“I’m immensely proud and hugely excited to say that this is our 20th year,” said Aileen Lamb, MD of New Media, which owns Eat Out. “We have been celebrating the best of the best culinary talent in South Africa for two decades. Together we’ve achieved something special and I’m very proud.”
The Restaurant at Waterkloof in Somerset West broke The Test Kitchen’s six-year streak by claiming the top spot, up from third place last year. “I am definitely not prepared for this,” said Chef Gregory Czarnecki. “This really means a lot, especially this year. It’s definitely the highlight of my career. And never did I expect when we started nine years ago that we would rank this high. But here we are.”
Being ranked second place is still an achievement for The Test Kitchen, which also won the Eat Out Diners Club Award for Service Excellence. “Of course I’m disappointed that we haven’t won (first place) but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter,” said Chef Luke Dale-Roberts. “These awards mean a lot; don’t get me wrong. But what matters above all else is that we’re doing what we enjoy. I absolutely adore cooking. There’s not a day in my life that goes past when I don’t absolutely buzz from the fact that I can cook food and I can make people enjoy my food. That matters above all else.”
Third place went to La Colombe in Cape Town, up from seventh place last year, with its offshoot La Petite Colombe in Franschhoek ranking fifth. “What an incredible honour and privilege it is to receive this,” said Chef James Gaag. “Most importantly I’d like to thank Scot (Kirton). He’s given us an incredible opportunity and chance to put our own stamp on each of our own restaurants. And I am incredibly grateful and thankful.”
The biggest gain on the evening was Wolfgat in Paternoster, ranked fourth, a new entry last year. Chef Kobus van der Merwe, who won last year’s inaugural Eat Out Graham Beck Chefs’ Chef Award, also won the Eat Out S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year.
“This is completely insane and so overwhelming,” he said. “I don’t see how a small kitchen in Paternoster can achieve this. I’m the biggest fan of all the other nominees and cannot be more in awe of what they do. This definitely goes to my team. They are everything; not even the most basic chores can happen without them. I think there’s a lot of pressure on fine dining internationally as a concept; people are saying it’s a dying breed. I don’t think that’s true. I think we are redefining it and it’s cool to be recognised for that. It means a lot so thank you.”
Making up the top 10, dominated by the Western Cape, are Greenhouse at Cellars-Hohenort Cape Town (sixth), Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient in Pretoria (seventh and winner of both the Eat Out Wine Service Award for Moses Magwaza and the Eat Out John Psillos Award for Outstanding Contribution to Service for Germain Lehodey), Camphors at Vergelegen in Somerset West (eighth), Jardine Restaurant in Stellenbosch (ninth), and Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia in Cape Town (10th and shared winner of the Eat Out Graham Beck Chefs’ Chef Award for Ivor Jones).
The rest of the top twenty were Fermier Restaurant in Pretoria (11th), Jordan Restaurant in Stellenbosch (12th), Foliage in Franschhoek (13th and shared winner of the Eat Out Graham Beck Chefs’ Chef Award for Chris Erasmus), Le Coin Français in Franschhoek (14th), The Chefs’ Table in Durban (15th), Chefs Warehouse at Maison in Franschhoek (16th), La Tête in Cape Town (17th), Overture in Stellenbosch (18th), The Shortmarket Club in Cape Town (19th), and The Pot Luck Club in Cape Town (20th).
Other awards include the Woolworths Taste Eat Out Bursary (Thapelo Tsotsetsi), the Eat Out Nederburg Rising Star (Candice Philip of Grei in Johannesburg), the Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award (The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal in Franschhoek), the Eat Out Retail Capital New Restaurant of the Year (Janse and Co.), the Eat Out Visi Style Award (Saint Restaurant in Johannesburg), and the Eat Out Lannice Snyman Lifetime Achievement Award (Abigail Donnelly).
“Wow,” said Donnelly, former head judge of the awards and editor of Taste for the last 12 years. “This is such an absolute privilege. I’ve missed you guys this year and it’s been so difficult because I just love you all so much. The chefs and restaurateurs and waitrons and the entire industry have taken me on my journey. You’ve inspired me. Thank you. This is just the most incredible thing.”