Chef Does Jozi

This article originally appeared in Angama Mara’s Leaving Out the Dull Parts.

I had been waiting for this day for almost five months. Then it came and I could not sleep. My flight was scheduled at 4.45am, which meant I had to be at the airport by 3am, but funnily enough I was there by 2am. I didn’t want to put myself in any risk.

My adventure started with being dropped by boda boda and picked by a Mercedes (with 2 flights in-between). My cousin was to drop me using his car but unfortunately it had mechanical problems that morning. When I saw him on a motorbike I couldn’t believe my eyes but that is what we had. We made it to the airport on time and I boarded the plane. When a Mercedes picked me up in Johannesburg, all I could do was smile. It was easy afternoon as we prepared for the big night at Marble restaurant.

Marble Restaurant

We had booked at the chefs’ table so we could see all the fun happening. My first thing to notice was how the kitchen team was using olive oil, sprinkling it every time. When our starter came, what I learned on this one was how they dressed plate before plating salad. Our main course was the killer: I had rib eye on onion puree, crisp onions and some grilled onion wedges (I will be cooking something like that). Mzee SF had lamp chops – the most amazing thing was how it was presented. One chef was in charge only of chips, which were delicious. We tried to find out what he was using to our surprise he was seasoning them with brown sugar, castor sugar, paprika and salt and pepper! Please do not forget the nachos (you will see them at Angama) and then I fell in love with butternut mustard dip (will be on our lunch). The kitchen was so busy but relaxed (the power of mise en place). At the vegetable corner I could see a simple rule: ‘If you don’t think it’s good enough then don’t serve it’.

The next morning we went to The Whippet for breakfast where the presentation of Eggs Benedict was well done not using English muffins but potato rosti. After that we visited some food stores starting with the cheese shop, then on to a vegetable grocery and at the butcher we saw some lovely beef fillet on bone (I am looking for a butcher in Nairobi which can supply me with this). Lunch was hamburgers at Rocomamas.

Then came my favorite place – Che Argentine. I loved this place and before even Nicky could go back to her car I was already feeling at home. To my surprise they was no marination for the meat whatsoever – the main ingredients were smoked paprika, sea salt and of course olive oil. They had spritzing bottles of olive oil mixed with salt and pepper; garlic, lemon and olive oil; and rocket sauce. I also learned how to grill beef fillet on bone. At the vegetable corner we had a sprinkling jar with olive oil and honey for grilled veg. Three chefs could serve 120 guests (again the power of mise en place). It was a lovely experience and I can’t forget the pork belly.

Che Argentine

At Mastrantonio restaurant see the kitchen then you will appreciate what we have. I could not believe we could work 14 chefs with waiters coming in and out in that small space. Mind you we served 110 guests in less than one hour – the speed we served the meal was amazing. Actually it was the opposite of Che Argentine when it came service. I learned a lot on pasta sauces, presentation, and my best was how they do pasta with broccoli sauce and also making stock, which is the base of the sauce. The team was so accommodating and I am looking forward to hosting the senior chef when he visits us late in the year.

At dinner we visited Rosto specializing in roast chicken – what lovely place and the enamel plates they use are the one we use for our BBQ. It’s a shame we don’t have something like the Neighbourgoods Market in Kenya. What away to spend your Saturday: we had a lot of lovely food from stands, amazing breads, then came the paella – I loved the way it was prepared in front of us – and steamed buns (don’t be surprised if you see them at Angama). We also saw mandazi being prepared differently and it was learning lesson on how they cooked it per order. I learned a lot and what a day it turned out to be.

Scenes from Neighbourgoods Market

The Local Grill – details, details, details. I loved the details and just to say I feel like I got my PHD on meat. Imagine no marination here – the butcher man prepared meat per order. Yes, from the cold-room to the grill per order. It was also different because they only use butter – salted and unsalted – for grilling meat. Their mustard sauce was amazing and I will be adopting it. We had also had a mixture of olive oil blended with mint and rosemary – very nice for meat.

The Local Grill

When I was still in the Mara and I saw that dinner tonight was sushi at Yamada and I thought it was going to my difficult night. You know being a Luo we love fish, yes fish, but not raw fish. It turned out to be a lovely night seeing those chefs doing their thing, but thanks God no sushi at Angama. My favourite was prawns tempura with such tasty dip.

Sushi at Yamada

I was excited going to Tasha’s for breakfast especially after watching her on YouTube. What really took my breath away were mini egg and bacon burgers for breakfast (coming soon) and the presentation was so good.

Then we went for lunch at Urbanologi where I overate without even knowing it, which made me uncomfortable for the rest of the day. Every dish came on a small plate and you share: the sweet potato was delicious (unfortunately NF didn’t like it) but Chef Amanda and I loved it; I also enjoyed the lamb and chicken. In the evening we went for dinner at Dukes for the best burger in JHB. I liked how they presented their bunless burger – actually it was one thing that was bothering me (problem solved).

Lunch at Urbanologi

It was nice to see the other side of JHB from a matatu and the only seat available was next to the driver. In less than 5 minutes passengers starting giving me money and talking to me in Zulu – all I could do was smile and take the money only to realize I was the conductor. When I whispered to the driver I don’t understand Zulu everyone laughed at me. In town I saw matumbo (I was afraid to try it). Afterwards we visited one of the biggest shopping malls I have ever come across – the shopping was good!

Some Jozi Food

My final dinner was at Leopard. The Green Gazpacho was very yummy (you will find it on Angama’s menu) but by this time I didn’t want to see any kind of food as I had already added 3kg.

Pablo Eggs Go Bar – what a creative way to name a restaurant and what a way to start the day with the JHB Angama team. It was lovely breakfast and I tried Green Shakshuka (coming to our breakfast menu soon). It was also a sad morning because I was going back home and leaving all the fun and good food (I can promise you will find it at Angama) and the great infrastructure and roads, no traffic, and the railway system working. It was such pleasure to be hosted by NF and SF.

Breakfast at Pablo Eggs Go Bar

Note from the editor: It is my absolute joy and pride to work alongside Collins and his team. I hope you enjoyed reading his delightful account of his food week in Johannesburg. Steve and I loved hosting him and seeing the surprise and excitement on his face as he discovered new dishes and understood why I have asked him to cook for our guests the way we do. (Matatu = taxi; matumbo = cooked goat).

Chef Collins leads a kitchen team of 18 at the Angama Mara: 2 camp kitchens, the bakery, the picnic kitchen, the canteen kitchen, the BBQ kitchen and the Maasai boma. He has been at the lodge from Day One and has embraced every challenge thrown at him: no buffets, all menus a la carte, dinner served in three places each night (guest area, in-tent and our BBQ) and each guest picnic individually packed. And in his spare time he chairs the management board and coaches the soccer team.