street, Villieria).

The feel of The Village is modern, it’s young without being exclusionary, the prices are competitive, and the service is attentive overall. Parking is available and the mood is mellow especially on warm Pretoria nights.

The thing about The Village is the ambience. Starting in Hazelwood Road and turning into 16th Street, which is dedicated to different dining options, it represents smart pavement eating, which – with Pretoria’s fair weather – is simply the best.

In the past, because of some archaic laws, very few restaurants had an outside option, but it has become almost obligatory and suits this area to a T. The selection on all fronts is great, and you can pick something to suit your fetish for that day or night. Meals can be gargantuan or a light lunch, it’s all out there on a platter for you to sample.

Perhaps for the moment, it captures Pretoria’s strengths best. This is truly fine modern dining from hamburgers to pizzas to Portuguese balachau to Asian inspired cuisine, pasta and freshly baked breads and patisserie.

Two of the youngest kids on the block are the Portuguese flavoured Ozé Café & Bistro and Cowfish, which specialises in meat and fish.

Oze interior
Ozé Café and Bistro
  • Ozé Café and Bistro, 24 16th Street, Hazelwood, Pretoria; Tel: 012 346 0150

If Portuguese is your preference, the menu is modern with a good smattering of both fish and meat. It was a fishy day for us and we opted for the sardine starter and one portion of prawns to share. They didn’t have either clams or the tentacles for the octopus salad but perhaps the festive season played havoc with availability.

The sardines, a special on the day, were extraordinary with a helping of boiled potatoes and veggies. Everything seemed very straightforward with quality ingredients doing the trick. It was the perfect choice, followed by a half-serving of the smaller portion (250g) of prawns, grilled to perfection as the menu said it would be, served with a salad. But there was a choice if you favoured chips for example.

All we needed to conclude the meal was something sweet, and again their donuts weren’t available but that wasn’t a train smash with a serving of pastéis de nata (two mini pastries per portion) not to be missed. It was one of the best I’ve had and a sweet conclusion to a lovely lunch.

Oze's pasteis de nata
Oze’s Pasteis de Nata

With a cocktail bar on the premises, their drinks menu is innovative and fun with a wine list that offers different by-the-glass options.

If meat is your food of choice, the delights are many with chourico, chicken livers, trinchado and buffalo wings on the starter menu and for mains, chicken or beef espetada or the usual steak options (300g) with a choice of either fresh cut chips, boiled potatoes, mixed vegetables, Pretoria’s ubiquitous creamed spinach, or Portuguese salad or rice.

I am also tempted by some of their sandwiches like the Portuguese bun layered with cured chourico and Terra Nostra cheese or the Portuguese French Toast (Rabanadas), buttermilk dipped, fresh cut strawberries, bacon, maple syrup and mascarpone cream. It sounds deliciously decadent.

Our bill with a tip was R400 which included two coffees (R40) as well as the drinks (wine R60, Bloody Mary, R40). That’s not a bad deal.

Cowfish interiors
Cowfish Interiors
  • Cowfish, 11 Hazelwood Road, Hazelwood, Pretoria; 074 111 8033

As the name suggests, Cowfish has a menu which represents a specific spectrum, with the accent on hamburgers, sushi, dim sum, signature plates and cocktails – arguably an odd mix and yet, it opens up a choice which in its quirkiness allows for a fun meal. It also encourages sharing, with, for example, a dim sum platter (R165) which was our first choice with the possibility of something else to follow.

We selected the 9-piece platter with three flavours of our choice which included beef, lamb potsticker, pork and shrimp, prawn and cream cheese, chicken, coriander and cashew nuts or chicken, ginger and spring onion or a dim sum classic, sui mai  (prawn, chicken and tobiko). For vegetarians, they have spinach, cream cheese and spring onion. It’s a broad selection and will take a few tries for you to find your favourites.

Prawn tempura at Cowfish
Prawn tempura at Cowfish

It was a great start to the meal, but we were ready for another small bite with the prawn tempura (three crispy prawns served with Teriyaki sauce, creamy spice and mayo, R110) a winner.

