Sailing into Cape Town, South Africa

The approach to Cape Town by sea from the south

The approach to Cape Town by sea from the south with a silhouette of Table Mountain

Sailing into Cape Town ranks among the greatest port arrivals in the world.  Coming from the Indian Ocean, you sail past Cape Agulhas (“cape of needles”) and its lighthouse — the geographic southern tip of the African Continent and a hazardous sailing area where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet — then you round the Cape of Good Hope (the most south-western point of the African Continent and due south of Cape Town) and then sail north to reach Table Bay and the Cape Town Harbour.

Cape Town panorama viewed from the ocean as we sailed into the harbour

Cape Town panorama viewed from the Atlantic Ocean as we sailed into the harbour

The Cape of Good Hope is frequently misconceived as the southernmost point of South Africa (and the continent).  Located at the southern tip of the “Western Cape” below Cape Town, it was famous with sailors hundreds of years ago as the point where they could begin sailing more easterly, after their long route south, to round Africa on the way into the Indian Ocean and the Far East.  Note that Cape Agulhas, the true southern point of Africa, is about 90 miles to the east, on the way to Port Elizabeth (and Durban, on the north east coast of the country).

Cape Town metropolitan area (under Table Mountain)

Cape Town metropolitan area (under Table Mountain)

The prominent geographic features of Cape Town are Table Mountain (center in the above photo) and “Lion’s Head” (the rightmost peak in the above photo).

Lion's Head and the FIFA 2010 World Cup stadium, Cape Town, South Africa

Lion’s Head and the FIFA 2010 World Cup stadium, Cape Town, South Africa

Much of Cape Town’s waterfront underwent modernization and experienced a building boom with the construction of the soccer stadium for South Africa’s hosting of the FIFA 2010 World Cup (along with a sister stadium in Durban — see an earlier blog on Durban).

A colorful, working Cape Town Harbour tugboat

A colorful, working Cape Town Harbour tugboat

The weather was perfect as we sailed during the early morning into the harbour and the V&A Waterfront.

Sailing into Cape Town Harbour

Sailing into Cape Town Harbour

The Cape Town Harbour is located “under” Table Mountain at (and adjacent to) the recently modernized and gentrified V&A Waterfront, with its many hotels, restaurants and shopping malls (in addition to several berths).  We were extremely fortunate to score a berth at Jetty 2 of the V&A Waterfront.  This meant we literally walked off the ship and into a maze of restaurants and retail stores.

The modernized V&A Waterfront of Cape Town's Harbour with Lion's Head in the distance

The modernized V&A Waterfront of Cape Town’s Harbour with Lion’s Head in the distance

Cape Town Harbour boats

Cape Town Harbour boats

We were fortunate that when we docked at Jetty 2 in the V&A Waterfront our balcony had a picture postcard perfect view of the harbour and Table Mountain.  The view changed constantly over the next few days as the fog rolled in and burned off.

V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain view from the ship's berth, Cape Town, South Africa

V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain view from the ship’s berth, Cape Town, South Africa

Zulu traditions are alive and well in Kwa-Zulu Natal Province (which includes Durban), South Africa

Zulu village huts, near Durban, South Africa

Zulu village huts, near Durban, South Africa

The Zulu today are the largest ethnic group in South Africa, numbering about 11 million people, living predominantly in their homeland of KwaZulu-Natal Province (which includes the major port city of Durban).  The Zulu clan originated in the area in 1709 and rose to fame under their leader, Shaka ka Senzangakhana, or Shaka Zulu (1787 – 1828), who became the first Zulu king.  While acclaimed as a military genius for his inventions (including a long throwing spear and short, stabbing spear) and strategy, he is condemned for the brutality of his reign.  Under King Shaka (1816 – 1828), the Zulu increased their land holdings from 100 square miles to 11,500 acres with the mightiest African armed forces.  In the late 1800s the Zulus, along with the rest of South Africa, were ruled by the British.  The Zulu uprising against the British (Army) in January 1879  (the battle of Rorke’s Drift) was featured in the Hollywood movie “Zulu” in 1964; the Zulus were subjugated in July 1879.

Inanda Valley, home of the Zulus, near Durban, South Africa

Inanda Valley, home of the Zulus, near Durban, South Africa

On our tour of the Inanda Heritage Route with local guide Greg Garsons, we had the opportunity to visit a Zulu village where we were able to see their arts and crafts, watch a traditional dance, and go inside a traditional Zulu hut to understand domestic life — cooking, eating, sleeping and even taste their home-made liquor.

