You Make A Difference!

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He takes everything in his stride, as the saying goes “if you want something done, ask a busy person” this is the chef that controls our kitchen and maintains the rhythm.

This month we celebrate our hotel’s Senior Chef de Partie in the kitchen: Cebisa “Shakes” Manyela (45) winner of the coveted title: You Make A Difference.

Shakes started working in the kitchens of the Mount Nelson in April 2011 and over the past ten years he has worked his way up to the position of Senior Chef de Partie. Last year, after a significant staff restructuring due to the Covid pandemic, Shakes was faced with one of his career’s biggest challenges: with a reduced staff compliment, he had the opportunity to rewrite the way we had done things, this would not be possible if he was not super organized
Shakes takes charge of market list and orders ensuring everyone gets butcher orders, cold sauces and any hot production item needed for the day.

It is a formidable task, but then Nelson Mandela’s quote came to his mind: “It always seems impossible until it’s done”, and so he took it on, and magnificently.

We have worked together for a long time and he knows exactly how everything fits together. Shakes has been the rock on which we rely daily, he is the backbone of the kitchen. This month he excelled even further, as we asked more and more of him. Shakes will make sure everyone has whatever they need to make each kitchen function on time, consistently and accurately. He will not go home until every task is complete. But then we do not expect anything less from such a great gentleman who is an example to everyone wearing a white jacket.”

Congratulations Shakes, the team at The Nellie are proud of you.

image courtesy of Devon Labuschagne


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Wasted lockdown

For thirty years I learnt how to read lips from across the kitchen, it is a necessity. Try communicating with a mask in a busy kitchen in between banging pots, humming extractor, ticking docket machine and the manager mumbling something about a last order at 20:30.

December 2020 felt like an eternity, we were cooking food for the first time since March 2020. It was like opening a new hotel. But this was a new world, a world where we had no prior experience, literature or books to reference. We had no idea how to plan our next steps, fear and uncertainty was everywhere. No patterns or trends to reference.
We had visions to reboot and reinvent, as this was the first time we had a perfectly good opportunity to do so, but one cannot help feeling guilty using this pandemic as the force behind the change and at what expense. Many hotels will not reopen and the others are looking at the end of this year. Leaving many people without a source of income.

As it is the hospitality industry has been on crutches for many years, pretending that it was OK.
With many restaurants, catering facilities, canteens and hotels already closed one can only hope that the remainder can hang in and open even stronger.
Most likely for every restaurant that has closed a potential new restaurant will open, competitive competition will continue with paying excessive rent and neglecting the well-being of staff, the system must change. Something has to give and it is not going to be the paper thin margins.

During the initial lockdown at the start of people in the culinary world, from caterers, restaurants, hotels, industrial and canteens all had to reinvented themselves in order to survive, from making sauces to cakes, elaborate and simple home cooked meals, the public could and are still enjoying fantastic selection of takeaways from home cooked chef meals for curbside collections.
Most do not have a second skill set to rely on, so we do what we can do best, cook or serve. It has become clear that a second skill will become a requirement in order to survive, this is only the start.

What we can agree on is the fact that people have lost jobs and families are in need of immediate support.
Late in March a call for help went out from chefs who immediately identified an urgent need to feed marginalized families affected by the virus. This is still ongoing with selfless farmers donating supplies and selfless chefs contributing to feeding people every day. It is not like they have businesses that need to survive or have anything else to do, these people continue to fight long queues of hunger.

A number of years ago we started a journey at the hotel, we had a vision and I was hell-bent in achieving our vision, working less, having quality time, accountability, transparency, ownership became our buzz words. Our careers and focus became more about the people and relationships than serving a pretty plate of food, we were so close. Then the ship went into lockdown.
As leave was the only option, it was the first time in my career that I had more time to reflect than my mandatory holiday reflection.
The uncertainty of where to next when we went into the first lockdown is nothing to what followed, the continuous nauseating roller coaster ride has become unbearable to watch and I still have a job.

The hospitality industry keeps on fighting an unfair one sided battle as chairs remain empty. The ripple effect is real as it is not just the restaurants and the people in it who suffer. Farmers, wine producers, bottle producers, pot washer, tour guides, hawkers, brewers, butcher, taxi drivers, printers, designers, content creators, fishing communities, delivery drivers, parking guard, waste collectors, they all suffer and so will their families and the suppliers they support, this is a second pandemic that we will be facing, and it is coming very fast.

Travel demands will fall, flights will decrease, tourists will disappear, the industry will have to change as we need tourists to survive and grow. We continue to see bookings move to later dates, putting occupancies in single digits, this has an unsettling effect on all our futures.
Nothing prepared us for the hurt in saying goodbye to friends, we shared ideas, visions, struggles, sweat and tears. We lost three quarters of our kitchen family, it was a devastating year! Dreams and visions were shattered. There simply was no alternative, many have moved on and reinvented themselves.