They were almost too pretty to eat and a smart accompaniment to the dim sum.

But we had only sampled a minor selection of a menu that is as intriguing as it is imaginative. Their signature plates, for example, include a tomahawk steak (ribeye on the bone – 600g – which offers great presentation and bulk), ribs (wok-grilled pork ribs served with a chilli soya barbeque basting), chicken Katsu (crispy fried chicken strips in Japanese breadcrumbs and plum sauce) and a Teriyaki salmon steak.

The hamburger menu is also enticing with a Kaizer cheese, Ravenous Pig and Belfast Boy all begging for closer inspection as do their salted prawns and squid salad or their Vietnamese calamari.

On the sweet side they have Kawasura rolls (spring rolls filled with strawberry, hazelnuts, dark and white chocolate served with ice cream), deep-fried ice cream or chocolate meltdown. They specialise in cocktails but also have a fair selection of wine and beer which is good to go with the hamburgers.

It’s a laid-back, easy vibe, the staff are friendly and attentive and with both these options, I’ll return for more foodie adventures.


Nostalgic Food for Friends and Family


For Friends & Family

For Friends and Family by Nicky Stubbs (Human and Rousseau):



Everything about this book screams nostalgia and when you ask Nicky Stubbs about her love for food, she points to the Elisabeth Luard quotation at the beginning of her book:

Meanwhile I have discovered no panacea for the troubles which afflict humanity – unless it is that a meal shared round the kitchen table serves both as a celebration of the good times and a comfort in times of trouble. At the end of it all, I can only echo the words of wise clergyman, the Reverend Sydney Smith (now there was a man for good advice): ‘Take a short view of life. Look no further than dinner or tea.’

– Elizabeth Luard, Family Life –

Nicky Stubbs Credit Philippa Hetherington
Author Nicky Stubbs. Picture Philippa Hetherington

And this book in particular happened when the author was sifting through a lifetime of recipes to gather them all in one place. “I was missing my parents terribly and found it comforting to immerse myself in the recipes that I grew up with.” What she thought in the process of sorting, was that this was a cookbook she would love to have.

Hence For Friends and Family. She  wanted to achieve a book that would be helpful, useful and practical for all cooks, from beginners to specialists – the family’s go-to cookbook in fact!

The book fell into a natural order based on solid useful everyday recipes with special recipes for high days and holidays – which is exactly what she had wished for.

It’s a book with equal emphasis on family and food. “The family photos, food photography and beautiful layout and cover still take my breath away. It appeals to children as young as six and to the best cooks I know,” she notes.

Because she was so clear on what she wanted to achieve, the book was written in a two weeks during a family holiday where she would wake up at 4 in the morning to write until the family woke up. She then handed the manuscript to a remarkable design/editing/cooking/styling team to turn it into what is her dream cookbook.

family and friends

“All the crockery and cutlery used in the food shots are mine, the photos are family archive pics taken by my mother and the contemporary mood shots were taken by my sister. The end papers are taken from paintings I inherited from my uncle,” she says which explains why this is a book that reads and feels like a family love letter.

From start to finish, Stubbs has not only selected the recipes from her family and friends, but also infused the book with the way she feels about the people around her. It’s memories she shares with the world and something all of us recognise.

The recipes naturally have a South African flavour with milk tart and bobotie and many other familiar local favourites even if not always strictly from here. But as Stubbs desired, she now has all the best recipes gathered and bound in one book.

“I suppose in a way, South African cuisine is fusion cooking at its best,” she explains. “It’s a fusion of ingredients, cooking cultures, proud communities, abundant fresh and seasonal ingredients woven together.”

And the recipes she selected for this book are those she can’t live without when travelling and the recipes which are the most crowd-pleasing.

When paging through, it is a book filled with the warmth and love of family food from stewed fruit (remember those?) to oats and Maltabella, French toast (each family has its own version), kedgeree and sweetcorn fritters, and … wait for it: macaroni cheese.

