Africa is a nation rich in a diversity of flavour, and as Virginia Woolf so adequately said: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”. The Elephant Camp is committed to providing guests with a delicious cuisine that celebrates our bounty of fresh local produce, ensuring that every meal is an experience to be remembered and revered.
Dean Jones, Wild Horizons’ Executive Chef, based at The Elephant Camp, recognises that food is more than just a meal, but an art in the most delicious form. He believes that “being a chef is an expression of character, passion, creativity and love”. Dean did his culinary training at Silwood School of Cookery in Cape Town, which is highly acclaimed for its three-year Grande Diploma Course. However, it was while watching his mother prepare sweet and savoury snacks for functions as a young boy that his seeds of passion were sown. He soon recognised food as a way of bringing people together and expressing himself through the different flavour profiles in each meal.
During his culinary training, Dean was taught the fundamentals of French Cooking. Throughout his first year, he mastered the techniques that would come to define, and radiate, through his expertly accomplished dishes. During his second year, Dean spent two months in five different kitchen environments, where he gained valuable experience working at several reputable restaurants, including The Conservatory at The Cellars Hohenourt, Myoga Restaurant at the Vineyard Hotel in Claremont, and The Foodbarn in Noordhoek. Dean’s innovative and creative recipe development and food styling skills can be attributed to his time spent with Abigail Donnelly at the Woolworths Taste Magazine.
In the April of 2016, Dean was selected as a semi-finalist out of tens of thousands of chefs from around the world in a global competition called The San Pellergrino Young Chefs Award. Due to this Global competition, at the age of 30, Dean was recognised as one of the worlds ‘up-and-coming’ young chefs.
If food is the body of good living, then wine is the soul. Under the guidance of Chef Margot Janse at Le Quartier Francais’s The Tasting Room in the beautiful Cape Winelands of Franschhoek, Dean gained valuable knowledge about the process of tasting wine, as well as the winemakers themselves. Dean will introduce and execute decadent Wine & Coffee pairings, as well as High Tea & Champagne pairings that are sure to exhilarate our flow of international clientele. Having been motivated by a variety of multi-talented and well-renown chefs, Dean is now striving to be the type of food connoisseur that future diners and chefs are inspired by.
Dean has a passion for pastry that arose while he spent time in his Ouma’s bakery as a young boy. Through his flaky phyllo pastry, tantalising tarts, and buttery crisp croissants, Dean’s freshly baked menu achieves a wow factor in textures, flavours and presentation. American humorist Erma Brombeck was right when she told the world: “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.” It will take a strong-willed person to wave away Dean’s pastry display.
The concept of travelling is infused with the aromas and tastes of each place that we visit, and in order to truly absorb a culture, we need to savour the delicacies that the region has to offer. The meals devised by Dean are well worth travelling for.
Happiness is derived from good food, good music and good wine, all three of which Dean has a well-nurtured passion for. His creativity in the kitchen shapes food artistry that introduces diners to new sensations, cultures and tastes.
“Life is made up of many wonderful, colourful people, and food has a way of bringing cultures, families and friends together. It has the ability to induce nostalgia, calm, healing and peace.” – Dean Jones.
Victoria Falls is a town where elephants stop by for a drink (out of the swimming pool), buffalo jay-walk across the road, and the rainforest is just a stone’s throw away from your local café. Zimbabwe born chef Callie-Anne Gavazzi shared her passion for cooking with an international audience when she appeared on South Africa’s MasterChef. On a recent trip to Victoria Falls we gave her a taste of the wild, and she generously returned the favour with a succulent Seared Steak Salad recipe for the Lookout Café menu. This tantalising dish marries contemporary cooking to indigenous ingredients, and the bright, fresh colours make it almost (repeat, almost) too attractive to eat.
With the lip of the Batoka gorge as her kitchen, the Zambezi river roaring below her and the African sun blazing above her, Gavazzi showed us how she made it into the top 25 MasterChef’s of South Africa. You would be doing your taste buds a great disservice if you did not treat them to her salad on your next trip to the Lookout Café.
For most people, spending an hour on the edge of a one-hundred-meter gorge would be daring enough. However, Gavazzi decided that the adventure wasn’t going to stop there. Forgoing the apron for a harness, she tackled the gorge swing cool as a cucumber (excuse the pun). This ability to take bold leaps into unknown territory is what lends this young chef’s reality cooking show such a keen sense of excitement. In an interview with The Citizen, Gavazzi described herself as a “slave to the ingredients”, and her appreciation of local produce has inspired the inception of unique dishes including pizzas made with crocodile eggs.
Anyone that has visited Africa will know that she is so much more than a destination. Once your feet have walked across her hot savannas, your lungs have filled with her clean breeze, and your skin has soaked up her gentle rays of light, these feelings remain with you forever. This part of the world is bursting with diverse flavours and Gavazzi transforms these rich ingredients into truly satisfying soul food.
Q & A with Callie
Wild Horizons: What was the most exciting part of your trip to Victoria Falls?
Gavazzi: Oh, gosh this is a hard one. Each part of the Vic Falls was just magical in its very own way. I would have to say the gorge swing! It’s out if this world …. throwing yourself off a cliff and it was an incredible feeling.
