The annual Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards took place at the GrandWest Grand Arena in Cape Town on Sunday, 18 November 2018. Hosted by Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp and Mi Casa's J'Something, the event that featured a multi-course lunch prepared by ten top chefs, as well as performances from the likes of Prime Circle and Karen Zoid, was another spectacular way to celebrate the rock stars of South Africa's culinary world.
“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.”
The runner up
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Eugene graduated from the University of Cape Town with distinctions in financial accounting and classical piano. He then spent over two-and-half years working in branding and communications at two of South Africa's top market research companies. Eugene also spent over three-and-a-half years at an eLearning start-up, all while building his business as an award-winning writer.
Visit www.eugeneyiga.com, follow @eugeneyiga on Twitter, or email moc.agiyenegue@olleh to say, um, hello.