All of these would have been part of a white South African family table of a certain time.

It’s fun to check them out, see these particular versions and explore the unfamiliar or twists to recipes that are part of most repertoires. From Sunday lunches to heirloom recipes, childhood favourites and old-fashioned classics, it’s all here from the crème brûlée to the irresistible fudge, pears in red wine (which seems to pop out as a classic each alternative decade), profiteroles, meringues, rocky roads, and brownies.

It’s yum!

Sugar and spice and all things nice, the cuisine of Mosaic chef Chantel Dartnall


chantel dartnall 4
Chantel Dartnall

One of the few Gauteng chefs not disregarded by national (and international) food award judges, Chantel Dartnall from Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient (just outside Tshwane), is someone who is constantly evolving, never resting on her laurels.

She has just been named the world’s Best Female Chef at The Best Chef Awards 2017, which took place in Warsaw.

She was also placed at number 32 in the Best Chef Awards Top 100 list for 2017, ahead of luminaries such Spain’s Elena Arzak at 33, France’s Sebastien Bras at 35 and celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal at No 37. Dartnall was also the only South African chef listed in the top 100.

Launched in Poland in 2016, this international competition seeks out the world’s top chefs in terms of culinary artistry and visual presentation. The winning chefs are selected in six categories by 300 voters comprising chefs, food writers and culinary experts across the globe as well as 1,5 million followers on the competition’s digital platform.

Dartnall – who has twice been named South Africa’s Chef of the Year – beat out strong competition from globally acclaimed chefs including the aforementioned Arzak (Best Chef – Lady 2016 winner) of the three Michelin starred restaurant Arzak; Emma Bengtsson who is at the helm of the two Michelin-starred Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit in New York; Sophie Pic who gained three Michelin stars for her restaurant, Maison Pic in France and Clare Smyth, the first and only female chef to run a restaurant with three Michelin-stars in the UK with her establishment Core.

She takes everything she does seriously and yet, she’s always visible to her customers and ready to talk food. She loves sharing her inspirational ideas and talking about the origin and where her current interests lie.

soupe du jour 2
Cauliflower, Goose Liver Mousse, Brussel Sprouts, Black Truffle, part of her Autumn menu and demonstrated for the students

Seeing her work with the students from the University of Pretoria’s Department of Consumer Science recently when they launched their new kitchens, another side of her personality emerges. She’s comfortable and eager to pass on her trade secrets and because of her high profile in the industry, large crowds don’t faze her. She loves ploughing back and remembers how and where she started and the hard work it takes.

It was 11 years ago when she started cooking in the Mosaic kitchens. Having worked in a few commercial kitchens following her graduation, it was here she started formulating her future. From those early days, her food had a special quality. One immediately knew that this was something worth experiencing and through the years, while paying her dues (with tough lessons along the way), she signaled that she would realise her full potential … and more.

tidal pool 2
Tidal pool with Salmon Ceviche, Verbena aspic, Vanilla, Seaweed Salad

It was clear even then that she would develop and establish a signature style and that she understood the process. Each season with menu changes, the growth was visible and her creativity intensely personal. She is someone who travels regularly as she samples food from the top tables around the world and then she invests in her own imagination which is at the heart of her cooking.

“I think the biggest change over the past 11 years was moving from an environment that was new and uncertain for all of us – to the space we are now.” The word she uses to describe that is confident which is a great place to be. It brings belief and allows you to constantly leap those barriers.

Her Autumn menu which has just run its course was spectacular – a visual feast. And then it excelled as a taste sensation. Named Tabula Rasa (a Latin phrase referring to a blank slate and anything existing undisturbed in its original pure state) and her commitment towards a natural approach was clear.

She has always been able to achieve magnificent visual explosions. It’s almost like being embraced by a colourful Spring garden. You want to sit back and wallow in the exquisite picture. It’s always been a magical part of a Mosaic meal.