Hand woven Zulu blankets with contemporary colors

Hand woven Zulu blankets with contemporary colors

The Zulu dancers wore traditional Zulu costumes and the men had the traditional (Shaka) weapons for battle.

Zulu warriors, Inanda Valley village, Durban, Souith Africa

Zulu warriors, Inanda Valley village, Durban, Souith Africa

The dance we saw told the story of a traditional Zulu “boy meets girl” relationship, courtship and marriage.

Traditional Zulu dance - a marriage story

Traditional Zulu dance – a marriage story

Traditional Zulu dance - the bride-to-be

Traditional Zulu dance – the bride-to-be

Traditional Zulu dance - the groom-to-be

Traditional Zulu dance – the groom-to-be

After visiting the inside of one of the Zulu homes, a Zulu woman showed us how they cook over an open fire.

Typical Zulu home cooking

Typical Zulu home cooking

Inanda Valley Zulu village with Zulu huts and adjacent modern homes

Inanda Valley Zulu village with Zulu-style huts and adjacent modern homes

Inanda Valley traditional Zulu huts, near Durban, South Africa

Inanda Valley traditional-style Zulu huts, near Durban, South Africa

Seeds of Democracy — The Inanda Heritage Route, Durban, South Africa (part 2)

Dr. John Langalibalele Dube (1871 - 1946), Founder and First President of the ANC

Dr. John Langalibalele Dube (1871 – 1946), Founder and First President of the ANC

At the Gandhi museum at the Phoenix Settlement, near Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa — as noted in our previous blog — the Inanda region, in the early Twentieth Century, was the home of three major leaders in the movement for equality and democracy in BOTH South Africa (Dr. John L. Dube and Isaiah Shembe), and India (Mohandas K. Gandhi).  The museum notes: “Even though it was impossible at that time to predict the profound influence Gandhi, Dube and Shembe would have on the religious, social and political landscape in South Africa, THE SEEDS OF DEMOCRACY WERE SCATTERED HERE, to slowly take root and spread.  eNanda was a place that held the promise of a different kind of society; one where diversity is celebrated rather than feared, and where all people are free, equal and empowered to reach their full potential”.

Our excellent local guide, Greg Garson, drove us on the Inanda Heritage Route from the Gandhi home and museum at the Phoenix Settlement to the Ohlange Institute (named from “uhlanga” in the Zulu language, which means “the origin of new growth”) which Dr. John Dube started in 1900.  The Zulu Christian Industrial School, which later became known as the Ohlange Institute, opened on 26 July 1901 and was the first black controlled institution of its kind in South Africa.

Dr. John Langalibalele Dube (1871 – 1946), was the founder and first president of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) in 1912 (which became the African National Congress party, ANC, in 1923).  Descended from Zulu royalty, Dube was born in the Inanda region and raised at the American Zulu Mission.  He studied in the United States (Oberlin College) and was heavily influenced by Booker T. Washington.  In addition to being an educator, he was an essayist, poet and novelist.  He wrote the first novel in Zulu, Insila kaTshaka, the story of Jeqe, a man who desires a position close to the Zulu King Shaka.  According to the Dube museum, “Jeqe is more of a mythological hero than a real person.  In the character of Jeqe, we see Dube’s own struggle between the personal autonomy of modernism and loyalty to traditional collective.”  Dr. Dube and his second wife, Angelina, are both buried at Ohlange.

Dr. John Dube's home (now a museum), near Durban, South Africa

Dr. John Dube’s home (now a museum), near Durban, South Africa

The Ohlange Institute site is also the location of Dr. Dube’s first house and the JL Dube Hall of the Institute where Nelson Mandela voted in the first democratic election in South Africa, in 1994.

The polling place (JL Dube Hall) where Nelson Mandela cast his first vote in South Africa in 1994

The polling place (JL Dube Hall) where Nelson Mandela cast his first vote in South Africa in 1994

Nelson Mandela had the following reminiscence about voting: “I voted at Ohlange High School in Inanda, a green and hilly township just north of Durban, for it was there that John Dube, the first president of the ANC, was buried.  This African patriot had helped found the organization in 1912, and casting my vote near his graveside brought history full circle, for the mission he began eighty-two years before was about to be achieved.  As I stood over his grave, on a rise above the small school below, I thought not of the present but of the past.  When I walked to the voting station, my mind dwelt on the heroes who had fallen so that I might be where I was that day, the men and women who had made the ultimate sacrifice for a cause that was now finally succeeding.”

