Review: Eat Out Awards 2014

If you are a foodie, or just love eating out and experiencing the myriad of culinary talent that is abound in this country, you will know about Eat Out Magazine.

It is without a doubt the industry leader in terms of what’s hot and what’s current in foodie circles. The awards have grown in stature and popularity since the inception in 2002, and it has become a veritable golden feather in the preverbal cap, to be nominated.

This year, the headline sponsor was Mercedes Benz. That in it’s self should give some indication as to the weight that these awards hold and the honour that is bestowed on nominees and winners alike. Having never been privy to an event like this, I have to be honest, I was totally unprepared and had no idea what to expect, but ‘blown-away’ just doesn’t do the extent of my experience justice.

My friend Marc and I arrived only to find out that we had to park in a field. I was, to put it mildly, annoyed. There I was, dressed in a black sexy cocktail dress and high heels and I thought I would have to walk across a field. #NotImpressed. Just when the idea of bailing on this entire affair started to cross my mind a Mercedez-Benz AMG pulled up. A smartly dressed gentleman opened the door for me.

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I smiled. Eat Out and Mercedez-Benz had clearly thought of everything. It was then that I noticed a queue of Mercs pulling up, chauffeuring guests from the parking area to the stunning hanger that is Thundercity, the perfect setting for an event of this calibre.

The hanger was transformed. Blue light hang over the tables and the open pop-upish kitchen like a magical wonderland where an incredibly skilled team of cooks and servers worked. This finely tuned team of ambassadors were clearly skilled and loved showing it off.

They delivered five perfectly timed, beautifully presented, delights that reminded me of that popular DSTV series, ‘The Great British Cook-off’.  Each dish was designed and created by one of SA’s finest culinary magicians which included Neil Jewel from Bread and Wine, David Higgs from Five Hundred (JHB), George Jardine from Jordon Restaurant (Stellies), The Hog House (PJ Vadas) and Overture (Bertus Basson) – my favourite dish (Stellenbosch), and dessert by Vanessa Marx from the White Room (CPT).

In keeping with current foodie trends, each of the five courses were expertly paired with wine or beer and explanations by respective chefs preceded each meal. Everything was opulent, decadent and delish.

Abigail Donnelly and David Higgs from Five Hundred

The guest list read like an all-star cast of who is who in the South African restaurant and food business and I was incredibly impressed with the execution of the event, the program and the service.

I don’t think anyone was surprised that Rueben Riffel (that Robertson Spices guy and successful restaurateur) was one of the secret judges. In fact, the list of judges was very well thought out comprising not only of chefs, but designers and writers. Truth is, one expects nothing less when the prize is No 1 eatery in the country.

Even less of a surprise was the fact that a restaurant which is currently rated in the top 50 worldwide took first place, for a third time. The Test Kitchen has garnered global acclaim and chef Luke Dale Roberts continues to entice, surprise and delight local and international foodies with his technically flawless, original South-African-Asian plates of food.

Chef of the Year_Abigail and Chantel Dartnall

Five Hundred and The Tasting Room (Franschoek) were hot on his heels and for good reason. Despite being two of SA’s best fine dining experiences, it is clear from the reviews by the judges that one aspect which sets not only these, but all the nominees apart from the rest, is that they are run by chefs who are as serious about having fun with their food as they are about the business of food and each brings his (or her) own skill, personality and flare to the plate.

I really could go on for pages, but all I have to say is that next year, you really need to get yourself a seat at the Eat Out Awards. It’s less about eating and more about loving food.

No one can argue that cooking has become a fine art genre in itself, and these incredibly restaurants are the paint and brushes with which the chefs deliver these magical, imaginative and creative dishes, to us… their canvas!

 

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