A plate of dreams

How many times have I just marvelled at the magnificence of the plate? Not the food, before I even get to that, the physical plate! They’re so rare and so perfectly picked for each dish, its hard to resist as they linger in your mind’s eye

And then the detail of the dish itself. I have always thought that Chantel’s food should be savoured and shared on rare occasions. It’s that special and I have been privileged countless times. It is all in the detail, the delicacy of the plating and the deliciousness of the food.

sea mist 1
Sea Mist with East Coast Lobster, Saffron, Coral

She says that through the years, their emphasis has become more pure. “The focus is truly on emulating nature in each of our creations.” There’s no chance of leaving Mosaic without feeling spectacularly spoilt. Everything possible is done to make sure it is a rare night.

If this sounds like a total rave, that it is. But I have been a guest for all 11 years and witnessing the transformation has been special especially as part of the Pretoria food scene. We have many fine unacknowledged chefs and restaurants in the city arguably because they don’t fit into the standard requirements, but Mosaic was determined not to be ignored and they shouldn’t be.

african aromas 1
African aromas with venison, Madumbi, Soetdoring Smoke

Confidence has allowed them to move on and forward and the current object foremost in Chantel’s head and probably heart is her Spring menu which launched on the Equinox (September 22). Titled Cosmorganic it alludes to the “supposed character of the universe as a living organism whose atoms are endowed with sensibility, asserting that the organic in the whole of the universe as well as in the narrow sphere of a single body on the earth, is the first thing from which the inorganic is separated.”

That’s a mouthful, but then so is Chantel’s thought-processes as she creates the individual dishes. Just look at the pictures of the individual plates from the Autumn menu, each one with its own story and personality.

first frost 1
First Frost with Forelle Pear, Ivoire Chocolate, Tonka

These meals do not come easily and they’re pricey. Their Market Degustation menu of five courses is R850 and their Grande Degustation of eight courses is R1 250, that is without the wine pairing which adds respectively R460 and R585. I will easily pay that for the meals I have been fortunate to enjoy. It’s something unforgettably special and if food is a passion for you especially when this kind of artistry comes into play, save the money and go. It will be memorable.

Mosaic is an experience and as much as it is about food it is also about the people who are watched over by Chantel’s adorable mom Mari. She’s always there to greet you, to see that your every need is met and to make sure you’re personally cared for. Add to that the sommelier team of Germain Lehodey and his protégé, commis sommelier Moses Magwaza, who inform you of the luxurious wines you’re being served.

What I feel about Mosaic comes from the heart and in the end, it truly is about sweetly savouring every mouthful – and reveling in the moment.

Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient

Tel: (012) 371 2902/3/4/5

The Orient

Francolin Conservancy


Crocodile River Valley



New kitchens and a culinary science degree keeps them ahead of the curve

Sunflower spring with carrot jelly and orange blossom yogurt cream


To celebrate their spanking new kitchens, the University of Pretoria’s Department of Consumer Science invited celebrated Mosaic chef Chantel Dartnall to guide the students through a fine-dining lunch for the media while also introducing their latest BSc Culinary Science degree which keeps them ahead of the curve:


All of us at some stage of our lives, man or woman, has to take stock of our kitchen. Think how much more challenging this becomes in a teaching environment.

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Consumer Science Department this year unveiled newly renovated food laboratories that will accommodate more students with better equipment – some of the latest, in fact – and benefit their latest degree.

More students will be able to participate in the cooking experience, which means more trainees. Previously, the labs had 26 stations in total, but this has now been expanded to 60. Gas stoves have been fitted in keeping with current commercial trends. The new labs can also offer induction cooking and blast freezing as well as a range of food science equipment for modern day research and training.

After much research, these kitchens have been designed to be trendy, ergonomic and user friendly, with industrial equipment and surfaces. A lot of this this wouldn’t have meant much to any of us but for the many cookery programmes on television, which have allowed us to become more comfortable and informed about the technologies and advancement in the culinary space.

