Budding young chefs in the Western Cape have drawn major benefit from this year’s American Express Platinum Fine Dining Programme through mentorship by local celebrity Chef Bruce Robertson.
As part of the programme’s development initiative, Chef Robertson – who was Executive Chef at the Cape Grace, then Chef/Owner of the Showroom Cape Town and now Chef/Owner of the Boat House – hosted a culinary mentorship day at the Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA) in Stellenbosch for trainee chefs from the ICA, Capsicum Culinary Studio, the Private Hotel School, Silwood School of Cookery and The Culinary Academy.
The American Express Platinum Fine Dining Mentorship Programme was introduced in 2009, aimed at inspiring and providing a platform for budding chefs to grow their culinary knowledge and skills. This year’s Mentorship Programme encompassed a workshop with students who spent the day with Chef Robertson, preparing dishes for the 2013 American Express Platinum Fine Dining Awards ceremony held at Brenaissance Wine Estate in Stellenbosch on Monday, September 10. A similar mentorship project was conducted at the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg last month by celebrity Chef David Higgs (who has represented South Africa at the Culinary Olympics).
“This has been an awesome opportunity for these aspiring young Chefs to learn from two of the country’s top and award-winning Chefs and to prepare food for a discerning group of people with exacting expectations of fine dining,” said Pamela White, Head of Corporate Card Services for American Express.
In their 15th year since inception in 1998, the American Express Platinum Fine Dining Awards continue to recognize excellence in fine dining, with 83 top restaurants honoured. These include 12 new entrants emerging as the latest fine dining restaurants in South Africa alongside 69 whose awards were renewed in the programme.
Meanwhile, no fewer than four Cape restaurants – Boschendal, Aubergine, Buitenverwachting and Catharina’s– received their 15th consecutive awards – this in a notable year when Boschendal’s Manor House and Stables, built in 1812, celebrated their 200th anniversary. Other notable award winners were: 96 Winery Rd, 1882, Bosman’s, Bread & Wine, Constantia Uitsig, Grande Provence, Gold, Greenhouse, Haiku, La Colombe, La Locanda, Nobu, The Pavilion, Pembreys, Pierneef à La Motte, Roundhouse, Sand at Plettenberg, Savoy Cabbage, Seafood at The Marine.
This year’s judging panel comprised well known restaurant critic Victor Strugo who has convened the panel since its inception in 1998; Cape Town chef and food publisher Tamsin Snyman; and Anna Trapido, a renowned author, journalist, broadcaster and commentator on food and wine, supported by a team of anonymous and experienced assessors.
The selection criteria for the programme include quality and creativity of cuisine, service, wine list, décor and ambience as well as overall excellence and American Express card acceptance. The sole qualifying commitments for eligibility are that the restaurant must be an American Express merchant and guarantee to honour at least one late dinner reservation for up to four people by American Express Platinum Card members who call before 10.30 am on the morning of the reservation date.