There is a tranquil beauty and a pastoral charm to the picturesque Winelands of the Cape. It is no wonder these vineyards are sought after for leisurely days spent sipping wine over a superb meal. There is a certain romance to dining amid the contours of lush, manicured vines, enjoying a beautiful meal created with skill and care.
The abundant countryside is filled with blossoming orchards, fragrant herbs, nutrient-rich vegetables, hidden mushrooms and roaming herds. With such a plethora of fresh ingredients on his doorstep, Head Chef of Delaire Graff Restaurant, Michael Deg, says he is never short of inspiration.
The farm-to-fork, or farm-to-table, philosophy is not a recent concept. It is rather a return to a simpler way of life, with unfussy dishes and pure elements utilising local produce, preferably from one’s own garden. The term has fallen in and out of favour with critics over recent years due to its ready application. While employment of the term may come under dispute, most agree that the focus of this sustainable philosophy on reducing food-miles remains relevant, especially when the meals created are mouth-watering and beautiful to behold.
Deg maintains the belief that the best dishes begin with the highest-quality ingredients. While he does not use the term farm-to-fork, for Deg, finding local farmers and building strong working relationships with them means he is able to source the superlative seasonal ingredients he loves when they cannot be found in the Estate’s plentiful greenhouse. Working closely with the horticultural team, Deg uses the vegetables, herbs and fruit that were tended on the Estate as his guide to the seasons, inspiring the whimsical combinations on his ever-changing menu.
Having a garden of your own is something to which many chefs aspire, says Deg. “Being able to walk out of our kitchen into rows of vibrant carrots and columns of crisp sugar peas means the flavours are far more intense; an opportunity our brigade does not take for granted,” he imparts. “I encourage my chefs, friends and family to create their own edible gardens at home too. There is nothing quite as rewarding as creating your first dish from ingredients you have planted and cared for from earthy beginnings. Imagine being able to create meals without having to venture further than your backyard.”