Chantel Dartnall with students busy preparing lunch

“Culinary research is a growing area which can be expanded with new facilities and modern up-to-date equipment. This puts UP at the forefront of culinary art and science training and enables future graduates to contribute to consumer food product and services development,” says Dr Gerrie du Rand, head of the Food and Nutrition section at the department.


The latest BSc Culinary Science degree, which focuses on the art and science of food offered by UP is the only degree of its kind in southern Africa. And these kitchens are good news especially for these students, who have to be at the forefront of what is happening in the culinary world.

The degree itself taps into the latest buzz in education in the US, where strong links between creativity and science is being touted and applied with great success. That, according to the hottest research, is what should be driving prospective workers when choosing their study direction.

All you have to do to check the evidence is to type in the words science/creativity/students and you will find a host of articles about the latest findings and studies pointing to the rewards in your future if you should pay attention to this advice.

A student busy with finer detail

Take, for example, Nicholas Cary and Erik Voorhees, the pioneers of the world’s most powerful crypto currency, Bitcoin.

They put part of their success down to having been in the business leadership programme at the University of Puget Sound, a liberal arts college in Washington. They called it “a hive of intellectual curiosity”.
What they do there is enforce interdisciplinary programmes, so students of international political economics and business leadership are pushed to expand their thinking beyond their own narrow fields; and cross-train in the history department. Others studied the warrior poets of Asia!
Like a growing number of others in the US, this campus prizes broad-mindedness and intellectual discussion.

Think of the legal profession, one where creativity perhaps doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Yet someone explained the other day that the best part of her job was the solving of legal problems. That’s when she is at her most creative. It’s the same way a scientist will get to solve a particular problem. That’s what the arts do, they teach us to think creatively.

Now, if only someone had explained this to me when I was studying maths and science at school? We weren’t even told how a particular maths problem would be used in the real world? So you learnt by rote.

If food is your particular fancy, with their trendy culinary science degree kicking in next year, check the syllabus:
First-year departmental subjects: Basic food preparation; Other subjects: Academic information management, Language and study skills, Marketing management, Biometry, General chemistry, Physiology, Introduction to microbiology, Molecular and cell biology, Mathematics. Second-year departmental subjects: Food commodities and preparation Other subjects: Biochemistry, Marketing management, Food microbiology, Principles of Food Processing and Preserve, Bacteriology Third-year Departmental subjects: Food service management, Nutrition, Nutrition during the life cycle, Consumer food research, Large-scale food production and restaurant management Other subjects: Food chemistry Fourth-year departmental subjects: Product development and quality management, Food service management, Recipe development and standardisation, Culinary art, Research project, Experiential training Other subjects: Research methodology, Sensory evaluation

(Also see story on Chantel Dartnall that follows)

Artists in motion and how they do it: with the charm of cuisine and chanson


A chef (Renette Vosloo) and a chanteuse (Willemien Rust) have hooked up to present evenings of cuisine and song in  Tshwane:


Renette and Willemien
Renette and Willemien

It’s not a new idea, but it is the freshness of the approach, the two individuals involved and the absence of these kinds of events, that makes this something special.

What they have done is taken their unique strengths – the one song, the other cuisine – and formulated a season of evenings where the one puts mouth-watering food on the table, and the other interprets the different dishes with a song from a chosen culture.

It started last month and runs until the beginning of October.

They began by asking specific questions. How would Edith Piaf’s iconic song Non Je Ne Regrette Rien taste? Why would Carla Bruni’s voice pair well with cinnamon and honey? How would Tiken Jah Fakoly’s song Dernier Appel translate on a plate?

It’s a way of playing with fun themes, tantalising the imagination and entertaining guests in a novel way – allowing them to escape a harrowing world out there.

That’s what good entertainment always does – and they’ve sealed the deal.

blackboard menuThose interested in food, might know Renette Vosloo as the Rooitamatie (red tomato) chef whose restaurant has had a few transformations in Pretoria, others might know her from a top-4 appearance on 2014’s Kokkedoor on Kyknet or her presenter’s job on Saturday mornings’ Ontbytsake (7.30 am on Saturdays on Channel 144 with repeats). Her food story with cooking in a 13-episode series will be broadcast next year.