Nelson Mandela casting his vote in South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994

Nelson Mandela casting his vote in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994

After voting, Nelson Mandela walked up to Dr. John Dube’s grave (at the Ohlange Institute) and declared, “I have come to report, Mr. President, that South Africa is now free.”

Isaiah Mloyiswa Mdliwamafa Shembe (c. 1870 – 1935), was the founder (in 1910) of the largest African originated church during his lifetime, the Nazareth Baptist Church.  He was a self-proclaimed prophet of God for the Zulu people and built a large number of congregations, making his church the largest Zulu church, with over a million members.  Shortly after founding the church, in 1914, he established Ekuphakameni Settlement (meaning “elevated place”) in the Inanda Valley which became the holy place of the Nazareth Baptist Church; Shembe was buried there.  Shembe was a major Zulu leader and he and his church played a leading role in the development of Zulu nationalism.  In the 1930s his biography was written by Dr. John Dube.

Inanda Dam on the Inanda Heritage Route, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Inanda Dam on the Inanda Heritage Route, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Seeds of Democracy — The Inanda Heritage Route, Durban, South Africa (part 1)

Inanda region, 15 miles inland from Durban, South Africa

Inanda Valley, 15 miles inland from Durban, South Africa

During our visit to Durban, South Africa, we were very fortunate that one of our ship’s concierges is from Durban and knows well Greg Garson, proprietor of Garsons Expeditions, who was available to give us a behind-the-scenes tour of the Inanda Heritage Route on a Sunday, when most historical attractions and monuments are closed.  Greg has a long history as a guide in the area and is world renowned as an expert on Gandhi’s early career (during which time he lived in the Durban area) — in fact, whenever any member of Gandhi’s family visits Durban, he is usually their personal guide.

Traditional Zulu homes in foreground, Inanda region, near Durban, South Africa

Traditional Zulu homes in foreground, Inanda region, near Durban, South Africa

eNanda is part of the eThekwini municipality and only 15 miles away from the bustling city center of Durban, but due to its semi-rural character, much traditional Zulu culture is still practiced there. eNanda has always been a place where different cultures co-exist and merge; the unique spirit of the place has evolved through cross-cultural fertilization. Today, eNanda’s culture and heritage consists of a rich diversity of cultural heritage practices that range from traditional Zulu rituals to contemporary South African township culture. The eNanda web site goes on to give the following introduction: “The Inanda Heritage Route takes in some of the most important, albeit little-known, historical sites of Durban. Winding its way through the Inanda Valley, it provides a snapshot of critical South African history as well as, perhaps surprisingly, India’s past. Inanda’s recent history dates back to the early 1800s, when KwaZulu Natal was a Boer Republic. It was a farm then, which passed hands several times as the Boers left and the British arrived, and then when African and Indian farmers came here to farm sugar cane.

“But it was the events that unfolded at the turn of the century that shaped its future. First Mahatma Gandhi, then a lawyer, arrived in the region to represent an Indian client. After being thrown off a train for sitting in a “whites only” section, Gandhi stayed on here and started his passive resistance movement.

“Then, in the 1960s, Inanda became home to the thousands of people displaced from urban areas under apartheid laws. It quickly grew into a shanty town and then, as segregation laws took further hold, a dense informal settlement that was later the site of intense political violence.

“In 1994, Inanda’s outlook changed as democracy was born in South Africa. To mark the occasion, Nelson Mandela cast his vote in this historic election at Inanda’s Ohlange Institute, fitting given that the first-ever president of the African National Congress (ANC), Dr. John L. Dube, established this school in 1901.”

Bust of Mohandas K. Gandhi at the Phoenex Settlement, Durban, South Africa

Bust of Mohandas K. Gandhi at the Phoenex Settlement, Durban, South Africa

The bust, above, of Mohandas Gandhi was unveiled on the launch of the centenary celebrations of the Phoenix Settlement (see history, below) on the 28th April, 2004.

“It was after I went to South Africa that I became what I am now.” — Mohandas K. Gandhi

International Printing Press founded by Gandhi in 1903 in the Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

International Printing Press founded by Gandhi in 1903 in the Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

Phoenix Settlement (where Gandhi lived and worked) was founded by Gandhi in 1904 after he visited the Trappist community at Mariannhill and read John Ruskin’s “To This Last”.  Phoenix represented a belief in the equality of all labor, the value of manual work and a simple communal lifestyle.  The newspaper “Indian Opinion” was printed at Phoenix (see above photo of the press building) until its closure in 1961.  Throughout its long history, Phoenix Settlement has always been at the forefront of the struggle for justice, peace and equality.  It was an important site of resistance during Aprartheid.  Activists from all over South Africa came to the Phoenix Settlement for political education and training programs.  During the “1985 Inanda Riots” much of the settlement was burnt to the ground, but after 1994 (post-Apartheid) it was carefully reconstructed.  Gandhi’s house, Sarvodaya, the printing press building (today a community clinic), and the Phoenix Interpretation Center all form a part of the Phoenix Settlement.

