Passion can’t be bought, taught or instilled. It is something that drips off you naturally if you absolutely love what you do. It is abundantly clear that Executive Chef Chris Erasmus of Foliage fame lives his passion which is foraging, everything fresh and everything free.
A tale of two chefs is the best way to describe the evening of experimental dining at Dash Restaurant & Bar in the elegant setting of the Queen Victoria Hotel. It was definitely not what I expected when the invite dropped in my inbox and that was half of the charm of the evening, I had no expectations and I was pleasantly surprised.
Alongside Erasmus was Dash Restaurant’s Executive Chef, Ashraf Arendse. They were clearly on a mission to uncover unusual, sensual combinations within foraged ingredients. The menu was a showcase of richness sourced directly from the sea and the land by their very hands.
Erasmus is no stranger to the foraging trend. His passion for creating genius out of what little is available comes from growing up alongside his very own produce.
“My journey started when I was very young growing up in rural parts for most of my life and our family grew most of our own food. The connection, respect and love for ingredients is so much stronger if you are part of the process. Watching your seeds sprout and turn into food,” he says.
Arendse admits he is today years’ old when it comes to foraging, but he wholeheartedly believes his journey alongside Erasmus has inspired a fresh way of looking at ingredients, so to speak.
“As a chef, I want to get more in touch with the ingredients that we cook with and the different flavours things have at different stages of growth. Foraging is something Chris is very inspired by and he is sharing his knowledge with me. The reason why it is so important to me and my chefs is because we want to know where our ingredients come from,” says Arendse.
Each course was vibrantly presented and carefully articulated to bounce flavours off each other. It indeed was a collaboration of more than just two great minds, it seamlessly flowed out of the ingredients and onto our plates for us to ooohhhh about.
The evening’s menu was a stellar line-up of multi-sensory dishes including raw and burnt beetroot, passion fruit and naartjie blossoms, nasturtiums and confit mutton belly and spices. As each course made its way to the table strewn with aromatic herbs and plants, they were oohs and aahhs to welcome them. “I didn’t expect that” and “wow” were frequent words scattered around the long table of media diners.
The wines for the evening were sourced from the distinctive cellars of Creation Wines – a pairing that impeccably matched the cuisine.
One masterpiece of barbecue raw milk and fruit atjar came with a heartfelt story from Erasmus.
It was of a 13-year-old entrepreneur named Salmo who is as passionate about cows as Erasmus is about foraged food.
Salmo nursed a dream of making it big at such a tender age. He started off with one cow which produced just enough milk for his family and to supply Erasmus at Foilage. Through his association with Foliage he has saved up and reinvested the same money in more cows. At 17, he is the proud owner of a small herd and has created a successful career of supplying his high-quality milk.
In many ways, it left everyone in the room wondering where their alternate dreams would have taken them.
The eight-course menu celebrates South Africa in the best way possible – literally from grassroots level. It is an example of culinary genius and the upcoming monthly dinners will definitely unfold other stories close to the Mother City’s heart.