She’s back in the capital city with her Rooitamatie guest house and supper club. It’s always been her preferred way. It’s all about visiting a home – and that is where she is most comfortable. If that’s not your idea of fun, it’s not for you.

The guest house is situated between two major hospitals (Zuid Afrikaans and Jacaranda) with the bulk of their guests focussed on hospital visits.

The supper club which spills onto the front balcony and then into the garden doesn’t take too many diners which makes it an intimate evening and one best enjoyed with a group of friends. They offer dinners only when booked for a group of six or more. They’re not licensed and the menus are discussed with diners before the time .(

On the night our menu started with an amuse bouche (pissaladiére, almost like mini pizzas), a particular favourite of the chef, with anchovy, a hint of chilli and a light pastry accompanied by Francois Hardy singing about young love; followed by a starter of black noodles, squid ink,  braised squid, slow roasted tomato “bouillabaisse” to the sounds of Emily Loizeau’s Eaux sombre; Carla Bruni’s Quelqu’un m’a dit where the sounds invest the fleetingness of life with the original flavours of saffron chicken, tarragon cream, rose water and almond rice pilaf; and what else with the decadent dark chocolate tart, white chocolate shards and white crème Chantilly than Edith Piaf’s iconic Non, Je ne Regrette Rien?

This is where Willemien (also known as Willemien/Philomène Rust -née Heyns) steps in. The two great loves of her life: French and music. (The Philomène side of her name, she laughingly describes as a bit of an identity crisis! But it also encapsulates who she is and what she does.)

For the past six years she has lectured in French at the University of Pretoria. In 2014, she received her Masters in French, and in all this time, she was juggling many balls – perhaps too many. The non-academic side of her life was dominated by music, her own solo singing but also numerous collaborations. And suddenly – as it would with her kind of passion and talent – the music has emerged very strongly and she decided to take a creative sabbatical this year for as long as it takes.  “I’ll be back in academia at some stage,’’ she says referring to herself as a creative entrepreneur who performs, presents creative writing programmes where French is taught (on invitation) and also does film translations.

Willemien in songBefore she presents her interpretation with a song, Renette introduces the dish and then before the performance, the singer explains the intuition that determined each individual taste. Willemien believes this year is her time and she’s left her day job to concentrate on her singing. Sometimes it will be the music of others and at other times, it will be her self-penned songs in theatres and at festivals.

With her French background, selecting an evening of French music is an excellent choice. She obviously feels at home, knows the music which allows for inspirational choices and acts as her own accompanist on piano. She also invites a friend to add extra instruments for texture and ambience. On the night it was Pieter Bezuidenhout on accordion and synth.

She determines her menu choices by selecting one iconic/popular song, and uses contemporary singers to introduce recent sounds, with some of her own compositions to showcase her own work. Before the dinner starts and once it has concluded, she plays light background music.

This is how her music is given centre stage.

It is a night full of surprises. The ambience is warm and comfortable with the odd dog meandering through the room, and one almost expects a toddler to stick his head around a door. It’s that kind of place. The food is imaginative and tasty, and the music a worthy companion on the night.

Follow-up dates:

Francophone Africa:
(Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Angélique Kidjo…)

20 September: Rooitamatie Guesthouse (Adelle Nqeto & James Robb will be joining her)
27 September: Victoria House SOLD OUT

Francophone Islands (Mauritius, Madagascar, Reunion) :
(Grèn Sémé, Slam artists…)

4 October: Rooitamatie Guesthouse
11 October: Victoria House

 Ticket includes: 4 course meal with wine; live intimate concert “paired” with each course. Bookings at least a week in advance at


Delicious and Delightful: de food, de chef, de deli

Diane de Beer


Rachel and her deli dames


Pictures: Theana Breugem

Carlton Chef Rachel Botes


What makes a good deli?

