Praise for a national HERO!

I find it amazing how much time we spend circulating meaningless (albeit very enjoyable) Nando’s adverts, talking about the Presidents  palace upgrades, the weekends sporting happenings and or general internet nonsense YET when a true, real life hero who has dedicated his time and efforts to giving people a better life, comes along we seem to let it slip right by – MYSELF INCLUDED!

On Saturday night I went to the Shosholoza ball in Shanghai. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Kliptown Youth Program would be performing (I had no idea who they were really, to be honest). This group of kids ran into the room with more energy than I have ever seen. Ranging from 9 years old to 26 and coming out of one of JHBs most impoverished areas, they lifted the room instantly.

They made me cry instantly. They made me cry for an hour!

They are a small part of the Kliptown Youth Program. They are the product of much hard work by many people and it would be a shame to discount the rest of those invovled  but what you can do is VOTE FOR ONE OF THEM.

Thulani Madondo has been nominated as one of 45 000 CNN heroes around the world. He has made it into the top 10 IN THE WORLD. The first South African ever to do so!

You would think this would be more important than the chicken Proteas blocking out to the Aussies or the Springboks eeking out a weekend win over a horrible English side – BUT NO. Sometimes I wonder why people like Thulani do the amazing work that they do when the world seems to be focussed only on what it can buy next or whats on TV later – AGAIN, embarrassingly, I include myself!

You CAN do something, if you click on THIS LINK it will take you to CNN HEROES page and you can vote. You can vote from each email address 10 times per day BUT the catch is the voting closes in two days!

SO YOU HAVE TO DO IT NOW!

I cannot tell you personally the amazing things these people achieve because it wouldn’t be my place but what I can tell you is that when we as South Africans have an opportunity to get behind someone like this, we should be shouting it from the rooftops! We should be forcing those around us to get involved and we should be cheering men like this as they deserve to be cheered, as national icons.

Just watch . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24ktuc5_HLE

This is one of the lights in our world and he deserves our support. His work deserves our support and if all you have to do click a few extra times today to potentially win this man and his teams project a massive amount of money and coverage, tell me thats too hard a thing to do!

STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING, CLICK HERE and VOTE! You have 48 hours to actually do something good!

Its Friday so just sit back and enjoy . . .

Sometimes this city overwhelms me and my brain goes into safe mode. Thankfully this normally only happens on a Friday!

So today there will be no intelligent in-depth posts because sometimes it is important to switch off and revert back to caveman software and enjoy beauty in the female and automotive form.

 . . . and now for something completely different!

Happy weekend STMers!

 

The magic of Ultraviolet . . . could this be the greatest culinary evolution ever?

I live to eat, it’s that simple.

Some people eat to live, some say they live to eat but I truly believe I do fall into the live to eat category (that, and drink I suppose). Because I am hard wired this way I try and spend as much time as I can in places that create great food (great food is a number of things  just expensive food!)

You can imagine my excitement when I managed to get two seats of the ten at the legendary Paul Pairet’s (just do yourself a favor and look at the food section of his page!!)new creation ULTRAVIOLET (a place that has been 15 years in the making). He is the legend behind many things, but for me most importantly, the creator of probably my favorite restaurant in Shanghai, Mr and Mrs Bund!

So what is it exactly . . .

I battled to describe it really but it is the combination of all senses experienced and expressed through 22 courses of perfectly selected food combinations and forms, drink pairings, sounds, lights, projections and smells ( I dare you to try imagine the number of combinations needed to pull this off – let alone to the unparalleled levels of excellence to which he has done) I dare say this is the greatest culinary experience anywhere in the world right now.

It is as if food has been operating in 2D for so long and someone has come along and skipped 3D but given us food in 4D.

It starts with a briefing at Mr & Mrs bund and a presentation of a small folded piece of tissue paper that gives just enough information on the impending proceedings to make me giddy with excitement.

(Some pics are my own but for some I relied on the professionals and have stolen them with pride)

Now I’ve been trying to work out how exactly I can explain this to you without going course by course (because that would take days and also I think this is one thing you want to experience yourself)

So I thought of dividing this into food and experience . . .

The experience.

As you enter the room you realize that everything is done with a purpose, from the names projected onto your seats, to the surrounding canvas of a room that will become the greatest culinary enhancment of all time.

The exceptional host or director Fabien Verdier introduces the proceedings and then the projectors take over. A small house is projected all around and slowly you start to descend beneath the earth, then the underground and so on until you find yourself in a world created by the dreams and imaginations of what I can only express as true genius!

From then on every course has sounds, sights and table projections, that take this from a tremendously complex tasting occasion to an all encompassing all engrossing orgy of the senses!

The perfect ending is when a screen appears and a live demonstration of one of the deserts ensues, slowly as you watch the walls fold back to reveal the artists at work and a tour of the kitchen (at this point you are thinking can these people think of any part of my mind that hasn’t been blown!)

Each course is perfectly served, described and consumed. I know this will sound contrived and cliched but I dont really care. Its as if Chef Paul and his team are the musicians and Fabien the conductor to which both combine skill, precision and true talent to make one of the greatest gastronomic symphonies of all time!