Gandhi family home (built 1904) at the Phoenex Settlement, Durban, South Africa

Gandhi family home (built 1904) at the Phoenex Settlement, Durban, South Africa

“That the good of the individual is contained in the good of all.” — Mohandas K. Gandhi

Gandhi’s home, named Sarvodaya — “Well Being for All” — was built in 1904 when the Phoenix Settlement was established.  It was was quite an adjustment from the city for Gandhi’s wife and sons to adjust to a communal life with no running water and no electricity, miles from the city of Durban.  The original Sarvodaya was a corrugated iron house, rebuilt in 1950 when it became a prayer hall, and now serves to tell the history of Gandhi in South Africa.

Gandhi home\museum, Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

Gandhi home\museum, Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

“I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith”.  — Mohandas K. Gandhi

Gandhi formulated and first practiced SATYAGRAHA in South Africa in the early 20th C

Gandhi formulated and first practiced SATYAGRAHA in South Africa in the early 20th C

The term SATYAGRAHA was created and developed by Mohandas Gandhi in South Africa from “satya” (truth) and “agraha” (insistence), meaning “insistence on truth”.  It is today commonly referred to as nonviolent resistance.

Parting thoughts at the M. Gandhi Museum, Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

Parting thoughts at the M. Gandhi Museum, Phoenix Settlement, Durban, South Africa

“Even though it was impossible at that time to predict the profound influence Gandhi, Dube and Shembe (see our blog on the Inanda Heritage Route, part 2) would have on the religious, social and political landscape in South Africa, THE SEEDS OF DEMOCRACY WERE SCATTERED HERE, to slowly take root and spread.  eNanda was a place that held the promise of a different kind of society; one where diversity is celebrated rather than feared, and where all people are free, equal and empowered to reach their full potential”. — quoted from the Gandhi museum at the Phoenix Settlement.

Dining at the Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine, Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Jackie Cameron School -- Tasty tidbits to whet one's appetite

Jackie Cameron School — Tasty tidbits to whet one’s appetite

Chef Jackie Cameron’s concept for her School of Food & Wine in the countryside about an hour northwest of Durban, South Africa, is to train small groups (up to 15 resident students) of future South Africa culinary leaders through lectures, demonstrations, hands-on in-class cooking and then internships at the dining room of the school (serving meals to the public) and external internships — over an eighteen month period per class.

Jackie Cameron School -- The former family home's dining room

Jackie Cameron School — The former family home’s dining room

As noted in an earlier blog, six of us from the ship were fortunate enough to attend Jackie’s inaugural demonstration class and luncheon.  Each of the dishes served in her future board room (formerly her family home’s dining room) had been explained and the cooking techniques demonstrated in the school’s demonstration kitchen during the morning.  Jackie’s cuisine is heavily drawn from the two predominant South African cultures — Afrikaans (derived from the Dutch colonists and settlers and later intermarriages) and Zulu (the large black native tribe of the province, KwaZulu-Natal).

The first dish was African Mielie Bread with Amaqheqhe and locally Smoked “Romesco” Olives, drawn from the Zulu cuisine.  It was much more moist than the typical American (Southern) cornbread, as it incorporates a can of creamstyle sweet corn.  While we were served “mini cakes”, the same recipe could be cooked in a loaf pan for a traditional bread shape, which could then be sliced.  Either way, with a little butter, delicious!

Jackie Cameron School -- African Mielie Bread with Amaqheqhe and locally Smoked "Romesco" Olives

Jackie Cameron School — African Mielie Bread with Amaqheqhe and locally Smoked “Romesco” Olives

With the bread and olives, we were also served a really fresh salad (the greens and sage were fresh from a local garden) — Green Salad with crispy Sage Leaves, Capers, Caesar Dressing and Parmesan Shavings.  In the demonstration Jackie gave us some great tips on frying the sage to have it come out crisp, but not overcooked.

