Launched as part of Canvas Collective Africa’s roving luxury- camp offering, The Field Kitchen sees chef Gregory Henderson, renowned for his biome-specific food, cook up hyper-local cuisine for the sophisticated camper.
The Field Kitchen, which has laid claim to being South Africa’s first truly mobile fine-dining restaurant, has been launched in tandem with this new haute-camping concept, which sees the setup wind its way across the Western Cape, inviting guests to explore the fauna, flora, and produce of these unique locales.
Chef-in-residence Henderson, who has travelled extensively across Africa and is known for his endemic approach to cooking, draws on the diverse ecosystems and biomes of each site. Incorporating foraged veld finds and local ingredients, he impresses with adventurous yet approachable dishes. And when it comes to pairings, he need look no further than the nearest wine estates and distillers.
The kitchen itself is set up inside an impressive mobile glass, steel, and canvas cabin, which has been designed as both a bespoke moveable kitchen and restaurant and an open-plan food studio. This gives diners the opportunity to witness how these foraged foods and often unusual ingredients are transformed into thought-provoking yet delicious dishes.
Award-winning mixologist Bruce Dorfling is in charge of the drinks programme. In addition to mixing, shaking, and pouring some botanically inspired cocktails he also gives guests the opportunity to try their hand at distillation, with the libations then being enjoyed with the meal.
The debut of Canvas Collective Africa — and hence The Field Kitchen — takes place in the picturesque farmlands around Botrivier in the Overberg. This region is not only The Field Kitchen’s first stop but also the focus of Henderson’s latest cookbook, Overberg Tapestry: Part One, which takes readers through the edible history of the area. The first culinary experience will take the shape of a live-fire-cooked meal under the beautiful African skies. Local and veld-sourced produce will be used to create hearty and generous slow-cooked dishes, with the Botrivier location lending itself to beautiful lamb. Those with an interest in foraging will be able to join Henderson in the veld on his exploits.
The farm, in addition to its bounty of natural and wild produce, is also home to regenerative olive trees and stone-fruit orchards, ripe and ready for harvest. In winter, the Overberg offers an abundance of chestnuts, chicken of the woods mushrooms, fynbos (including two different varieties of wild rosemary), and plenty of botanicals, flowers, and perennials. All of these will be harvested ahead of a picnic lunch in the veld.
The final dinner will see the fruits of the harvest and contributions from local farmers transformed into a multi-course fine-dining experience, not only highlighting the beauty of the regional produce but also showcasing the versatility of the ingredients. While the menu will change daily based on what’s at its best and ready for harvest, the chef is also excited to weave the history of the region into the experience.
In honour of this having been a route along which cattle were traded for salt, butter, and fat, Henderson has conceptualised a Nguni beef dish that pays homage to this part of the Overberg’s past, using all the traded components. For the chef, the project is the realisation of a 20-year dream, bringing his passion for foraged veld finds and indigenous ingredients to the fore and allowing him to share it with all who are interested.
After all, according to Henderson, to really understand our biodiversity and all it offers we need to be eating it. Canvas Collective Africa’s Botrivier sojourn will be available to culinary travellers until 30 June, before making its way to the fertile Biedouw Valley, just beyond Clanwilliam, for late winter and spring.
• From the May edition of Wanted, 2022.