The Collection of Chefs in our Kitchen

Oct 11, 2019

Known Design Co

This has been an incredible time for us all on the Ginger & Lime, Salt & Sage and the Kitchen Collective journey. A time of growth and learning, and pushing ourselves way beyond any comfort zone. We have put our all into this venture, no holds barred, and we are committed to providing the best Venue and Shared Kitchen space in Cape Town. (work on the description)

We launched this new venue with an explosion of fabulous events and courses in the first week of August, but out of these, one has to stand out as the absolute highlight of the past five years. And there have been many!

The final decorative touches were being put to the venue, after the three months it took from concept and design, to the renovation and creation of the venue. Denise, Kim and Katy rushing around phone in one hand, with clipboards of lists in the other, ticking away furiously, long days, late nights, many calls, double checking details, trial run, the excitement of unpacking brand new equipment and placing each thing in the perfect place. Frantic running back and forth to the shops for last minute purchases. All had to be prefect. Phew!

And we are ready. Huge function tonight. But then comes the realisation – where are the fridges for the main area? Oops! We were so used to the space they should fill, as we had been waiting ages for our order. Panicked call to the supplier. “Was about to call you, so sorry, but they are on the ship in the harbour still. The dock workers are on strike so we can’t clear them today. Sorry.” Sorry! Sorry? Is that it? Production mode kicks in, and we demand substitute fridges for the night, as the show must go on. These arrive within the hour, and strong delivery guys heave oversized cardboard boxes into the studio. These are unwrapped and then the faces become blank , eyes darting around sheepishly. What, we demand? Problem? “Sorry, m’am, but they sent the wrong size.” Well, best you go back right now and fetch correct ones, we say through gritted teeth. And they did.

Next…. “A pipe has burst in the toilet and water is pouring out.” says one of our team. Oh no! Plumber is summonsed urgently, and fortunately was able to repair the damage speedily.

We breathe a sigh of relief. That has to be it now, the chefs will be here in 15 minutes.

Then right on time, the entire Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen crew representing all the restaurants and headed up Liam Tomlin, with Ivor Jones (Chefs Warehouse at Maison) , Nanda Cardosa (Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen), Neill Jewell (Jewells), David Schneider (Chef’s Warehouse at Maison) and JP (Thali) arrive en masse and pour into our space. Large as it is, their presence fills the venue. A collection of Chefs! How amazing is that! This is the first time they had all been together in the same place and working at a function, and it was amazing to observe. The two studio kitchens are set up and ready for service in a flash, chefs chirp, deep laughter and dirty jokes can be heard, and there is a buzz in the air as chefs competed, showing off knife skills and fooling around. Final touches are put to the prep, and plating all in place and ready to go. These guys know what they are doing.

We walk around the place proudly, checking all the final details. Cathy has been brought in to assist with styling and adding her usual flair for the evening, and it is looking so beautiful. Every detail is perfect. Champagne is cooling in large silver ice buckets, candles are lit, music playing, the stage is set.

Our 70 VVIP guests start to arrive for this private function. Drinks are poured, guests seated and the show begins. Liam and Nanda command the main stage kitchen area demonstrating how to make Asian Potstickers and a Fish Tartar dish, which the guests enjoy tapas style, as the banter in the kitchen continues. Guests are treated to behind the scenes raw and real Chefs’ live theatre as they observed the chefs finishing off their dishes and plating up, from the dining area through to the state of the art glass-framed working studio kitchens. More dishes follow as each restaurant proudly presents their best dish. Wines from….. and whisky from Baines flowed.

Then there was THE ANNOUNCEMENT as MIND YOUR BACKS, a Non Profit initiative set up by a small group of chefs who care, was launched. You could have heard a pin drop in the space as Liam spoke about the harsh reality of a career in the kitchen and shared his stories from a personal point of view. David Schneider then related his very touching experience of working behind the scenes in this stressful environment, and how this can destroy lives, as many turn to alcohol and drugs, and even suicide, to find relief from the ongoing stress. This was kind of an eye-opener to so many of us. We frequent these restaurants often, we review, we post pictures, we bring out our inner critic, and we think we have the right to judge what someone has poured their heart and soul into and put out on a plate. We can make or break a place, carelessly, thoughtlessly. The industry is a harsh one, it takes bright youngsters in, subjects them to 18 hour days for minimum wages, and if they complain, they are spat out. They have to watch their backs continually, as there is always someone ready to step into their shoes as the first sign of vulnerability. They have nowhere to turn to, no help at all. Seasoned veterans of the kitchen are just as vulnerable, often with the added pressure of supporting a family as well. This new initiative will provide them with the help and care they need. There will be access to trained professionals for counselling and therapy, and the necessary treatment. They will be supported.

Liam and his teams all donated both their time and the dishes they served to the event to the fund. TKC donated the venue fee to the charity. Following this example, several guests spontaneously donated to the fund and this has been started off with a substantial amount. What an evening of caring and sharing, of both amazing food and wine, as well as heartfelt emotions and personal stories, and a renewed belief that there is so much good out there. It was incredibly special, and we are so proud to have been a part of this.