La Colombe staff’s Spanish voyage of food discovery

Enthusiastic, privileged, honoured, grateful… these are some of the thoughts of the La Colombe employees users who travelled with their bosses Scot Kirton and James Gaag to Barcelona and San Sebastián in Spain in May possibly. It was two weeks of ingesting at leading dining places, marvelling at the create in the marketplaces, and procuring, buying, procuring.

If that conjures up pictures of persons laden with vibrant glossy luggage of distinctive measurements, or even a chauffeur loading them into the boot of a Rolls Royce convertible, it is not pretty Very Female, but it’s also not quite inaccurate.

Apart from taking in, which is the most crucial component, clearly, the the greater part of the equilibrium of the time was spent browsing – in decor stores, section suppliers, and even toy shops.

“Most of the inspiration comes from this, strolling into outlets and looking at things you’ve never ever viewed just before. We fill suitcases,” mentioned Kirton. 

Yes, the toy shop component is authentic. If you’ve eaten at any of the La Colombe group eating places – of which there are now seven – you are going to know there is a flair for the dramatic, normally whimsical, and novel approaches of delivering your meal to the table. What was found in the toy shop will be designed and it could get 6 months, it could consider a yr, but a person working day it will have you clapping your palms with glee when that program comes. You listened to it right here 1st.

“Most of the time, a dish starts with the plate, or some thing to serve it on,” reported Gaag.

“We do factors backwards we come across the neat detail, and then we come across one thing to go on it,” reported Kirton. 

Cheri Kustner, sous chef at La Colombe, was on this trip, and she linked: “Before, Chef would arrive up with whacky strategies and now I can see his believed approach. It’s a incredibly appealing way of coming up with memorable dishes.”

Past and existing plating treasures have been turned into a element wall in the entrance lobby of La Colombe. This was component of the once-a-year “close and revamp” procedure, which coincides with the overseas outings.

The new attribute wall at the entrance to La Colombe displays the plates and vessels, earlier and existing, which have been made use of to elevate and enrich the visual screen of dishes. (Picture: Bianca Coleman)

Kustner understood a thing was up just before getting officially invited. Gaag came to her and asked her if she experienced a passport. “I knew he was up to anything he was acting all fishy he’d ask random issues then operate away,” she laughed. “My stomach just dropped! I knew it was likely to be something like I’d hardly ever knowledgeable ahead of, perhaps in no way again.”

Kirton and Gaag went to Madrid earlier this yr and Kustner said she did not assume a different vacation would come about so shortly, so she was suitably stunned (in the most effective achievable way). The “whole factor was outrageous”, with cultural and sensory overload.

“Where to start off? De Librije in Zwolle, as just one of the initial wonderful dining encounters abroad, it was indescribable. I genuinely was speechless. I was extra shocked with each program, like fish with a sliver of bacon, and tiny brunoise potato puffs – each and every single depth was ideal and I think of when we do things in this article, getting every single chef to do just about every little point as flawlessly as possible… and when you are on the other side of the desk, sitting there as a visitor it seriously does make the most significant distinction and that is a significant issue for me to deliver household.”

A marketplace which materialised overnight in Zwolle. (Photograph: Cheri Kustner)

Aaron Farquhar, supervisor at PIER in the V&A Waterfront – who was brought on board two times right before departure for the reason that Gaag was person down with the illness – also singled out De Librije as a emphasize. “The foodstuff was amazing, insanely delicious and properly introduced. Provider was pleasant and polished,” he said.

(There was a stopover in the Netherlands due to Gaag later on signing up for the team once he bought the all-apparent.)

“I felt very privileged to be element of the journey at this sort of shorter recognize. The group definitely invests in the improvement of its personnel (kitchen and front of dwelling), which I find is instrumental for its ongoing success.”

Farquhar also savored the old city in San Sebastián, with its small occupied streets and vivid tapas dining establishments. “I found it appealing and immensely practical to be in a position to compare our local normal of eating to some of the major names internationally. I intend to use minimal changes to our support back home. The compact information count. Remaining equipped to relate internationally to our calibre of company helps too.”

PIER head chef John Norris Rogers, who has been on earlier excursions to Denmark and Japan, reported: “I consider the biggest matter I have learnt on these visits was how essential the total working experience of becoming at a cafe is as opposed to just getting centered on food or the aim just remaining on fantastic wine and company. Tying people components with each other is what would make a restaurant specific, in my belief. Leaving a restaurant and understanding you will not forget about it soon due to the fact of the way you were addressed and food stuff you tasted is to me what can make a fantastic restaurant. 

“It was a quite important lesson for me and some thing I maintain in intellect with my perform inside the group.” 

Deciding on Spain for this distinct outing was not a difficult decision, and it’s not the initially time but the fourth: Madrid as described previously mentioned, then Barcelona and San Sebastián separately. “We found it’s presented us so much and made us grow and find out. I think we’ve taken the most inspiration out of Spain. Then we made the decision to choose essential people with us so they could experience the similar matter,” stated Kirton. “You bond with your team, come to be closer. And for me personally, it is to give these fellas the options – no just one did that for me. They ought to have it, they function so really hard.” 