Now, The food.

As you are told right from the beginning the food is the most important part, it is after all a restaurant (from another galaxy, yes, but a restaurant none the less) and everything starts from the food and is developed outward. The food in a word must be, perfect and it is without question!

Here is just a small sample of some of my favorite out of the 22 courses in UV A menu.

Amuse Bouche was an apple wasabi sorbet lodged between the perfect fork / chop stick utensil – one bite, pallet cleansed, heart racing and mind engaged.

Ready to go!

Micro fish, no chips served in the perfect wet and rainy British setting! This paired with a shot of micro brewery beer. (I think the total collection of things in this dish was one of the most powerful for me!)

Foie Gras Cigar and red cabbage ash (dip and eat) aptly named ‘Foie Gras – Cant Quit’ and paired with a light Sherry!

Truffle soup bread served under a bell jar filled with cigar smoke (I see you crinkling your nose but honestly I could not believe how this entangled deliciously with the bread! Then again I am a smoker).

This paired with a 2010 Chardonnay from Burgundy.

Sea-bass baked into the bread with cheeses, olives, sun-dried tomato etc and then carved (as you can see above in an Aquarium motif) into slices and served. You can imagine the complexity of baking bread with a fish inside and managing not to spoil either of them!

Cucumber lollipop and frozen Gado Gado  served with an ambiance of Balinese masks floating around the room (you can see the pic above)

Egg tartlette served in a silver egg on a projected frame (one bite)

Well into the deserts, with the magnificently created Mandarin (this is slightly borrowed from one of my favorite all time dishes at MR & Mrs Bund – Lemon & Lemon Tart). If you imagine a whole mandarin soaked in syrup for a number of days and then through witchcraft and black magic somehow putting mandarin sorbet  and mandarin curd into the fruit without breaking the skin. Simply Outrageous!

At this point I am perfectly full, superbly satisfied and ready for a little something sweet to round it all off. A small tribute to your childhood is next with Hibernatus Gummies, frozen flavoured gummie bears served with flash frozen cola rock sweets on a projection of a child’s drawing :) This comes complete with an audio visual Gummie Bears race and a real life one by the kitchen team!

Finally after all of this the walls open, as I have discussed above, and then after a tour of the kitchen a Suzette carrot cake, Coriander-orange-cream cheese (the carrots are actually a mix of many ingredients and then shot out of a carrot gun.)

At the end of the meal its back to the table to ‘do the dishes’ a combination of rose foam, berry washing liquid and just a fun mish-mash of delicious deserts! I love the theme and idea of a non pretentious, fun and relaxed last course!

When dinner is done a proper tour of the kitchen and the ‘behind the scenes’ view of this amazingly incredible (I think Ive run out of superlatives by this stage!) machine! Then off to the UV Nightclub for a wind down glass of Champagne and review of the evenings events to try and re-live each course!

What did I leave out?

Pop rock Oyster, Green the citric, Cuttlefish Guimauve, Aglio e olio, Lobster essential, Cocotte iodine, Charred Eggplant, Tendon Tahine, Encapsulated bouillabaisse, Basilic Aioli Orange, Engloved Truffle Lamb, Wagyu simple, Tomato Pomodore, Crunchy fierce salad, Cheese, Tomato Peach ‘no shark fin’ soup, Avocado Brulee Natella

I’m not sure how much of this anyone will understand but all I can say is no matter what they are called they are the combination of imaginative genius and exceptionally talented people!

Problems with this post!

1. The order of events may not be 100% accurate (this is due to the fact that every part of my brain was being stimulated and engaged at once – taking photos was a hard enough task let alone remembering what was when)

2. If you have read this far you deserve a medal because I think this is the longest post I have ever constructed

3. I have certainly not done justice to these dishes, the surroundings, the chefs, the staff, the host and to probably everything else (even including the most advanced toilet I’ve ever seen) but to be fair unless you experience this yourself you cannot dare begin to grasp it!

All I can say is Thank you UV team for absolutely blowing my mind and for advancing the world of culinary arts!

 

 

What I learnt in Nanjing . . .

So I haven’t written in a while for very good reason. I’ve been travelling, drinking excessively and eating like a French King before the revolutions stopped all that goodness.

First I had the pleasure of heading out to Nanjing . . .

Now when you ask the Chinese about Nanjing they tell you it’s quite a small little town and by the way they talk you kind of feel like you are heading out to Potchefstroom when in actual fact it has the population of Johannesburg, roughly 10mill. As I arrived at my hotel I was aimlessly reading the hotel info, waiting for the elevator  only to find out I was standing in and staying in the 7th tallest building on earth (nice ‘rural’ town!)

The Nanjing Intercontinental & 7th tallest building in the world behind what i can only describe as a mini Great Wall!

So what did I learn in Nanjing . . .

1.       The combination of an ever growing and developing first world nation set on top of the ancient legacy of Chinese dynasties is incredibly beautiful. I had the fortune of exploring Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum which is basically the resting place of the first Ming Dynasty’s emperor.

You can imagine based on the village they built for him to be dead in, what power he must have wielded during his life!