Jackie Cameron School -- Green Salad with crispy Sage Leaves, Capers, Caesar Dressing and Parmesan Shavings

Jackie Cameron School — Green Salad with crispy Sage Leaves, Capers, Caesar Dressing and Parmesan Shavings

The main course took quite a while to (learn to) prepare — Cordon Bleu crispy Chicken Roll with Butter Bean Puree, ‘Gourmet Greek’ Yoghurt, Garlic Chips and Lavender Flowers.  Note that the pounded skinless, boneless chicken breasts were stuffed with a filling of minced chicken, Gorgonzola, cream and egg before being rolled and cooked sous vide and then fried (after being dipped in flour, egg and bread crumbs — see photos in our prior blog post).  And yes, it tasted even better than it looks in the photograph, below.

Jackie Cameron School -- Cordon Bleu crispy Chicken Roll with Butter Bean Puree, 'Gourmet Greek' Yoghurt, Garlic Chips and Lavendar Flowers

Jackie Cameron School — Cordon Bleu crispy Chicken Roll with Butter Bean Puree, ‘Gourmet Greek’ Yoghurt, Garlic Chips and Lavendar Flowers

Of course, a great meal need a great wine — the 2011 South African Robertson Winery Constitution Road Shiraz was scrumptious and a great accompaniment to the chicken.

Jackie Cameron School -- To accompany the luncheon, a delicious 2011 Robertson Shiraz (Syrah)

Jackie Cameron School — To accompany the luncheon, a delicious 2011 Robertson Shiraz (Syrah)

Dessert was from the Afrikaans cuisine (from the Dutch tradition) — Melk Terts (milk tarts).  We were surprised that the only baking is the sweet pastry shells.  Once the filling is made — a custard made from “full cream milk” (Americans call this “whole milk”), butter, flour, eggs, sugar and almond essence (extract) — it is poured into the baked shells and then topped with sprinkled cinnamon and sugar.  This is an Afrikaans cuisine desert — .

Jackie Cameron School -- Dessert was an Afrikans tradition- Melk Terts (milk tarts)

Jackie Cameron School — Dessert was from the Afrikaans cuisine (from the Dutch tradition) — Melk Terts (milk tarts)

It should be obvious from our three blog posts on the Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine that Jackie is a consummate professional chef.  She’s personable, approachable, a perfectionist, and an outstanding (and patient) teacher.  Jackie exudes enthusiasm for all things culinary: “I am on a culinary adventure… I’m happiest surrounded by food and anything food-related.  From creating new dishes and flavour combinations to teaching and training; from food talk with friends and guests to dining out and experiencing other chef’s interpretations of dishes; from writing recipes to food photography; from icing cakes and learning foodie terminology to experimenting with food and wine pairings; from working as a consultant with the aim of improving the industry to TV work; from visiting exotic destinations as an invited chef to judging competition — extending myself is my mission; confronting challenges head on is my philosophy.”

Jackie Cameron School -- Following the luncheon, time for an outdoor stroll in the beautiful countryside

Jackie Cameron School — Following the luncheon, time for an outdoor stroll in the beautiful countryside

As we left for the van ride back to the Port of Durban to re-board our ship, we counted ourselves lucky for having had the opportunity to spend a day learning from and enjoying the cooking of one of South Africa’s leading Master Chefs.  In our kitchens, we’ll be able to try not only the recipes from the class, but also a variety of dishes from Jackie’s recently published cookbook, Jackie Cameron Cooks at Home: Simple and delectable home cooking, featuring South African cuisines.

Cooking at the Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine, Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Jackie Cameron School -- Pre-class morning "breakfast" berry muffins

Jackie Cameron School — Pre-class morning “breakfast” berry muffins

As noted in our prior blog, Chef Jackie Cameron served for 12 years as the head chef at the award-winning Hartford House, a five-star boutique hotel in rural Mooi River (located in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa).  She left in 2014 in order to establish a unique cooking school in South Africa — a school to train the next generation of top chefs for the country.  We were among the six “students” who attended her inaugural cooking demonstration class at the school, about an hour’s drive northwest of Durban.

Jackie’s perspective on her cooking style: “I have, over the years, spent as much time as possible with KwaZulu-Natal’s crafters, drawing inspiration form the different cultures; always with the restaurant scene in mind.  It is remarkable to see traditional combinations being created with heart and soul once flavour profile is understood, in a new-age way.  Having decided on a local and cultural understanding, the third leg of the pot was memories — my childhood memories.  Serving only in-season fruit and vegetables, SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) green-listed seafood, and knowing your supplier form the foundation of culinary creativity.  They are the cornerstones of my cooking.  Questions I ask myself are:  ‘Is this dish going to inspire, teach and/or remind a person of something uniquely KZN?  If it doesn’t, then what’s the point?'”

