5 local chefs share their favourite foodie escapes

Posted by Ondela Mlandu on 19 February 2018

Want to know where local chefs spend their holidays – and whether they get to hang their aprons up? This is how they travel and unwind from their work. You can find the Chefs on Holiday feature every month in the Bites section of the Getaway Magazine.


1. Kamini Pather, Food blogger and Masterchef SA winner

Other than being in the kitchen, Kamini loves being outdoors taking part in long distance running. Image by GreatGrampops

I find that being close to the sea adds an element of playfulness to a person. My family are all scuba divers and we’ve been to some of the best spots around – Maldives, Great Barrier Reef, Egypt.

Trying other cuisines is always on my to-do list. I ate fruit-bat curry in Seychelles (like very bony lamb); sea grapes, cocoa fruit and kamu kamu in Peru, sea buckthorn berries in Sweden, kunafa (a pastry like a cheese Danish) in Dubai.

Sterkfontein Dam creating the perfect backdrop. Image by Ondela Mlandu

I had a life-changing omelette in Kerala, India. At a remote yoga ashram, my roommate and I broke out and walked to a nearby village. We sat in a dark, dingy hut and had the lightest, most flavourful omelettes and cooldrink laced with the finest tartrazine.

Also read: Eat your way through India at Kerala’s charming homestays

As a child, I recall buying yellow cherries that were as big as my face on Mykonos. An elderly Greek woman also gave me some baklava she’d made. She’ll probably never know how her generosity changed a 12-year-old from South Africa.

On a recent road trip from Durban to Joburg, we stopped at the Sterkfontein Dam in the Free State at sunset. There is a palpable serenity there. I could’ve sat out on that rock for a lot longer, listening for an answer I didn’t know the question to.


2. Celia Rabie of Betty Blue Bistro in Hermanus

Celia in Nice, France. Image supplied by Celia Rabie

I would love to relax and switch off but it’s not in my nature – my husband calls me a Duracell bunny because I never stop. I believe food is an experience no matter where you are. Food is usually our focus for holidays. There are always funky new places to eat at in Cape Town, and to pick up on new trends. We recently went for a ‘create your own gin’ night at the Woodstock Gin Co where we could each flavour our bottle with different ingredients; I used lime, rose petals and rooibos. Halfampieskraal is a working farm just outside Napier that serves wholesome food. There was an abundance of tomatoes last season so everything had some form of tomato in it.

Also read: 13 exciting eating spots for summer in Cape Town

My most memorable holiday was a ‘summer saunter’ – eight fabulous days with eight ladies, eating, shopping and sun- soaking along the French and Italian Rivieras: food markets, beach picnics, an amazing dinner at JAN and walking from Santa Margherita to Portofino, stopping for apéros on the way. We ate the most amazing tartuffo pizza at La Chèvre d’Or in Eze, a village near Nice. Thin base with mushroom cream, Parmesan and truffle pesto. We went back for seconds.

The deep blue sea in Hermanus. Photo by Rachel Robinson

I might be a bit biased but Hermanus is a must-visit place in SA. They say it has ‘healing air’, our beaches are beautiful and the whales are something you have to experience at least once.


3. Pete Goffe-Wood, chef and TV show judge

The new season of the Ultimate Braai Master airs in June this year. Image from Pete Goffe-Wood

I’m always on the lookout for new food experiences. I travel with food in mind wherever I go. The most delightful dish I’ve ever eaten was at the Nielsen Park Kiosk in Sydney, Australia. It was owned by an elderly Italian couple. The meal was spaghetti with squid and truffle fish. I was completely blown away, also by the whole setting. I have fond memories of staying in hotels in Umhlanga around Christmas time as a child and eating lavish buffets, with different themes and menus every night. I think that led to my interest in food.

Also read: Top 8 stays in Umhlanga for a seaside holiday

Views of the Mbotyi River Lodge on the Wild Coast. Image by Andrea Piasentin

I often go along the Breede River Valley. It’s undisturbed and remote – no noisy restaurants, overflowing bars or shining lights. A lovely getaway. I always look forward to going to Bangkok and Budapest. Thailand is the only country in all of Southeast Asia where the cuisine has not been influenced by another country. And Budapest has some of the most amazing restaurants.

The Ultimate Braai Master is a fantastic road trip of about 7000 kilometres over six weeks. Last season, the only place I’d been before was Cape St Francis; all the other places were new for me and I was in awe of them. One place in SA everyone should visit is the Wild Coast. Mbotyi River Lodge is a pristine and untouched paradise.


4.  Zola Nene, The Great SA Bake Off judge

Zola Nene’s book Simply Delicious won two awards at the 2017 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Every holiday I go on, I go to eat! Whether it’s a city or an island, I’m most interested in all the food I’ll be trying. I’m a mildly adventurous eater with a terrible gag reflex – a tricky combination, which can lead to awkward situations! One place I’ll go back to often is Zanzibar. I love it there. The fresh fruits and the ocean are the perfect recipe for relaxation.

Also read: Greening the big blue: eco-friendly travel in Zanzibar

I went to Alsace in France specifically to meet and cook with Michelin-star chef Olivier Nasti and ‘queen of confitures’ Christine Ferber. Paris is everything and more that you read about and see on TV. I went with my childhood friend. We did all the touristy things and hit a few trendy food spots. It was the perfect holiday.

China was a complete culture shock. The unfamiliar smells, the sheer number of people…I can’t wait to go back. I feel like I only just scratched the surface in terms of food discoveries. Beijing hotpot is a most incredible food experience.

A spicy chilli-infused broth with Szechuan peppercorns, served with raw, thinly sliced meat and veg that you dip in the broth to cook before devouring. It was a flavour explosion. In South Africa, everyone should visit the Garden Route at some point, not because I’m biased – I grew up in George – but because it is one of the most beautiful parts of our country.


5. Farrel Hirsch of The Westcliff in Joburg

Farrel Hirsch is the new chef at the Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg. Image from the Westcliff Hotel

As a child, my dad would always give me something to eat that I thought I wouldn’t like, such as mussels, oysters or a bleu steak; once I tried it, I was hooked! The best meal I’ve ever had on holiday was in Bangkok. I was roaming the food stalls and I could smell something amazing. I had no idea what it was but ordered it anyway – it was a bowl of tom yum goong, a hot and sour soup with shrimp.

I specifically travel to Cape Town when new menus are in place, whether it be at The Test Kitchen, Greenhouse or La Colombe. It’s good to see the new trends and you always leave the establishments in awe.

Also read: Experience incredible culinary travel at the Test Kitchen

I recently discovered the Mojo Market in Sea Point. The food stalls there are amazing. I had low expectations of the market but was completely blown away.

I also love Franschhoek – the town, the people, the vineyards and the food. The best thing to do is jump on the Wine Tram, which takes you to all the best the area has to offer, and then end the day with a couple of cold ones at Tuk Tuk Microbrewery.

Beira in Mozambique is my favourite place in Africa. Best fresh fish ever! Our days revolved around fresh produce and what we were going to do with it – one day we had clam chowder to start and braaied prawns for mains. It was epic. Farrel is the chef at View, the hotel’s flagship restaurant, and the man behind Preview, its new bar- inspired casual dining experience.

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