Chef Kobus van der Merwe said his win was a victory for the African “continent and my beautiful, diverse country”.
A tiny beach restaurant in an isolated South African fishing village was named the best in the world on Monday, 18 February 2019. Chef Kobus van der Merwe, who did not begin to cook seriously until he was 30, forages every day for ingredients on the wild Atlantic shore of the Western Cape near his Wolfgat restaurant, where he also makes his own bread and butter.
The Wolfgat, whose six mostly female staff have no formal training, opened just two years ago in a 130-year-old cottage and cave on the beach at Paternoster. Its seven-course tasting menu costs the equivalent of €53 (US$60 or R848), a fraction of what you would pay at a top Paris table.’
But its humble setting, and Van der Merwe’s belief in sustainable, back-to-basics cooking won over the judges of the inaugural World Restaurant Awards in the French capital. “
The 38-year-old, who can feed only 20 people at a sitting, told AFP, “I don’t feel worthy. It’s a big title. My staff who go out every day gathering herbs, succulents and dune spinach, should be here… It’s their baby.
“I can’t wait to celebrate with them with a big glass of South African sparkling wine.”
With dishes such as twice-cooked laver (seaweed), angelfish with bokkom sambal and wild garlic masala, limpets, mussels and sea vegetables harvested within sight of its “stoep” (porch), Wolfgat also won the prize for best “Off-Map Destination”.
The bearded Van der Merwe – a former journalist – said that apart from the influence of the subtle spices of local Cape Malay cooking, his philosophy was to “interfere as little as possible with the products, and to keep them pure, raw and untreated.
I’m really proud to bring something like this back to our continent and beautiful country. I’m very proud to be working in a team of mostly women.”