South Africa Saturday Kitchen Competition

Tracey Blackman on 02 July 2014
I entered a competition last year in our Travel Trade Magazine. In the past I have entered loads and never won a thing, but this time I entered because South Africa has been high up on my list of places to go for a very long time. When the email came through, to say that I had won I was just amazed, so here is my experience.

On May 14th 2014, I met my fellow winners at Heathrow. There were only nine of us so it was a nice group of people to share in a fantastic experience. Our flight was with South African Airways who I have to say were very good, the food was good, the leg room was good and air stewards were very attentive.

The first stop was Cape Town. We had three nights at Table Bay hotel and were blown away by this beautiful hotel overlooking Table Mountain. They had laid on afternoon tea for us which was superb. Prices for afternoon tea were so cheap at around £11 - better than the Ritz! Next day we did a walking tour of Cape Town and Adderley St flower market which wasn't fair as we couldn't bring any home! Then our first cooking experience at Bo Kaap malay cooking school which was great fun cooking local curries. This evening we went to Amazink in Kayamandi for dinner and a cabaret. Fantastic singing and an unforgettable theatrical experience and well worth a visit.

Next day we went up Table Mountain on a cable car. The views up there are incredible, overlooking the rugged coastline and the white that covers the rock unique to Table Mountain, they call it a table cloth. This afternoon we went to Boulder Beach to see the penguin colony (again with amazing scenery) then off to Hout Bay Harbour Market to have a wine tasting with fish and meat.

Today we fly to from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth to Hog Hollow Plettenberg Bay to meet our Chef Big Joe to cook for the guests and have a cookery lesson. What a fantastic place. Hog Hollow is in the middle of the forest overlooking high trees. There are monkeys around you and you really feel at peace, we had a lovely walk next to the monkey sanctuary when we arrived. I didn't want to leave! We had a successful evening cooking and meeting the guests, sitting round the open fire watching an amazing electrical storm.

We woke up and went horse riding which was a bit scary as I haven't been on a horse for 30 years. The stables were really well looked after and the staff could not do enough for you. Once I got on the horse I was fine and we went into a field overlooking the countryside. That afternoon we were diving for mussels and oysters and then to taste them.

This is an experience I will never forget. The Atlantic Ocean was really cold but we did have wet suits on. The sea was quite rough so it was hard to get out but we did make it. The oysters are amazing -far better than I’ve ever tasted and coming from Whitstable that's saying something.

I am amazed at how much you can do along the Garden Route, from the world’s biggest bungee jump to diving with sharks, to white water rafting or wine tasting and eating fabulous food at such a ridiculously cheap price. Or just taking in the most amazing scenery.

Next day we got up and were flying from George Airport to Johannesburg to meet the three other teams at The Palace of the Lost City, Sun City in NW Province. This was our home for the last three days of our trip. We used the massive industrial kitchens. There were three of us and we had the chefs whites on and the hat and we started our cooking. We presented canapes, fresh oysters, wild mussels in a white wine sauce with pasta and spinach, bush pig (wild boar) with a honey glaze, Kei apple sauce, homemade mustard with a sweet potato rosti and roasted beetroot. Dessert was a prickly pear sorbet with a honeybush crème brulee.

We had to match the correct wine with the food, and there is a lot to choose from I can tell you. It was like being on Master Chef as we were given a limited amount of time and we were filmed throughout. We then had to present this to the head chefs of Sun City. What a fantastic experience it was for us all and we worked really well together as well.

We finished our competition and then we went out to an elephant interaction, again something I will always remember. These are wild elephants and we were able to feed them, putting the food into the end of their trunk or, if you were brave, in their mouth. What beautiful animals these are! They are so intelligent and they look at you and study your face.

Dinner was at Santornini in Cascades in Sun City that night with really lovely Greek food. We had two birthdays to celebrate so we had a great evening. Again it was such good value with fantastic wine as well. Sun City is a great stop off on the way back to Johannesburg. There is a massive swimming pool, loads for children to do and a casino, cinema and famous golf course where all the great players have come.

We enjoyed an early morning game drive, only around 20 minutes from Sun City. We were lucky as this was my first game drive and I was lucky enough to see a lion, a black rhino, giraffes, wild boar and springbok. It was amazing. It was then home time and I must say it had me wanting to go back to this most amazing country. It just has so much to offer. It’s fascinating listening about Nelson Mandela and the respect for him they have. The scenery is so spectacular and there is so much food to choose from and wine tasting you can do. I could go on and on. Their winter starts in April, spring starts in September and a lot of locals I spoke to said it is a good time to go. I will be going back for sure.