2.       As I strolled through the ancient parks surround by a city wall that is barely even a feature of China, let alone known by the rest of the world (but is 50m high and 10m thick – a mini Great Wall) I noticed how appreciative the Chinese are of each other’s talents – this was ribbon dancing just performed for the fun of it followed by spinning top people, singers and on and on simply in the park through the day for no other reason than enjoying a skill and enjoying the ability to entertain those who pass by!

3.       The other thing you notice is how the Chinese regard the environment which, is somewhat of a surprise, as they are viewed as great destroyers of the natural world by most outsiders. You would generally put this down to an amusing translation mistake but the more I study and learn Mandarin here the more I realise the emotion conveyed in the words which makes me appreciate signs like this are not mistakes but rather the true meaning coming out!

4.       Simply put, to eat here is fantastically exciting (both in location and in content) but you have to be brave (and when you get to the bottom of your soup you are likely to find something’s head). Eat it, experience it and never be that annoying foreigner who says ‘eeewww that’s disgusting!’

5.       When you are in the 7th tallest building in the world the views are unreal but if you are brave enough to stand right up against the glass you can actually feel just how insignificantly mortal you are, but if you lay in the bath overlooking the same view you can feel like an unstoppable god!

6.       I had to stay on a few days for business and my clients budgets for travel are slightly different to my own so I went from a suite at the Intercontinental to a room that cost RMB 300 (400 ZAR per night). It had a flat screen, a double bed and bathroom amenities – all in all I think it was the best value for money hotel (or motel) room I’ve stayed in anywhere in the world!

Not too bad for R400 (although i think the bed was a plank and a sheet – not good to dive into when drunk!)
You even get a full set of bathroom amenities!

7.       Finally and most importantly I learnt that language is the biggest barrier to communication but if you add a drinking game, 5 people who speak no English, one laowai, a singer in full silver and a DJ in full gold you can communicate like you are Siamese twins.

The picture cannot express the absolutely brilliant cliche of a DJ in full gold sequins from head to toe!

 case study on how drinking games transcend language barriers!

This is one of the reasons I came to China and I must say its taken me a while to get going (only Suzhou has been the other trip so far, well that and Bali & Singapore and now Bangkok and back to SA – ok so a bit in 6 months) but now that I’m up and running its going to be a hell of a ride, that I’m sure of!

The magical Truffle (and the 8 courses made from it) . . .

If you are a reader you will know that tasting menus are somewhat of a dirty pleasure on mine. If not go have a read why! You will also know that Restaurant Ecole Paul Bocuse has become a rather regular date in the diary now for many reasons. Mainly because its a school first and foremost which means the chefs are keen to explore and adventure, and secondly because I just love the way the ‘theme’ their menus.

The latest concoction was a BLACK TRUFFLE theme and coincidentally the swansong of the departing 2012 class (I will miss them dearly but I’m excited to meet the new class!!). So without further delay here it is!

To start as usual a glass of Champagne to get the juices flowing, and then onto . . .

You can see that there was a great deal of trouble smashing this one in my face!

Finally just in case there was a tiny but of space not filled by truffles and magic, an espresso and a few sweet treats (the middle one is a truffle macaroon – like I said I’m gonna miss the class of 2012)

Tonight however I am taking it to a whole new level, if you want a little preview go checkout the website for what I hope with be the culinary experience of a lifetime!

 

 

 

The scrawny school kid who grew up to be Bryan Habana . . .

I had the privilege of captaining Bryan Habana at school for a while back in the days when I thought I had a career in rugby and he was then about the size of his left thigh today, so he didn’t!

I remember watching him from year to year and at some point he started putting in some serious work, bulked up over the off seasons, grew stronger, faster and really started to develop from a sneaky tiny scrumhalf to a talented, smart and agile member of the backline!

He started to make provincial youth teams and around about the same time people started saying it was because of his race, because of his father’s influence, because of a million different things other than his talent. As if he had been training for his future stardom he took this all very much in his stride, put his head down and carried on developing.

I followed his career with keen interest for obvious reasons but it never really hit me what a global superstar he had become until the 2007 World Cup. While stumbling blind drunk back to my hotel I got lost and managed to find someone to ask for directions. Once I had shown him the hotel’s name and he had pointed in the general direction he asked “Afrique du Sud?”, in my very limited French vocab I responded positively to which he burst into the boradest smile and screamed “HABANA! WOW!” that was the sum total of his English vocab. Through a haze of red wine it made me vicariously proud to have in some capacity known this kid from KES who had made such a positive impact on so many people around the world!

Today he is a household name, he is a magician on the field, he is the leading Springbok try scorer of all time, he is the highest capped Springbok of all time and he has just won his third SA Rugby Player of the year. There is certainly a case for him to be one of the all time Springbok greats.

A far cry from the young man who was accused of getting ahead because of his race.

I could not think of a more worthy representative for South African rugby. He is humble, joyful and thankful for what he has achieved and what he has got. He comes from a good close family who has and continues to support him and he without doubt deserves everything he has achieved!

Congratulations on yet another accolade Habs! You continue to make us all proud!