I also LOVED the Boma. Proudly Zimbabwean food that is authentic and delicious. One cannot visit Victoria falls without eating there it’s just delicious.
WH: What item on the Lookout Café menu would you recommend to future diners?
G: Mine of course!! (Haha just kidding!) I love the crocodile skewers; they were very tasty and very creative. I am all for trying new things in beautiful destinations. Oh, and don’t forget to have an ice-cold Zambezi beer to wash it all down!
WH: Did you try Mopani worms during your dinner at the Boma?
G: Yes, I did! Yikes!!! it’s one of those things you just have to do at the Boma. They actually have this peanut butter-ish flavor! I actually used to munch them as a little girl…so it wasn’t too bad! Haha
WH: What would be the first thing on your To Do list for future trips to Victoria Falls?
G: I think between Whitewater rafting and the Zambezi express train! Those activities are at the top of my list. Adrenaline win has to be the water rafting- it’s insane! I loved it so much.
I also just think the train is so old school and beautiful. It gives you a sense of what it was like back in the day. Not to mention the view of the falls from the train is breath-taking.
WH: When can we look forward to seeing you adventure here on Callie-Anne Cooks: Into the Wild?
G: I am so thrilled about this season. I still have season 2 to look forward to. But season 3 will air sometime in 2017. I will be sure to keep everyone in the loop of exact details.
Written by Jess White
While sitting in the stunning Lookout Café overlooking the Batoka Gorge, with a salted caramel pretzel milkshake in hand, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Chef Renzo on his annual visit to the Wild Horizons properties . Originally born in Portugal, Chef Renzo moved to South Africa in 1994. He has spent many years working closely with and for several leading hotel chains. His varied experiences have given him different and exciting perspectives on food. He visits the Wild Horizons group annually to work with the in house chefs and to bring in creative new ideas in the menus being offered. In keeping with current trends the Wild Horizons group, incorporating The Elephant Camp, Stanley and Livingstone, Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge and the Lookout Café, like to update their menus seasonally with imaginative ideas to celebrate the move from winter into summer.
Chef Renzo stresses that a key component of a menu is the availability of ingredients and at all times there is an emphasis on quality and freshness. He told me that a current food trend at the moment is the use of herbs and this will be a key component in many of the salads gracing Wild Horizons tables. He and the team are always on the lookout for delectable bites with a difference.
Many guests of the Wild Horizons group are often lucky enough to visit at least two of the properties and as such it is important that each lodge boasts its own style of food. In keeping with the Wild Horizons mantra that every dining experience must be different Chef Renzo is planning on implementing a revolving menu at each lodge that will include a buffet, a set menu including at least 3 options and a bush braai out of camp. He plans to make even further use of our unique and glorious African settings on the doorsteps of our lodges.
Of course availability of stock can sometimes hinder the imagination but there is no shortage of fresh salad ingredients in Victoria Falls . Much to the delight of our chefs, local entrepreneur Dave Cooper has started up his own hydroponic vegetable garden within Victoria Falls. Moving away from mass market gardening Dave is growing, with unbelievable success, a wide variety of the more unusual and yet sought after salad ingredients including fancy lettuce, a variety of tomatoes, several varieties of edible flowers and a spectacular array of fresh herbs.
Wild Horizons look forward to spoiling you with our new and creative menus that are welcoming in the summer of 2016. Written by Libby White
Moeketsi Ndlovu is a 30-year-old chef who grew up in Victoria Falls but was originally from Esigodini, Zimbabwe. His family noticed his talent in the kitchen early on.
My Grandmother used to enjoy my cooking so she always encouraged me to become a chef though she had a belief it was not a paying job.
His grandmother was right about Moeketsi’s talent but wrong about there not being paid employment in his field. He was employed by Victoria Falls Safari Lodge as an Apprentice Chef in 2005. Moeketsi is now a head chef with 10 years of experience under his belt and says one of his accomplishments was winning the restaurant of the year for the Palm Restaurant, Ilala Lodge, Victoria Falls for three years running during his time there.
On the 23’rd of December, Moeketsi opened the Wild Horizons Lookout Café as the head chef. The café is cantilevered on the edge of the Batoka Gorge and offers diners truly stunning views of the canyon and the Victoria Falls Bridge. However, the tasty and affordable menu brimming with simple, fresh flavours is what draws people. Moeketsi changes the menu with the season and loves to experiment with new dishes while still keeping the same value and quality the Lookout Café has become known for.
Planning a new menu has always given my career its challenges; playing around with combination of flavours, the health aspects of the menu and finally the costing which turns me into an accountant as well!
It is a technique that works and The Lookout Café has been an incredible success, garnering great reviews from international customers, and quickly becoming a favourite for local clientele. In the short space of a year café has more than doubled its seating capacity as a response to the overwhelming demand from the public. Much of this has been due to the innovation and hard work of the head chef and team in the kitchen who work hard every day to ensure the best food is served.
To young people wanting to become a chef Moeketsi says
‘…chefs have good job opportunities so if you have a passion for cooking it’s a fantastic job, but I repeat, only if you have passion!’