Selfishly I used the initial lockdown as an opportunity to reflect on my own needs, to reinvent myself and look at what makes me happy, what is my passion, did I have any passion left. I could not just go into a depression after all I still had my job, even if I felt a certain amount of guilt.
Pencil, acrylic, charcoal, paper and canvas became good companions and allowed me to focus a little, but it was getting back into the kitchen even if it was at home experimenting making cheese, tofu and fermenting everything that made me happy and somewhat content.

As operations opened up and we looked forward to a bright future, albeit a different one to what we imagined, nothing could have prepared us further for the stench as the roller coaster ride did not want to end. Everyone was just patching together their lives and their businesses and some light was visible, rules were implemented with no thought of consequences past sandy beaches.
It was supposed to be a joyful festive celebration as we were supposed to see the tail end of a virus. We should have known better as the virus keeps bouncing around causing havoc. Continued travel restrictions keep on putting doubt in the future of the industry. Another announcement and more legends relook at the landscape and the future, pockets are only so deep, then you are left with no choice but to cut the apron strings.

Some still have their strings attached, but for how long before they too must face the reality of financial ruin as they leave behind empty seats, empty spaces and empty dreams.
We have lost so many professionals in our industry, we just hope they have the strength to return and continue to provide great food and service.
There are many establishments who followed the rules during lockdown and even more who choose to rather remain closed as it was simply not viable. There are many establishments out of desperation who continued to trade even if it meant breaking the law, serving alcohol and not enforcing protocols from social distancing, wearing masks to maximizing capacity. It is a paper thin line to cross.

We want to continue our journey, we want to support our small suppliers, we want to invest in our employees, and we would like to remain optimistic about the world of hospitality and travel.

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Gourmet Guide 2020 – Haute Property Award


At the time we had not operated for long enough under the Lord Nelson name to receive a plate award. But we have managed to make some noise and got noticed. We received this beautiful Haute Property Award based on potential. People come to celebrate a true sense of occasion with table side service and a reawakening of some classics. Congratulations to a wonderful team.

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Fedhasa Cape Sustainable Restaurant Cook-off Champion 2019

The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) recently challenged members to a cook off in partnership with WWF-SASSI in a mystery box cook-off that was held at Cape Town Hotel School in Granger Bay.

We have championed sustainable fish choices for years, it has been a challenge we have had with ourselves, at one point I asked SASSI to remove me form their trailblazer list, as we could not follow the list 100%. We made mistakes, not often, but we felt guilty. After discussions with SASSI our minds were put to rest, as it is not following the list 100%, but rather working at making better choices over all, educating others in making better choices. We are still saddened when we see all the crayfish leave or shores to foreign destinations, tourism suffers from this.

In our kitchen we have adopted the same traffic light system used by SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) instead of following the guidelines by SASSI our policy and guidelines provide guidance in terms of how much green, orange or red listed species we are allowed to buy in a calendar year. It also gives us guidance in how much fish may be imported. We have included the importance of buying only MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) approved suppliers if we buy from abroad.

Within our guidelines we have given ourselves room for mistakes, as species are sometimes mistakenly labelled, we have also in the past used fish when we have had no other choices from the red list, but we have within our policy allowed for less than one percent of our yearly purchases for this.

The objective for the cook off that was to create awareness around sustainable food choices and to cook creatively with using basic ingredients supplied. Chefs are the driving force in making the decision on what is placed on menus, these choices ultimately influence consumers. If consumers are informed, then chefs will make better choices.
With this cook off each captain was given a team of chefs they have never worked with before and a challenging selection of fish to work with, frozen hake, frozen half shell mussels, frozen calamari rings, frozen sliced smoked salmon. Initially we were thrown by the frozen selection, but then the thought downed on me, what if this is the only choices we have in the future…
With only 45min we were given the task of coming up with a great dish showcasing our talents but also highlighting sustainable choices.
As we did not know each other, you do not know the strengths of the members, we were lucky as our team quickly established duties and tasks, we clicked and we could decide on a basic menu and strategy.
As the items were previously frozen we had to come up with a dish that would mask the frozen fish.
For the hake we made a flavoured brine with fennel, pepper corns and ginger. The hake was left to brine for 10 minutes before dusting the skin in flour and sesame and pan frying in butter with garlic, ginger and chili.
The mussels were removed from the shells and added to a curry sauce with calamari and offcuts of hake. The smoked salmon was mixed with spinach, cream cheese and put into a tortellini and tossed in butter to finish.TEAM SASSI FEDHASASASSI FEDHASA COOK OFF

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Finding Burger Part 17! New York New York!

My Favourite New Burger

My Favourite New Burger

Going back to New York meant I could continue my journey in finding the perfect burger, it also meant checking in with my previous favourite burger to see if it was still number one.

I did fail as I could only fit in four burgers on my trip, two were revisits. The spotted pig and db bistro moderne.

At db bistro moderne I revisited the original DB burger and at the spotted pig I had the Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese & Shoestring Fries. Two things happened, I had a new favourite and simplicity rules.

