On Sunday 25 November 2012, at the ceremony of the 2012 Eat Out DSTV Food Network Restaurant Awards, the 10 best restaurants in South Africa were announced along with a host of other winners in additional categories. South Africa’s most prestigious restaurant awards are also known as ‘the foodie Oscars’ and the country’s top chefs came dressed accordingly. Trading their whites for evening wear, they celebrated with the cream of the fine dining restaurant crop. In a culinary coup, not only was Margot Janse, the executive chef, crowned Chef of the Year 2012, but The Tasting Room claimed the number two spot in the Eat Out Top 10. The preceding day the golden chef was also invited to be a speaker at the Eat Out Conference in Cape Town, where she shared the stage with internationally acclaimed chef Massimo Buttaro.
Bruce Palling, Eat Out’s international judge had this to say: “Here is a chef with superb classical training, yet with a sense of playfulness. I would rank my dinner here with the best I have had anywhere in the past year. I was blown away by the playfulness and the complete self-assurance of a professional.”
The Tasting Room has made it into the Eat Out Top 10 an unprecedented 11 times, and Margot was also Chef of the Year in 2002. Margot is delighted with the result: “It’s a fantastic honor, especially after the year we’ve had-we’ve achieved this accolade with a completely new team of chefs. The awards are thanks to them-I wouldn’t be carrying this title without my team.”
Margot had this to say to Eat Out: “The guests that come to dine are not just there for dinner. The whole experience is about celebrating our country and region. Our service style is based on storytelling, instead of factual information sharing. We tell you about the winemakers and his dog, the things granny did with buchu and why the baobab is called the upside down tree. When, at the end of the evening I get thanked for a special experience and for all our guests learned about this amazing country, its culture and indigenous produce – that’s when I know we got it right.”
The restaurant was also nominated for Eat Out’s Boschendal Style Award, having recently undergone a transformation at the hands of Margot’s brother Herbert Janse. Herbert designed the new-look to function as a platform for Margot’s acclaimed cuisine. Conceptualized and realized by the well-known Dutch set designer, the stage aims to amplify the essence of what makes Margot’s food so exceptional. As Herbert Janse so eloquently stated, “every dish of Margot’s is truly refined and, at the same time, unexpectedly exciting”. It is this contradiction that results in the menu’s outstanding balance; and it is this contradiction that is so thoughtfully magnified by the design.
The Tasting Room is located at Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek, South Africa. The restaurant is part of the Relais & Chateaux property and offers superb accommodation and restaurants as well as a contemporary art gallery: is-art and sculpture garden. The Tasting Room has been one of the only South African restaurants to appear consistently on the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list year after year, to date, eight years in a row. Plus, Margot is an accredited Relais & Châteaux Grande Chef, one of only two in South Africa.
Le Quartier Français, www.lqf.co.za