The easy kitchen area services at Amelia, 2 Michelin star restaurant in San Sebastián. (Picture: Matt van den Berg)

Melissa Osborne, basic supervisor at La Colombe, echoes Kirton’s sentiment about connecting with her colleagues. “We experienced moments of private bonding which has strengthened our performing associations and has added to the cohesion as management,” she said. 

“Being ready to shell out time outside of the kitchen area with the workforce was a enormous spotlight interacting on a far more private degree and being capable to question inquiries and learn from them in house like this was invaluable,” agreed Matt van den Berg, sous chef at La Petite Colombe.

“I never consider I could have felt more spoiled than to be preferred for the excursion. It was wonderful to have other individuals close to that lived and breathed meals, wine, and atmosphere. We had been all working experience-seekers, jointly,” claimed Osborne.

“My takeaway is that it is evident to see when somebody loves what they do. I feel grateful to be functioning in this sort of a pleasurable and thrilling industry of wonderful meals.”

The excursion was a steady, stimulated highlight of tradition and artwork, ongoing Osborne. “The food stuff market place in Barcelona was an exciting put I would absolutely want to return to. I also appreciated folks seeing additional, although I was away, for the reason that of the eased-up mask limits.

A ‘chicho’ pastry at La Boqueria, Barcelona. (Image: Cheri Kustner)

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, or La Boqueria current market, in Barcelona is legendary. Head chef at La Petite Colombe in Franschhoek, Peter Thomas Duncan, reported “strolling by means of La Boqueria and looking at all the fresh new deliver from dragon fruit to clams, and having fun with Jamon Iberico to Cava right before 10am” was his main emphasize. “That’s what we want in South Africa.”

Each day clean seafood selection at La Boqueria Current market, Barcelona. (Photograph: Matt van den Berg)

Duncan, like his colleagues, was grateful for the opportunity to be aspect of the excursion. “However, I was really fired up and nervous about the unknown food stuff knowledge that awaited me. It was unquestionably a single of my most unforgettable travel encounters I’ve experienced. It has altered my point of view on foods considerably,” he stated. “It has enabled me to consider much more exterior the box in conditions of how deliver is cared for and presented, and this will tutorial my foreseeable future operate with the group.”

Around the decades, Kirton and Gaag have eaten at about 50 percent the top rated 100 eating places in the earth, and many Michelin-star institutions. This could occur as a surprise but those coveted stars do not often promise an out of this globe working experience. I’ve read this from “normal” diners as very well. I would possibly locate that enormously disappointing, specifically if it was the a single and only Michelin star restaurant I could manage and chose. 

“Sometimes we just don’t ‘get it’,” stated Kirton.

“It can be diverse to our fashion, and often pretty component pushed,” explained Gaag. “We operate with different elements – tomatoes in Spain are not the similar as tomatoes in this article. Citrus fruit, the A and B quality fruit is exported we get the C grade. 

“South Africa is surrounded by the ocean and the fish we get right here is what? Black bream, yellowtail, cob, now and once more some of the crimson fish, no shellfish other than crayfish…mussels and oysters and which is our restrict. In Spain, at just a normal very little marketplace, the fish counter will have 40 or 50 diverse varieties of fish, razor clams and goose barnacles and cockles – stuff we just really don’t get. And most of it is alive.”

For Van Den Berg, possessing a space and platform for inspiration and discovering even though eating at the very best places to eat in the environment, was “truly  a desire occur true”.

“Sometimes as a chef you become so targeted on the food stuff, you forget about the more substantial picture and how important it Is to have a absolutely-rounded working experience. This has made me realise how essential the conversation involving kitchen and front of residence is. In the end sleek teamwork is the finish aim.

“As inspiring as it was, it cemented my belief that South Africa’s food stuff field is continue to among the top rated in the earth. I have walked away from this whole experience joyful to know that our workforce is up there with the ideal in the environment.”

Bread services at Restaurante Lasarte, 3 Michelin stars, Barcelona. (Picture: Matt van den Berg)

Hunting outdoors our borders and above the seas is 1 way the La Colombe group places to eat keep forward of the recreation. Wanting in direction of a spring completion, another is a progress kitchen area currently less than development at La Colombe, on the Silvermist Estate in Constantia. It utilized to be a farm drop but in a couple months it will household a entirely equipped kitchen area, a temperature managed chocolate place, a charcuterie home and a mushroom area. A table will be established up as in the dining places to check out out and test diverse shows.

The reasoning behind this is that there is rarely plenty of time, and far too several distractions, to build new dishes in the cafe kitchens themselves. The growth kitchen area will be a devoted area to build new dishes and ideas, and an incubator for suggestions. Furthermore all all those goodies and gizmos acquired on the travels, just begging for a dish to be laid upon them, will be shown on shelves, all set and waiting for their reason.

And that is why La Colombe has alone featured among the the best 100 dining establishments – in the environment – on additional than just one occasion. DM/TGIFood

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Follow Bianca Coleman on Instagram @biancaleecoleman

The author supports The Reward of the Givers Foundation, the premier disaster reaction, non-governmental organisation of African origin on the African continent.