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Postcard from the Chef – South Africa

30 September 2011 by
Postcard from the Chef – South Africa

Last month, chefs from around the world united for a tour to fight against hunger in South Africa spearheaded by the South African Chefs Association and the World Association of Chefs Societies. Gareth Johns, chef-proprietor at the Wynnstay hotel, Machynlleth, describes his experience of the trip

Last month, chefs from around the world united for a tour to fight against hunger in South Africa. Spearheaded by the South African Chefs Association and the World Association of Chefs Societies, the week-long Bidvest World Chefs Tour Against Hunger - the third of its kind - saw the volunteer chefs visit key destinations where they held live cookery demonstrations, TV presentations and participated in food festivals. They also cooked at gala dinners where charity auctions were held, and raised a grand total of R8m (£683,000). This will provide 821,250 meals for needy children over five years.

A pleasant August afternoon saw Team Wales, made up of Colin Gray, chef director at Capital Cuisine; Toby Beevers, head chef at Hawarden Estate Farm Shop and Restaurant; and Mike Evans, chef lecturer at Coleg Llandrillo Cymru; gather at Manchester Airport to begin the long journey to Johannesburg to take part in the tour. We were invited by Martin Kobald, the tour's convenor, and Bill Gallagher, its founder, as well as the South African Chefs Association.

We arrived at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and were met by a flag parade, African drummers and a bevy of press. From there we were whisked away to our hotel, the opulent Southern Sun Montecasino in the Tuscan-style complex of the same name at Fourways, a suburb of Johannesburg.

We were sharing with the Australian team so a good deal of banter (particularly rugby- based) flew back and forth. We also met Jean- Pierre, our ‘escort' and fixer for the tour, who was also making a photo documentary of the event.

The first couple of days were largely taken up with the official welcome and the unglamorous yet necessary administration required for such a major event bringing together more than 240 chefs from 45 countries, including the English team made up of Brian Cotterill, Colin Capon and Rod Naylor as well as first timers Jim Eaves, Graham Crump and Paul Easterbrook.

Each of us received two specially commissioned sponsor chef jackets and a new pair of Crocs. Thus provided, we set off on a protest march through the township of Alexandra, led by a children's band and culminating in a makeshift feeding-station at the township's police station. We also gave a press conference as there was considerable media interest in the tour and quite few of us are now known on TV and radio.

Then it was down to work in earnest on a busy schedule of demonstrations and our Welsh Food Festival at the nearby Sun Square Hotel. Some long hours and hard graft were in order, and the boys duly obliged, creating a special menu (see opposite). Our food was well appreciated, with quite a few saying it was the best meal out ever - praise indeed from people who have a culture of dining out regularly.

Our task was made easier by the ebullient general manager of the Sun Square, Jacques Heath, and his team, especially F&B manager John Maddison, and the executive chef Benny Masekwameng. Nothing was too much trouble for them, and they all, especially chef Benny, treated us like long-lost family, even to the extent of throwing a party for us.

Toby also found time in his busy schedule to make a presentation at Nasrec, a suburb of Johannesburg, about the Welsh National Culinary Team and ‘Cooking for Royalty'.

After some frantic activity, the physical pace calmed down a little but the intensity grew as we made two visits to schemes that will be beneficiaries of the trust fund set up by the South African Chefs Association: the African Children's Feeding Scheme in the heart of Soweto and the Akani Foundation at Diepsloot on the High Veldt, north of Johannesburg.

Soweto was particularly harrowing, although I can see great progress has been made since the last tour in 2003 (the first one took place in 1993). However, there is still much to do and as Martin Kobald said: "We do what we can, but these are only the ones we can reach."

The children gave us a traditional Soweto welcome before we served a lunch of chicken, pap and fruit, and when they said goodbye they gave us presents of oven gloves they had made for us. Many chefs had to turn away and there was scarcely a dry eye among us. What we saw makes us so grateful for the health and abundance we enjoy and all too often take for granted - especially those of us with children of our own.

A welcome rest day was followed in the evening by a sponsor visit to ‘World of Beer', hosted by SABMiller, with delicious food and a libation or two to wash it down, which went down very well with the hard-working chefs.

Next we gave a barbecue party at the Akani Foundation School in Diepsloot, cooking for the children and giving out food parcels kindly donated by Bidvest, our main sponsor. This was a big hit with the chefs: balloons, flags and lots of dancing gave the party a happy air. Although it did not in any way detract from the importance of the mission, it was a welcome relief to have fun with the kids.

And then the final gala dinner created by Garth Schnier and his brigade at the Sandton Convention Centre. Here the tremendous total of R8m was revealed by Bill Gallagher, our inspirational event founder. The money will go to the Akani Diepsloot Foundation, African Children's Feeding Scheme and Meals on Wheels Community Services, all of which do extraordinary work in their communities, as well as various other nominated charities in Nelspruit and East London.

After that, we began the long trek home, with the quiet satisfaction of a good job well done. Thanks, Colin, Mike and Toby - you did Wales proud! Here's to the next one.

To find out more or make a donation, visit www.worldchefstour.co.za

menu welsh food festival, sun square hotel

Starters

â- Ham hock & parsley terrine with mustard pickle served with a side salad & crusty bread, R45 (£3.71)
â- Cockle & smoked bacon chowder, R75 (£6.18)
â- Potato & leek soup, R39 (£3.22)

Mains
â- Baked salmon fillet with rosemary & ginger served with mashed potatoes, R135 (£11.13)
â- Breast of pheasant with curry & apples served with mashed potatoes, R95 (£7.83)
â- Double rib of lamb set on a cassoulette of vegetables with lamb broth, R135 (£10.88)
â- Roast fillet of beef with brandy sauce, wild mushrooms served with fondant potatoes and glazed carrots, R130 (£10.72)
â- Poached vegetables with sun-dried tomato & polenta, R50 (£4.12)

Desserts
â- Salted caramel & chocolate tart with naartjie & sesame, R32 (£2.64)
â- Apple crumble & sour cream panna cotta, R32 (£2.64)
â- Pwdin haf (Welsh summer fruits pudding), R32 (£2.64)

menu GALA DINNER, SANDTON COnVENTION CENTRE, JOHANNESBURG

The Americas
â- Creole turkey ballantine with pumpkin pie gateau, roasted corn and vanilla foam
â- Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc

Europe
â- Loch Duart salmon ceviche with Alaskan crab and pea salad, passion fruit, fennel and horseradish mousseline, marinated beet salad, beet jelly with beet leaves
â- Cederberg Chenin Blanc

Africa & The Middle East
â- Two-bone rack of Karoo lamb with an open vegetable Swiss roll accompanied by braised Namibian lamb neck lasagne with Egyptian dates and lentils
â- Du Toitskloof Nebbiolo

Asia
â- Mango chocolate mousse, served with vanilla panna cotta
â- JC Le Roux - Methode Cap Classique Brut NV

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