The lily-white foodie night

2014-11-24 11:22

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Food for thought: Signature dishes being prepared for guests at the awards

"The last time I saw you, we were all naked!” joshes a jovial beetle of a man as he makes eye contact with me in the airport hangar-cum-dining hall that serves as venue for this year’s Eat Out Restaurant Awards, sponsored by Mercedes-Benz.

He guffaws, and soldiers past me on the way to the bar; he’s vaguely familiar and when I see him on stage later, I realise he’s ­MasterChef judge and “food alchemist” Pete Goffe-Wood, a man I have never met.

Foodies are a weird breed. Like bird-watchers and electronic music enthusiasts, they possess their own set of niche references, in-jokes and bizarre preferences for insanely complex renderings of the seemingly simple.

Case in point, the broad-bean, coconut and rose geranium “milkshake” that was served as a first course with a beetroot and candied nut trifle tasted like a mixture of pond water, a peppermint crisp left in the sun and my grandmother’s attempt to make a lassi.

Industrial battalion

The food production here is on an industrial scale, with Silwood School of Cookery and the Institute of Culinary Arts pumping out approximately 800 servings an hour over the course of the five-hour award show, which included a touching tribute to late food legend Bruce Robinson.

But one can’t help but wonder if the industrial scale of the production affects the actual quality of the food. The main course – pulled pork, short rib and roasted cauliflower (a collaboration between PJ Vadas of The Hog House and Bertus Basson of Overture) – was the most successful, partially because of the simple preparation and excellent plating.

The sheer scale of the event was impressive: the giant visuals; the massive truffle popcorn hanging sculpture; the clutter of a million wine glasses; it’s like being in Midrand – the whole place reeks of a midlife crisis.

Like any other event in Cape Town, the first task upon seating is to conduct an internal ­audit of the room, and yes it’s dominated by white people.

Whether this is an indication of the fine-dining industry or just Cape Town business as usual, it’s hard to say, but the ­battalion of black serving staff that lined the walls accentuated the whiteness of the event.

The big screen charity appeal on the giant screens nails into my gut; a plea to donate R20 (a guilt tax to offset the R1 800 ticket price).

Get over it

For part of the evening, I obsessively stalked Hout Bay celebrities The Soap Girls around the venue, only to discover they were in fact another identical looking set of interchangeable white models.

I’m struck by the lack of black faces on the nominee lists, and when I mention this to a coloured journalist, I am told to “get over it, it’s the fine-dining business”.

The Test Kitchen wins restaurant of the year.

The middle-aged Brazilian (I think, I’m not paying attention) cover band starts up and I retreat to the place I’ve spent most of the evening: the smoking tent outside and watch the DW Eleven-13 crew celebrate wildly their own Patson Mathonsi’s Wine Service Award like Grand Prix drivers; joyous and affirmed.

Just visible under the flaps are the shit pumps for the portable crappers and a queue for the food truck.

A lone girl in a turquoise dress sits on a couch, struggling to hold her liquor, the cigarette promo girls trying to help her locate her boyfriend, who has gone home, her phone battery is dead, no one can find a charger and she has a philosophy exam in the morning.

I get into one of the free service Mercedes and instruct them to take me to the nearest KFC.

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