By Amos Fofung
Receiving the award for the world best restaurant in February 2019 at Paris during the World Restaurant Awards, Chef Kabus van der Merwe who owns “Wolfgat” restaurant in South Africa said we try to “interfere as little as possible with the products, and to keep them pure, raw and untreated. It’s a hyper-local cuisine but we try to come up with new flavors, like dune celery spice.”
To the chief whose little-known restaurant is located at Paternoster Beach some 150kilometers from Cape Town, it’s all about serving his customers with the best meal. Which to him does not necessarily translate into a higher price. Their seven-course tasting menu, according to Fiachra Gibbons of AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, goes for just $60.
38-year-old Kabus van der whom we gathered is a former journalist said there is “no kitchen hierarchy…we all do everything.” His little restaurant which is said to accommodate not more than twenty at a time won the judges hearts due to their approach, manner of handling food and menu.
Chef Kabus told AFP, “I don’t feel worthy. It’s a big title. My staff who go out every day gathering herbs, succulents and dune spinach, should be here… It’s their baby.”
Wolfgat restaurant also won the award for Off-Map Destination restaurant due to its ideal location hosted in a 130-year-old cottage. According to Wolfgat’s website, they offer a “unique” dining experience showcasing a selection of indigenous ingredients specific to their coastal location.
Drawing inspiration from the surrounding landscape and its dramatic seasonal transformation, Kobus van der Merwe’s signature Strandveld food menu comprises of a series of tasting dishes presented in seven courses. Sustainable seafood, local lamb and venison, and seasonal veldkos is featured, enhanced by wild herbs, seaweeds from the local rock pools, and pickings from the garden.
Some of the elements on the tasting menu, they said, take weeks of preparation, while other ingredients are handpicked on the day for the exact number of bookings received.
Kabus van der Merwe says his win is a great victory for the African “continent and my beautiful, diverse country” South Africa
Below is a full list of all the winners of the World Restaurant Awards 2019
Restaurant of the Year – Wolfgat, Paternoster, South Africa
Arrival of the Year – Inua, Tokyo, Japan
Original Thinking – Le Clarence, Paris, France
Off-Map Destination – Wolfgat, Paternoster, South Africa
No Reservations Required – Mocoto, São Paulo, Brazil
House Special – Lido 84’s Cacio e Pepe “en vessie,” Lombardy, Italy
Forward Drinking – Mugaritz, San Sebastián, Spain
Event of the Year – Refugee Food Festival, worldwide, France
Ethical Thinking – Refettorio (Food For Soul), various locations, Italy
Enduring Classic – La Mère Brazier, Lyon, France
Collaboration of the Year – Paradiso x Gortnanain Farm, Cork, Ireland
Atmosphere – Vespertine, Los Angeles, United States
Tweezer-Free Kitchen of the Year – Bo.Lan, Bangkok, Thailand
Trolley of the Year – Ballymaloe House, Cork, Ireland
Long-Form Journalism – Lisa Abend, Fool Magazine “The Food Circus”
Red-Wine Serving Restaurant – Noble Rot, London, United Kingdom
Tattoo-Free Chef of the Year – Alain Ducasse, Paris, France
Instagram Account of the Year – @alain_passard, Paris, France