The poshest of French nosh washes up in sleepy KZN
Celebrating the Chaîne de Rôtisseurs in Zimbali
They wear medals and stand on ceremony, but when it comes to nosh the Chaîne de Rôtisseurs is simply quite posh – something we couldn’t help but notice as we sipped sparkling wine in the plush reception bar above Fairmont Zimbali’s Osa restaurant.The occasion was World Chaine Day to celebrate the Chaîne de Rôtisseurs, an international gastronomic organisation which has its origins in the days of French King Louis IX.
The society, which celebrates the art of cuisine and the culture of the table, has come a long way since the days of a guild dedicated to mastering the art of goose roasting.
On the evening World Chaine Day was celebrated in 85 countries, about 20 members of the KwaZulu-Natal Bailage – adorned in the ceremonial ribbons and insignia denoting rank and induction as per tradition – and their guests supped on the gastronomic creations of Michelin-starred Zimbali executive chef Tony Kocke, who is also a member.A playful first course of scallops on sweetcorn mousse, perfumed with truffle oil and topped with quail egg and popcorn, teased palates with its taste and texture. A fricassee of garden snails with sauteed spinach and grilled artichokes followed.But it was the darne of kingklip larded with salmon, served with lime sauce and served with candied lemon, that was the star of the night. It outshone even the grilled duck breast served with cauliflower mousse, asparagus, potato and mushroom truffle. A custard tart dusted with nutmeg ended the meal on a triumphant note.But as important as the meal and fine wines that accompanied each course were the sporadic bursts of laughter, chatter and banter that accompanied each course.The Bailli (senior office bearer) of the KZN Baillage (region), Shaun Munro, spelled out the definition of the culture of the table pledge that each member takes on becoming a member: “It is the understanding, respect and appreciation of a wonderful meal enjoyed in a hospitable, warm and welcoming environment – great service, quality cutlery, crockery and glassware.”
The society, which made food appreciation a thing even before Masterchef, has 375 members in South Africa, of which 187 are professionals. It had its inaugural dinner at the La Francais in the Mall of Rosebank in 1981.Each of the six regions organise monthly outings. This month the KZN region is visiting local wine farm Abdingdon, where Ian Smorthwaite will show off the fruits of his labour grown from the Nebiolo grape which originates in the Piedmont region of Italy. He planted the first vines in 2003 and now offers it commercially, albeit in small quantities. Then Jackie Cameron’s School of Cooking in Howick will serve a brunch prepared by students.But while the objective is largely social, the society is also committed to the development of young chefs and sommeliers by holding national and international competitions. It also has two training schools in Durban and Cape Town where underprivileged children are given an opportunity to pursue a career in hospitality.