We have a few in Pretoria but if you check your favourite, mine happens to be Carlton Café Delicious (Menlo Park Centre, 71, 13th Street, Menlo Park) – it usually has something to do with the chef patron; in this instance,  the fabulous Rachel Botes.

It’s all about quality produce and seasonal food, as it usually is with good chefs across the world, but with Rachel it’s about something more. It is her deep love of food, her instincts of what she wants to present and how, as well as strong roots in terroir which taps into her cultural background.

She never lets up. The deli is always evolving with fresh ideas popping as frequently as her trademark baked goodies that few can resist. She has a demanding clientele who through the years have appreciated the excellence, thus always expecting more. And she doesn’t disappoint.

Reading her daily specials on the blackboard is a treat and often trips you up if you’re expecting that all old favourites will remain on the menu. Because her dishes often defy the description, it’s difficult to resist just checking out what she has come up with.

Carlton Tomato Tarts

She has developed a formidable team around her but as anyone in the competitive restaurant world knows, nothing stays the same for too long. Yet she has been up to the challenges, understanding that well-trained staff will move on to different experiences, sometimes simply dictated by a change in their lives.

A good example is her Friday Dinners, which were inspired by a tough economy and a desire to gift her customers with an enticing option at a competitive price to counter punch financial famine. The options are well thought through, varied and cuisine that would be difficult to replicate with similar excellence both in the kitchen and on monetary grounds.

There’s also the Friday happy hour, which was initiated to celebrate and spotlight a long-awaited liquor licence while simultaneously allowing the creative cuisine minds in the kitchen to explore and experiment. Watch out for some of these favourites to resurface in the new menus.

It’s not only the food that’s fiery, it’s also her choice of wines which she has astutely assumed should be cheap but of supreme quality because they are a daytime deli. She has some of the best sourcing secrets and if you are smart, make a note of your favourites for your own wine cupboard.

Carlton Anchovy Toast

Different folks want different strokes in their desires for their best deli. In mine (or all honesty my partner’s), it is the anchovy toast breakfast (for the past few years and foreseeable future) that is the meal of choice – and would be any time of day, if there wasn’t a cut-off point.

Others cannot make their annual trek to the sea without the Rachel festive specials and it’s a treat of a different kind to watch these goodies being collected.

A few years ago that side of the deli has moved next door and there’s more breathing space all round but it has also allowed Rachel to have her own long table, which is used for separate occasions. You can book the table for a special lunch or evening event allowing the chef supreme to do her own menu.

She’s at her best when given free rein because it allows that cuisine craftiness to shine through.

If you wonder about her not receiving all the accolades her reputation so richly deserves, it is a result of its being a daytime deli. It’s as if the food powers that control these awards don’t take that kind of food finesse into account.

Carlton Marmite Tart

And yet, with everything she does, travelling the country to pass on her skills or to cook on request for people who know what she achieves in the kitchen, is worth experiencing, any time, any place.

If you’re wondering about this ode to a chef, it took some thought to decide when writing about food on this first-time blog, what would I like my first food musings to cover.

Why not someone who has been worth watching over the years, someone who has become a friend, but was first and foremost a chef whose artistry from the start was awe-inspiring?

Carlton Biltong

Whether it is about a table setting, the choice of flowers or table decorations on a particular occasion, deciding to make her own biltong, or the way she has constructed artistic meals in art museums to accompany and illustrate an exhibition. Or simply thinking about the drinks she served all those years when she was waiting for a licence, to make it colourful for her clients who might have preferred a light wine with their lunch.

It’s about the innovation, the innate sense of style, the way she turns everyday meals into something imaginative with sleight of hand to make it special and often spectacular that fills a dreary day with sunshine.

This is a chef who loves to feed people, to have them smile, to add new tastes and textures, to surprise even the toughest critic – but also someone who has learnt to accept that you cannot please all of the people all of the time.

For me though, it is always delicious because this is food that is thought about, has to fit different criteria but in the end, has one goal, to be delicious!