Jackie Cameron School -- Pre-class morning "breakfast" biltong (similar to beef jerky)

Jackie Cameron School — Pre-class morning “breakfast” biltong (similar to beef jerky)

Among other local foods that we had for snacks, Jackie made biltong, a dried, cured meat that originated in South Africa and is similar to beef jerky.  A major difference between biltong and jerky is that biltong is sliced after the meat is cured and dried in contrast to jerky which is sliced before it is dried.  Also biltong is generally made from a variety of meats (typically raw fillets) ranging from beef and game to farmed ostrich.

Jackie Cameron School -- Cooking with fresh sage from her herb garden

Jackie Cameron School — Cooking with fresh sage from her herb garden

Jackie Cameron School --  sprinkling cinnamon sugar over melkterts (dessert)

Jackie Cameron School — sprinkling cinnamon sugar over melkterts (dessert)

During class the local manager of the Terbodore coffee roasting company served as barista and made incredible cappuccinos upon request.  It was easy to get spoiled at this school!

Jackie Cameron School -- Outstanding cappuccinos made with local Terbodore coffeee

Jackie Cameron School — Outstanding cappuccinos made with local Terbodore coffeee

The entree of the meal we would eat after the cooking demonstration was “Cordon Bleu crispy Chicken Roll with Butter Bean Puree, ‘Gourmet Greek’ Yoghurt, Garlic Chips and Lavendar Flowers”.  The following photographs illustrate a few of the many steps this dish required.  Not your 10-minute chicken-in-a-skillet quick dinner…

Jackie Cameron School --  preparing to roll chicken breasts with gorgonzola cream

Jackie Cameron School — preparing to roll chicken breasts with Gorgonzola cream

Jackie Cameron School -- Cordon Bleu chicken roll ready for cooking sous-vide and frying

Jackie Cameron School — Cordon Bleu chicken roll ready for cooking sous-vide and frying

Jackie Cameron School -- chicken roll dipped in flour, egg and breadcrumbs before frying

Jackie Cameron School — chicken roll dipped in flour, egg and breadcrumbs before frying

Our next blog post will share the finished dishes as we enjoyed them in the dining room at the School.

Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine, Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine

Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine

We were incredibly lucky during our sojourn in Durban, South Africa, to be among the six “students” who attended the inaugural cooking demonstration class and ate the first meal there prepared by one of Africa’s leading young chefs, Jackie Cameron, at her eponymous School of Food & Wine in the picturesque town of Hilton, situated above the regional center city of Pietermaritzburg, about an hour’s drive northwest of Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.  Having served for 12 years as the head chef at the award-winning Hartford House, a five-star boutique hotel in rural Mooi River (located in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa), Jackie left in 2014 in order to establish a unique cooking school in South Africa — a school to train the next generation of top chefs for the country, and not like “so many other chef schools out there that are just about making money.”

Chef Jackie Cameron

Chef Jackie Cameron

She is investing heavily in the school and the cooking facilities, using the best equipment from Italy and France and sourcing as many local ingredients as possible.  We visited in March 2015 as the construction was in its last stages, with the school’s planned opening with 8 students in April 2015 (enrollment is expected to grow in the future to 15 students) in an 18-month course of instruction and internships.

Jackie Cameron School building -- formerly the Cameron family residence

Jackie Cameron School building — formerly the Cameron family residence

Eight of the students will be able to live in rooms at the school on the property.

Jackie Cameron School building -- thatched roof window detail

Jackie Cameron School building — thatched roof window detail

Jackie’s family home has been transformed and modernized into a state-of-the art facility while retaining its architectural and cultural heritage.

Jackie Cameron School building -- courtyard

Jackie Cameron School building — courtyard

Jackie chose ELBA appliances for the school as the company is “personified by its Italian style, design and build technology… The eye-catching ELBA cookers shape a particular kitchen with confidence that promises to inspire, enhancing culinary creativity.”  In order to procure top European professional kitchen equipment, Jackie works with Culinary Equipment Company, a local South African business that has been successfully grown into “South Africa’s ultimate kitchen shop” by its entrepreneurial founder, Wehrner Gutstadt. They were able to supply her with the Charvet cooking ranges (photographed below) that are designed with professional chefs in mind.

Jackie Cameron School -- new stove tops being installed

Jackie Cameron School — new stove tops being installed

Jackie Cameron School -- interior view of thatched roof

Jackie Cameron School — interior view of thatched roof

The School’s library is based upon Jackie’s recipe books from family members going back to her great-grand parents, along with a large assortment of “greatest hits” cookbooks from top chefs and writers.

