• Grace Telana from Tshawe’s tavern in Khayelitsha has been crowned the Western Cape provincial Mzansi Tavern Chef champion after serving up a stunning dish of traditional African chicken, steamed bread and vegetables against fierce competition at the Nederburg Wine Estate in Paarl.

    The judges congratulated Telana on combining excellent technique with authentic township flavours to create a delicious, wholesome meal using affordable ingredients, presented with a creative flourish.

    Telana learned her craft from her mother and started cooking for her community and donating meals to the local creche when she realised the need.

    She was overcome with emotion when she was announced the winner, saying the R30 000 regional prize would go a long way to help her provide food for her community.

    She saw off a highly competitive field representing taverns from Khayelitsha, Eerste River, Gugulethu, Maitland and as far afield as Malmesbury. The fifteen contestants seared, sauced, sautéed and spiced it out in glorious weather in the welcoming shade of the courtyard at Nederburg, producing a mouth-watering array of dishes ranging from chicken tagliatelle to mutton stew, ribeye steak with mushroom sauce, traditional pap and chicken liver, and vetkoek with burger patties, to seafood pasta.

    The provincial final was the first event in the Mzansi Tavern Chef Cook-off competition, hosted at Nederburg in partnership with Distell and the National Liquor Traders. It will be followed by the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, with each provincial winner scoring prizes to the value of R30 000 towards food serving in their outlets and the right to compete in the national grand final for the chance to win the ultimate prize of a tavern makeover to the tune of R100 000.

    The Tavern Chef competition is the apex of a campaign by Distell to promote food serving in taverns as one of the measures to address binge drinking.

    Eating food before and during alcohol consumption is a practical way to regulate consumption and avoid intoxication.

    Food serving in taverns has the dual benefit of helping to moderate consumption and promote a responsible, more sociable atmosphere while also creating an additional revenue stream for the outlet, which can drive township economic development and employment.

    Master chefs Peter Goffe-Wood and Bennie Masekwameng, along with Drinks Federation of South Africa Chairperson Monhla Hlahla, were the judges and kicked off proceedings with a briefing and handover of the competition aprons before pans sizzled. Intense aromas filled the air as the competitors got to the business at their cooking stations for the one-hour cook-off.

    (From left to right) Jackie Olivier, Nederburg Marketing Manager Premium Wines; Monhla Hlahla, Chairperson of the Drinks Federation of South Africa; Chef Bennie Masekwameng; runner up Nompumelelo Mbambonduna from the Lounge Tavern; winner Grace Telana from Tshawe’s Tavern; Distell Head of the Responsible Alcohol Programme Clarence Sibiya; Chef Peter Goffe-Wood; Distell Head of Corporate Affairs Jolene Henn; and Lucky Ntimane, Convenor of the National Liquor Traders celebrate after the Mzansi Tavern Chef Cook-off at Nederburg Wine Estate in Paarl.

    ‘We’ve enjoyed a truly enticing array of dishes here today, and picking a winner has been hard,” said Goffe-Wood. ‘I’m inspired by the passion for food we’ve seen from our competitors and I hope this competition motivates all of them to keep developing their skills.’

    Hlahla said she was blown away by the determination and standard of cooking on display at the event.

    ‘This competition has sparked such excitement among taverners for cooking and serving food in their outlets, and that’s exactly what it’s all about. The joy and pride in their cooking shown by these tavern chefs is a wonderful example of the positive, uplifting and responsible environment we want to promote.’

    Distell Head of Corporate Affairs Southern Africa, Jolene Henn, said the competition builds on the company’s food-serving campaign through its Bansela customer rewards programme, in which taverners are rewarded with prizes and incentives for serving food and water, as well as complying with liquor license trading principles.

    ‘I am excited to see how quickly the idea of food serving is catching on in our taverns, and our aim with this competition is to amplify the message to drink responsibly and in moderation. From the talent on display here today and the standard of cooking we have seen, I can only say that tavern chefs in the rest of the country are in for a real battle for the ultimate prize of an R100 000 tavern makeover.’

    When asked what she intends to do with her winnings, Grace emphasised that she will get a bigger stove for her outlet due to her struggle with loadshedding while also getting more stock and investing in a new deep fryer. For the children, she helps; she intends to sell her fat cakes with burgers for R5 this whole week, cutting down the prices from the initial R13 she used to charge.

    Looking forward to the R100 000 battle, Grace said being selfless drives her. She believes it’s part of the reason she got to win, so she’s relishing the challenge against other provincial champions for the final and being one step closer to being crowned Mzansi Tavern Chef champion.

    ALSO SEE: Tavern chefs to battle it out for a R100 000 cash prize and bragging rights

    Tavern chefs to battle it out for a R100 000 cash prize and bragging rights

    Posted on Getaway by Olerato Ramafsi.

    Feature image: Supplied