The European navigators discovered a land that became the gateway towards the Far East, a former Dutch settlement now known as South Africa. Slaves from Indonesia, Madagascar and India toiled in the country while battles are won and loss between the Dutch, Britons, Khoikhois, Xhosas and other indigenous South African tribes. Eventually, the Union of South Africa was established from the Cape and Natal colonies on May 31, 1910. It entered World War II as an ally of the United Kingdom, sympathized with Nazi Germany during the war, and sought racial segregation, or apartheid. Due to this, millions of South Africans, especially the black ones, continue to live in poverty even after the legacy of the apartheid regime ended.
But wait. This is not about the history of South Africa. This is about South African Cuisine.
“Our cuisine is representative of various cultures. It was first influenced by the Dutch who brought slaves from Java who in turn added spice to the bland European cuisine, then by the French Huguenots who fled France in fear of prosecution and death who shared their knowledge and skills in wine- and jam-making. Under the British rule, hot puddings and roasted meats were introduced. Thirty years later, German peasants and soldiers who fought in the Crimea War brought with them the art of sausage making and meat-curing. The discovery of gold deposits in Witwatersrand cause more people from America, Britain, Italy and Germany to settle at the north of our country and this added more to the diversity [of] our culture. All of these combined with the original ethnic group’s cooking results to the ever-evolving South African cuisine,” explained Christiaan Campbell, Group Executive Chef of the three five star Relais et Chateau hotels of The Collection.
For three days, Al Ain Rotana lets its guests experience dining in the South African way while watching some of the country’s art and culture in their pool garden area.
“Some of the dishes that, I can say, really reflects our diverse cultures are the salads typically enjoyed with an outdoor barbecue or the ‘braai’ as South Africans call it; the spiced foods developed by the Cape Malays and Indians; the use of pulses, root vegetables and corn by the indigenous tribes; and the seafood dishes influenced by the fishermen on our country’s west coast,” Campbell added.
Campbell was known throughout Cape Town and in all of the countries he had been to such as Ireland, Malaysia and Japan, aside from his accomplishments, with his “Sunshine Cuisine,” a style of cuisine that radiates vitality that is so much a part of South African way of living. “I developed my creative skills based on what can I do with the ingredients rather than what they can do for me. The dishes should not only rely in obtaining the best quality ingredients in the world but rather through the way I worked and interacted with them.”