Jackie Cameron School -- library selection

Jackie Cameron School — library selection

Ed Schroeder’s new-age photographs of local Nguni cattle show his deep appreciation for the animals.  Jackie chose his photographs for the school as his attention to detail — seen clearly in the eyes of his subjects — harmonises with the focus on perfection at the School.

Jackie Cameron School -- local Nguni cattle decorate the entry

Jackie Cameron School — local Nguni cattle decorate the entry

As we toured the grounds, we sere struck by a painted “poster” (slogan) on a wall exterior to the back of kitchen of the planned public restaurant serving meals prepared by the student chefs.

Jackie Cameron School --

Jackie Cameron School — “To teach someone…”

Our next blog post will highlight the preparation of the delicious South-African cuisine luncheon that we were fortunate to enjoy in the former dining room (being transformed into a formal “board” room).

Zulu art

Zulu art -- black and white motifs

Zulu art — black and white motifs

We were fortunate to visit the African Art Centre on Florida Road in the heart of central Durban during our visit.  The Centre is the major retail gallery for local Zulu artisans.  Their description of the organization:  “The Durban African Art Centre Association provides thousands of unemployed artists and craftspeople with opportunities of self-employment and economic upliftment and the ability to earn a sustainable living. We reach out to some of the poorest communities in KwaZulu Natal; the youth, rural women, the disabled, the unemployed and persons affected by HIV and AIDS. We have built a reputation for supplying specialized, high quality products hand crafted products. Every purchase made from the African Art Centre provides a sustainable income for more than 1,000 crafters supported by the Centre.”

Zulu art -- three tribal character dolls

Zulu art — three tribal character dolls

According to Wikipidia, “The Zulu are a Bantu ethnic group of Southern Africa and the largest ethnic group in South Africa, with an estimated 10–11 million people living mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.  Small numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.  Their language, Zulu, is a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup.”  We also had the opportunity to travel inland to visit Zulu towns and watch a traditional Zulu dance troupe; stay tuned for an upcoming blog post…

Zulu art -- colorful starburst platter

Zulu art — colorful starburst basket

The Center explains the colorful basketry:  “Telephone wire basketry is an indigenous South African art form which has grown from the basket weaving skills of the Zulu people of KwaZulu Natal. The craft is said to have originated in the 1950’s when night watchmen working in the cities would weave telephone wire around their wooden walking sticks whilst working at night. Originally the wire was sourced from leftovers lying around, however when telephone wire started being ripped off and stolen off telephone poles, a supplier came on board and started producing the plastic casing specifically for the telephone wire producers.
“The majority of our weavers are from the Greytown and New Hanover areas in Central KwaZulu Natal.  This group of almost 60 male and female basket weavers consistently create baskets in various shapes and sizes, including bowls, vases and other functional items. In addition to functional items, wire weavers supported by The African Art Centre produce vibrant, colourful telephone wire earrings, brooches, bracelets and bangles.”

Zulu art -- colorful fabric

Zulu art — colorful textile panel

The embroidery pictured above is a relatively new craft for the Zulus.  The Centre notes:  “In view of the high levels of unemployment, the production of craft has become a significant source of income particularly within rural and low-income communities in KwaZulu Natal. For more than 50 years, The African Art Centre has committed itself to facilitating and implementing relevant, strategic programmes and projects aimed at addressing the concern of unemployment.  One such project was an embroidery project initiated by the African Art Centre in 2004 for a group of 7 young unemployed single mothers living in KwaZulu Natal.  The group named themselves the Ntokozo Group. The word Ntokozo loosely translated means “happy” and the embroidered panels of bold images and exuberant colour speak of personal stories, the environment and the hopes and aspirations of the crafters. The group which has grown in number continues to produce a range of embroidered products, including embroidered panels, aprons, dishtowels, placemats and stuffed animals.”

Zulu art -- tribal character doll and platter

Zulu art — tribal character doll and basket

BIg Sur, Beverly Hills and Miami Beach all meet up — that’s the Umhlanga suburb of Durban, South Africa

Umhlanga Beach -- this could be Big Sur, CA

Umhlanga Beach — this could be Big Sur, CA

A very upscale suburb of Durban, on the Indian Ocean just 10 miles north of the central city, the township of Umhlanga is a major tourist destination.  “Umhlanga” means “place of reeds” in the Zulu language.  Visitors from around the world year-round enjoy the beach, surf, luxury hotels, holiday apartments, condominiums and shopping and dining.  The sandy beaches stretch 120 miles to the north.  Just inland are acres of sugar cane fields.  Further inland lies the Inanda Valley, full of local history and spectacular landscapes, including the Valley of 1000 Hills and the massive Inanda Dam.