I did have other burgers on my trip, but they did not stand up to these two favourites.

We arrived too late for lunch and too early for dinner, we had no booking, very hungry and had covered way to many miles by foot when we arrived at the spotted pig. We negotiated a bar counter seat and ordered a Flying Dog Pale Ale. With a paper next to me opened on sports page, I was reminded how the Mets sank to a new low the previous day, Blank! I still had a good day at the Mets stadium.

We ordered Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort and another beer. It was as simple as that soft bun, burger and Roquefort, it was that simple. No elaborate garnishes, salads, lettuces or pickles.

Toasted soft bun, chargrilled burger topped with Roquefort with lots of shoe string fries. It was simply delicious, great rich meaty flavour that was right blend of meat and fat. The Roquefort worked with the pure beef patty almost to well. Here is three ingredients each made and cooked perfectly, it was that simple. We have some work to do.

Db burger is still part of my favourites list and I will have it again on my next trip.

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Finding Burger Part 16, It has happened again!

Months went by where we had no problems, brisket and chuck came from two suppliers. The product was consistent, we became complacent and confident. Then it struck again, that pink burger as we made the burgers fresh how was this possible, and off course the only people that picked it up was the guests eating well done burgers. We even blamed seasonality and the grass.
I spoke to a good friend and through our conversation he mentioned that if a butcher used nitrates in their shop certain cross contamination could occur. That had to be it, the problem is that both sources are too ethical, too honest and we had scrap that idea.
We went back to the drawing board removing everything, making burgers with no salt, only parsley and only mustard. Results after two days of allowing the burger to stand was a little annoying as the salt seemed like the culprit. The question I had is, how much nitrates are present in salt, does it make a difference if the salt is sea salt or not?
Some vegetables like celery, beetroot, cabbage, some root vegetables and parsley all contain a percentage of nitrate. Sea salt contains a percentage of nitrate, be it very small amounts. When nitrates are exposed to certain types of bacteria the nitrate is converted into nitrite. This reaction is similar in characteristic to traditional cured meat products.
All of this meant that we have to relook the recipe for the guests wanting a well done “’bloody pink”burger.
The problem has been solved for now.

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Poached sea trout
Ocean greens, spekboom and sea asparagus salsa verde, lime air, cucumber flowers, cucumber oil
Inspired by flavors of the ocean due to the leaves that we recently got as samples from wild peacock, we have been asking and searching for a long time.
“the oyster leaf and ice leaf simply played mind games when tasting them, they literally taste like the ocean, it was evident that the sea trout would best suite these beautiful greens, the cucumber flowers are like micro cucumbers with bold cucumber essence a light burst of acid with this bitter sweet under tone makes for a perfect marriage for the trout”

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Serves 4

300g Chickpeas cooked
150g Brussel sprouts cut into half
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 Tbsp Cumin
2 Cloves garlic chopped fine
30ml olive oil
30ml honey
20ml Cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

50g kale fired crispy to finish
200g Lemon and mint yoghurt

Preheat oven to 180
Combine all ingredients in a bowl mix and place in baking tray.
Place in preheated oven and bake for 12 minutes.
Allow to cool place bowl with yoghurt in centre of salad with crispy fried kale on top.

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#From The Pass – Autumn Squash Salad

Autumn Squash Salad for Ouma

Autumn Squash Salad

We have used squash in various salads over the years, mostly marrow and patty pans. Last year Dion started playing with more squashy ideas from charred squash to risotto and lots of salads. “In it’s young form during the end on summer into Autumn they are so wonderful they have this natural sweet, gentle sour and bitter under tone, so we decided to shave them dressed with a touch of olive oil, lemon juice and maldon salt” Then Rameez in larder chirps, that in needed some heritage. “So I turn to Rameez and ask him to make me those pumpkin cookies that his ouma used to make for him during his younger days” So they make a puree with those exact flavours with out adding eggs or dairy, later on adding some crunchy textures like freshly toasted nuts, seeds, coconut, and goji berries. “So the end result was this pumpkin puree at the base of the bowl with the dressed shaved squash and this crunch mix scattered on top, we tasted it and almost could not believe that the dish was vegan, it reminded us all of our oumas pampoen koekies.


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Crushed chickpea & lentil salad with bulgur wheat

Chickpea and lentil

Almost like a tabbouleh but with crushed chickpeas, lentils and seeds

(Will serve 6)
100g cracked wheat cooked
100g crushed cooked chickpeas
50g cooked lentils
30g sunflower seeds
30g pumpkin seeds
20g sesame seeds toasted
2 bunches flat leaf parsley (40g)
2 bunch mint (30g)
4 spring onions
250g cocktail tomatoes cut into quarters
120ml lemon juice
100ml olive oil
½ clove garlic crushed
¼ tsp lemon rind
Seasoning salt and pepper

Wash and chop parsley (optional can be kept whole)
Wash and chop mint (optional can be kept whole)
¼ Cocktail tomato

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