SALUTATIONS champagne and disprins. A very happy new year to you all. may your best days of 2015 be your worst days of 2016.
But seriously what is the fuss all about anyway, in our industry it is really just another working day with a very late function followed by a busy breakfast with some grumps who have already shattered half their resolutions.
It is a time when a new calendar year starts again at one and is recognised usually on the first day of January, at least since 713 BCE on the Roman calendar. However through the ages 1 and 25 March, 1 September and 25 December have also marked the start of a new year.
Today many cultures celebrate new year’s in some shape or form and in 2014 Dubai set off 500 000 fireworks in a single display that lasted six minutes and set a new world record. Other countries such as Israel, China and India still celebrate new year at different times of the year.
Where the Chinese New Year or lunar new year occurs on the new moon of the first lunar month, which falls anytime between 21 January and 21 February, Vietnam uses the same date as the Chinese, the Tibetan New Year falls from January through March. The Aztecs celebrated their new year on 23 February and in Babylonian times the celebrations with the new moon lasted 11 days.
In the vast regions of India some still celebrate new year in-between March and April, the same applies to the Iranian new yew year, and so the list goes on, depending on which culture.
However, what is certain is that all of them celebrate with joy and revelry all anxious to start the clean sheet with writing set goals knowing they will make mistakes with the learning of new things whereby changing the world around them by attempting tasks never tried before, hoping in their heart that each day each story will be the best they can achieve, as well as another opportunity to get it right by combatting their vices and respecting their neighbours.
Personally I would like to take the leap of faith, believe more in myself and my capabilities, use all my wisdom and experience to find the parts of me that have been lost, while still celebrating long after the fact, with a hunger to see more of everything, drink down all unkindness and tolerate fools more gladly, provided they don’t waste my precious time.
Regrettably my new year was brought in on a sombre note namely due to the death of singer Natalie Maria Cole who was born on 6 February 1950 and who died due to congestive heart failure on New Year’s Eve lat the age of 65.
She was the daughter of Nat King Cole and rose to success in the mid-seventies with numerous hits including Inseparable, Our Love and This will Be.
Due to her heavy drug addiction at the time her performances and sales began to dwindle and she re-emerged in the late eighties with her album, Everlasting, notably for the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s pink Cadillac. In the nineties she re-recorded standards by her father which led to the immortal Unforgettable which earned her numerous Grammys and led to over seven million copies with total sales of her songs standing at over 30 million sales.
In her autobiography Angel on my Shoulder, she wrote about her addiction to heroin and crack cocaine admitting to using recreational drugs from the time she was at the University of Massachusetts.
In 1975 she was arrested in Canada for possession of heroin and spun so out of control that she once even refused to leave a burning building. Another time while highly intoxicated from a drug binge, her young son Robert nearly drowned.
Finally in 1983 she entered rehab, and had to have a kidney transplant in 2009. After her transplant though her health was never the same and she suffered from pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rare lung disease that causes shortness of breath, dizziness and occasional chest pain.
In life we often identify with celebrities however, seldom do we get to meet them.
I was extremely fortunate to have not only met Natalie, but I also cooked for her in the early nineties when I was executive chef at the Green Dolphin at the Waterfront in Cape Town. Her entourage met with us one morning and asked to have a table for her group that evening.
Her security detail checked the setting and when they gave the all clear, the booking was confirmed.
The Green Dolphin was famous for having live jazz every night, seven days a week, and many of South Africa’s famous names have either appeared there or become known there.
Natalie and her party came for dinner and enjoyed their meal and listened in appreciation to our talent.
Then at about 11pm Natallie sent word to her band at the Cape Sun and told them to come down to the restaurant, and they ended up doing a jam session with her until 4am.
She remarked on stage that her father started his career at such venues and it was only fitting to honour his memory in such an establishment.
As this transpired quite late there were only about 25 guests who had paid the normal R20 cover charge listening to a private show by a superstar.
The newspapers the next day led with “Natalie sings for her supper”, and her publicist told us that in all her years she had never done anything similar and that under normal circumstances, just to get a brief interview with her would cost over R100 000 and take about six months to arrange.
As for her playing on stage we were told it was “priceless” and certainly would not be repeated often on her travels.
Thank God cellphones in those days were not the powerhouses they are today, for if this had occurred now the restaurant would have been packed in minutes, and not only with a few individuals who were contacted and who managed to come down and see the show.
So from me Natalie, may you rest in peace and take your music to the next plane. I will never forget your humble manners and pleasant demeanour as well as the unforgettable experience of the evening which remains truly high in my memorable memories
Chicken breast with sesame seeds, sautéed baby marrow and oranges
• 2 x skinless chicken breast
• 1 teaspoon red curry paste
• 2 teaspoons grated ginger
• 1 tablespoon natural honey
• 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
• 2 tablespoons toasted black sesame seeds
• 2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
• ½ red onion, thinly sliced
• 2 oranges, peeled and segmented
• Baby marrow. cut into slices
• spray and cook
• Rainbow pepper
• Khoisan sea salt
• Mix the curry paste, honey, ginger and rice vinegar together
• Coat the chicken with the sesame seeds
• Grill the breasts with spray and cook and set aside
• In a separate pan, also with spray and cook, sauté the baby marrow season and set aside
• With spray and cook sauté red onions
• Add the orange segments
• Drizzle with honey
• Finish with chopped parsley
Arrange all on a plate and serve.