Umhlanga Beach approach -- is this southeast Florida?

Umhlanga Beach approach — is this southeast Florida?

The local tourism guide notes that there are a wide variety of beach activities available at Umhlanga Beach, including surfing, deep-sea fishing, whale watching and dolphin viewing, scuba diving, kite boarding and microlight flips.

Umhlanga Beach pier

Umhlanga Beach pier

The pier, just north of the Umhlanga Rocks lighthouse, provides great views of the promenade and the rocks and lighthouse (see next photo).

Umhlanga Beach lighthouse and (??) Beverly Hills

Umhlanga Beach lighthouse and (??) Beverly Hills

There are several luxury hotels and apartments on or overlooking the beach near the Unhlanga Rocks, including the “Beverly Hills”, pictured above, and the condominium complex, below.  A favorite dining destination is the Oyster Box Hotel, expanded into a hotel in the 1930s from the original beach cottage of 1869, constructed years before the village’s founding in 1895 by a British colonist.

Umhlanga Beach condominiums

Umhlanga Beach condominiums

Durban, South Africa

Durban Central viewed from the north coast

Durban Central viewed from the north coast

After several rough days at sea in the Indian Ocean, we sailed into Durban’s downtown Victoria Embankment harbour and docked at the Passenger Terminal which provided easy access to Durban Central (downtown).  Sailing south along the South African coast from Mozambique, we first viewed Durban from the north coast, with a vantage similar to that shown above (captured on the beach at Umhlanga, a northern suburb).  Durban has the busiest port in both South Africa and the entire African continent.

Durban Greyville Racecourse and Central office buildings

Durban Greyville Racecourse and Central office buildings

Durban (called “eThekwini” in the Zulu dialect, meaning lagoon) is the capital of the State of KwaZulu-Natal, a region with a colorful history and home of South Africa’s Zulu tribe.  The city has the country’s third largest economy, behind Johannesburg and Cape Town, with a population of 3.5 million (predominantly Zulu, but a melting pot with Indians, Asians, British and Europeans).

Durban -- the real cityscape

Durban — the real cityscape

Unfortunately, crime remains a major problem in the city.  Many private homes have not only walls enclosing the property, but the walls are topped with barbed wire or a combination of barbed wire with razor wire on top.  Private security patrol services (they are legally permitted to be armed) are a booming part of the local economy.  We toured the city over the course of a couple of days and never felt threatened.  However, there are sections of downtown that tourists avoid at night…

Durban South Beach promenade

Durban South Beach promenade

The Durban beachfront along the Indian Ocean is a relatively new area of development, aptly called the Golden Mile (although it is three miles long).  With a mild climate, the beach area is very popular during the day and at night.  Durban is a relatively young city (in terms of colonial settlers) — the first British party of 25 arrived from the Cape Town area in 1824.  The Victorian British had first developed the waterfront along harbor, aptly named the Victoria Embankment.

Durban -- Moses Mabhida Stadium

Durban — Moses Mabhida Stadium

The newest (and most prominent) city landmark is the Moses Mabhida Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, hosted by South Africa in Durban and Cape Town (with its own new soccer stadium for the 2010 games).  Built at a cost of hundreds of millions of US dollars, the stadium is regarded by locals as a white elephant, as only seven games, including one semi-final, were played in it during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  The partial roof, hung by cables from the arch, is built of Teflon-coated glass-fiber membranes and covers 88% of the 54,000 (and up to 80,000) seats.

Durban Moses Mabhida Stadium central arch

Durban Moses Mabhida Stadium central arch

The uniquely designed central arch represents the formerly divided country coming together, modeled on the “Y” design of South Africa’s colorful flag.  Visitors can walk up the 550-steps to the top of the arch, or ride up a funicular.  There is also a swing from the fourth ladder rung (see photo, above) that allows visitors to jump off and swing in a 720-foot arc over the field.

Durban -- typical old private mansion by wealthy British businessman

Durban — typical old private mansion by wealthy British businessman

During the height of the British rule in the 19th Century, sugar cane was a major crop in the area.  The brick mansion, pictured above, was built by the British magnate who ran the local sugar business.  Notwithstanding the abolition of Apartheid 20+ years ago, Durban’s old wealthy neighborhoods have retained their old splendor and isolation from the melting pot.