Oh what a night!

The grand finale, a gala dinner at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg for the Bidvest World Chefs Tour Against Hunger on 30 August, was a sold out hit. Some 1000 guests attended the four-course dinner, with wine and beverages supplied thanks to many generous sponsors including SAB, as well as an entire evening of entertainment.

The auction of special pieces of memorabilia, including a guitar signed by all of the members of the Rolling Stones rock band, raised some R620 000. This brings to around R8-million the total funds raised for the trust that will ensure that hundres of starving children are fed for the next five years.

The evening was a demonstration of the capabilities of the Sandton Convention Centre and its adjacent five-star hotels Sandton Sun and InterContinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers, and its teams to host a massive event of this nature.

Top chefs Garth Shnier, executive chef and F&B manager of Sandton Sun, InterContinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers and the Sandton Convention Centre, and James Khoza, his extremely talented executive sous chef, together with food and beverage manager Debra de Sousa and banqueting operations manager David Doosi headed up a massive team that put together this special event.

All of the visiting chefs were in high spirits, parading with flags from their countries of origin, together with the children that will be benefitting from the feeding schemes during the next five years. These funds are in trust to ensure that the three beneficiary charities have a sustainable feeding programme for the next five years.

Founder and co-convenor Dr Bill Gallagher was given a standing ovation as he made his way to the stage, in recognition of his tireless efforts in the fight against hunger. This is the third Tour he has organised, the first being in 1993 and the second in 2003. He is recognised around the world as a top chef, mentor and champion of the chef's profession. Co-convenor Martin Kobald, as well as South African Chefs Association president Stephen Billingham, Heinz Brunner, Manfred Muellers, Philippe Frydman and hundreds of South African chefs involved, as well as top hoteliers, business people and celebrities joined in to support the dinner.

PJ Powers sang the theme song for the Tour, "Sing Children Sing" and spent time with the visiting chefs, greeting them and thanking them for their participation. They have held countless food festivals, demonstrations, township tours and specialised Chef's Table lunches and dinners to raise funds for the biggest and best Bidvest World Chefs Tour Against Hunger ever.

The menu represented the global origins of the visiting chefs:

- The Americas: Creole turkey ballentine with pumpkin pie gateaux, roasted corn and vanilla foam, served with Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc

- Europe: Loch Duarte salmon ceviche with Alaskan crab and pea salad, passion fruit, fennel and horseradish mousseline, marinated beet salad, beet jelly with beet leaves, served with Cederberg Chenin Blanc

- Africa and the Middle East: Two bone rack of Karoo lamb with an open vegetable Swiss roll, accompanied by braised Namibian lamb neck lasagne, with Egyptian dates and lentils, served with Du Toitskloof Nebbiolo

- Asia: Dessert chef du monde, mango chocolate mousse served with vanilla panna cotta, served with JC Le Roux Methode Cap Classique Brut NV.

Master of ceremonies for the evening was popular philanthropist and radio and television personality Jeremy Mansfield. The star guest of the evening, Brian Joffe, CEO of Bidvest, which donated R5-million to get the ball rolling for the Tour, was sadly not present due to a recent death in the family. The audience commemorated his enormous contribution by holding a moment of silence for him during his time of loss.

As the visiting chefs head home and the local chefs are back at work, the country has benefitted from huge exposure to its tourism and hospitality offering nationwide by our newest ambassadors, the international chefs. While shocked at the difference in conditions between rich and poor, they all spoke of the incredible warmth of the people, the beautiful country and its tourism products, and their excitement to be with fellow chefs, learning new skills, sharing the cuisine of their country to guests, and giving back to society.


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