Interview with Jenny Handley about the new JHP Gourmet Guide™

May 27, 2016 (Last Updated: January 11, 2019)

We chat to Jenny Handley about her new JHP Gourmet Guide, which is simply delectable!

jenny handley jhp gourmet guide

Jenny Handley is a brand performance specialist, owner of JHP and author of best-selling business books. Her career started with her food – she is a qualified home economist, and has a Higher Diploma in Food & Nutrition. Her career started at Ina Paarman Foods and progressed into marketing, PR and brand. Jenny owned a PR company for 15 years with many hospitality, restaurant and food clients. She conceptualised and ran the Woman of Worth awards for 10 years.

She has her own weekly brand column in the Cape Times and is a feature writer and reviewer for Food & Home Entertaining, and other lifestyle publications. Jenny continually tops up her formal food qualifications with cookery courses globally, and writes about them. Her blog, Jen’s Journeys of Flavour, reflect her reviews and views – home and away, from markets to Michelin-star restaurants. Jenny is member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and is well exposed to the restaurant industry regularly running her ‘Master Class in Brand and Service Excellence’ workshops.

The JHP Gourmet Guide™ finally sandwiches all her passions and expertise between two covers – food, brand and writing.

What is your line of work?

I run a brand performance company which trains individuals and teams to build brands and elevate performance. I am the author of business books, Raise your Game©; Raise your Profile and Raise your Leaders™ in addition to writing about my passion of gourmet travel.

Tell us how your passion for food began? 

As a young child I knew I wanted to work with food, so Food and Nutrition studies were an obvious start to my career. My passion for food equals my passion for writing, so combining the two is a dream [come true].

Why did you decide to publish the JHP Gourmet Guide™?

The way to grow people is to give them something to work towards. A goal. I want this guide to be a goal that every chef and restaurant aspires to…a benchmark for excellence. We have chefs in this country that can hold their own anywhere in the world in terms of innovation and skill. The opportunity to create a rating system that equates to global standards to acknowledge their talent was one that I could not resist embracing.

Is it self-published?

No, MapStudio, producers of international guides and publications, was my obvious partner in this pursuit of excellence.

What do you feel are the stand-out points of JHP Gourmet Guide™?

As there is no hotel nor restaurant advertisers each establishment is included on merit. It does not only describe a restaurant, but gives food-lovers the chance of getting to know the chefs and experience their recipes. There will be 21 restaurants who will be awarded a one-plate or two-plate rating this year in recognition of their talent, skill and commitment. One-plate is awarded for excellent cuisine, a top-quality eating experience. Two-plates are awarded for exceptional destination dining – extraordinary cuisine that warrants a special trip. The guide will be launched at the Good Food & Wine Show in Cape Town on 27 May, and the announcement of the platings made as the show opens.

Have you covered a broad spectrum of different types of cuisine and eateries in the guide? 

The restaurants that are featured are diverse, so in addition to haute cuisine there is a hot-and-happening overview of diverse eateries that international and local foodies frequent.

Setting yourself this challenge must have been so daunting! What were your biggest hurdles in compiling it and how did you overcome them?

I had to be confident in my ability to put the right team of professional international and local gourmets in place to evaluate the restaurants, and in creating the criteria. When I owned a PR company I conceptualised and ran the “Woman of Worth” awards for a decade, and it gave me good experience and insights into compiling the right panel of professionals. Because it is an inaugural guide some restaurants have opted not to be evaluated, and we hope to include them next year. Others that have not met the criteria in terms of longevity, service and consistency, we hope will up their game in order to be included in the future.

How long did it take you to complete the guide?

The research started a few years ago, travelling globally to ascertain what it is that sets top restaurants apart, and coming back to SA to interrogate people about where they like to eat, and why. I then set about recruiting the panel of local and international evaluators who could anonymously experience the restaurants, rate them and report back. I then had the pleasure of meeting many of the top chefs and finding out more about what makes them who they are, and so good at what they do.

Where is the JHP Gourmet Guide being sold and what is the price?

In book stores, some participating hotels and restaurants and tourist outlets at R299.

Is it available as an e-book or hard copy only? 

There will also be the option of buying the guide as an e-book which will be available later in the year.

Will you keep updating the JHP Gourmet Guide™ through your website? 

Yes, and we are already recruiting nominations for the next guide. If you would like to add a nomination visit

WIN: Three lucky readers stand a chance to win a copy of the JHP Gourmet Guide™. To enter, simply send an email with your name, surname and contact number to [email protected] with JHP GOURMET GUIDE in the subject line. Competition closes 17 June 2016 at midday.

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