Award-winning chefs Wandile Mabaso and Johannes Richter
Award-winning chefs Wandile Mabaso and Johannes Richter
Image: Supplied

Wandile Mabaso is celebrated for infusing SA soul into his French fine dining creations. He has invited Johannes Richter — known for his hyperlocal and sustainability-focused cooking — to his Les Creatifs restaurant for a two-day collaboration that celebrates SA culinary culture and heritage. Richter’s mission for showcasing Durban and KwaZulu-Natal’s culinary diversity and heritage, combined with his passion for sustainability have made The Living Room at Summerhill Guest Estate an award-winning restaurant.

The two chefs will highlight endemic and indigenous ingredients and age-old African cooking techniques over three services (one lunch and two dinners) on July 19 and 20.

A keen collaborator with a vision for the transformative potential in collaboration, Mabaso has previously invited young star chef and owner of Emazulwini restaurant in Cape Town, Mmabatho Molefe to give Joburg a taste of her refined Zulu cuisine. Now it’s Durban’s turn. Mabaso and Richter will present their celebrated culinary capabilities in a seven-course menu with wine pairing. We spoke to the two chefs about sustainability and the evolving SA culinary culture.

How did this collaboration come about?

WANDILE MABASO: Chef Johannes has become a friend over the years and I have had the pleasure of dining at his restaurant last year. We started talking about the industry and what we believe is crucial in adding value to the craft and the industry in general. Most importantly, we believe that there is a lot of similarities in our French training background, food philosophy, creativity and focus on championing SA culture and heritage and the concept of sustainability

Culture evolves. What do you think is shifting in SA culture from a culinary perspective?

WM: I believe we are entering a third culture cuisine era globally where the new generation of chefs is representing their culture through western techniques. I believe SA is facing the same direction where local chefs are slowly moving away from highlighting foreign cuisines and focusing on local culture and local produce.

What has working with and refining SA’s indigenous ingredients revealed? 

WM: It has been a very interesting journey since my return from Paris five years ago. It is almost like rediscovering your own cultural heritage and being intrigued by all these new ingredients that I’m using for the first time as a professional chef. It has been a very educational experience and for me it has also enhanced my creativity by combining ingredients that have never been used together before. I believe it’s now up to us to teach other chefs and the public about the unknown and amazing ingredients we have in our country.  

Wandile Mabaso's crab bouillabaisse
Wandile Mabaso's crab bouillabaisse
Image: Supplied

What can you tell Joburgers about the diversity of Durban/KwaZulu-Natal’s produce?

JOHANNES RICHTER: The produce here is really special because of the completely diverse climate that we have in and around Durban. Because we’re on the coastline we’ve got subtropical weather with very mild winters and very hot, humid summers, plus the European/continental climate from the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, which give us the diversity of ingredients that we have.

There’s also an Indian heritage influencing ingredients, and Zulu heritage. Things like madumbe, amatungulu (Natal coastal plum) and ukhova bananas flourish here. Just behind us, in the direction of the Drakensberg Mountains we’ve got the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, which is like the breadbasket of the province. So, we’re getting a huge array of produce from a very small radius of about 100km.

Johannes Richter's Madagascar Vanilla 2015, Madumbe and guavadilla
Johannes Richter's Madagascar Vanilla 2015, Madumbe and guavadilla
Image: Supplied

Our seasons are different, as we have spring and early summer rains as well as dry winters. So, we have a summer mushroom season, which is rare. This means a huge wealth of mushrooms for us — like beautiful porcini from the cooler places of the province like Kokstad. Summer is also mango season for instance, and I think it’s probably the only place in the world where you can you grow both porcini and mangoes.

For our dinner with Chef Mabaso, we’re excited for the Joburg guests to try our first course, which is a dish revolving around guava and bitter indigenous greens called baby sunrose which we’ve turned into sorbet. It gives the whole dish a little bit more tannins, savouriness as well as a little bit of salinity.

How does it enhance your sustainable approach?

JR: Working with foraged, indigenous produce that is completely acclimatised to the conditions really sets us apart. In an area like ours that has very minimal rainfall in winter for instance, we don’t need to irrigate as those plants are used to these conditions. Additionally, no herbicides, pesticides or fungicides need to be used as the plant has developed a natural resistance to pests. That’s why locally sourcing and foraging of indigenous produce is something that intertwines completely with our approach to sustainability. Other things that enhance our approach are being able to support other small-scale suppliers, having as little of a carbon footprint as possible, and having hardly any packaging that is made from plastic.

Book your table at Les Creatifs through Dineplan. 

© Wanted 2024 - If you would like to reproduce this article please email us.
X