Kwandwe has been praised for its superb dining experience under the leadership of Executive Chefs and husband and wife duo Jaco and Mandi Hough. Picture: Supplied.
Kwandwe has been praised for its superb dining experience under the leadership of Executive Chefs and husband and wife duo Jaco and Mandi Hough. Picture: Supplied.

Kwandwe's executive chef gets candid on Covid-19 dining and travel

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Sep 11, 2020

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Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape is a world-class Big Five safari destination. It boasts 22 000 hectares of pristine private wilderness that stretches either side of the Great Fish River.

Kwandwe has been praised for its superb dining experience under the leadership of Executive Chefs and husband and wife duo Jaco and Mandi Hough.

IOL Travel chats to Mandi Hough about Covid-19 dining and travel. This is what she had to say:

What can guests look forward to when they see Kwandwe's menu?

We both favour tradition and aim to bring back food forgotten from our past, the smells, flavours, and memories we grew up with and long for. We keep a sturdy eye on South African heritage food from Ouma's cookbook and foraging food that surrounds us. At Kwandwe, we are working towards the less wasteful approach with pertinent flavours as opposed to the wasteful heavily laden tables of the past.

How often do you change the menu?

It depends on the local resources and supporting small scale farming. Subtle changes happen on the menu all the time, and the more drastic changes happen seasonally.

What is always in your fridge at home?

Farm butter from a local supplier, homemade peppadew chutney, herb pesto from the garden, a half-eaten tin of condensed milk and usually something about to go off.

What is your favourite meal and what five famous people (dead or alive) would you share it with?

Grandma’s Tomato Bredie (with our dombolo), shared with Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, Siba Mtongana, Bertus Basson, Karen Zoid and Trevor Noah.

Can you tell us about the Covid-19 protocols in place at the reserve in terms of guests dining?

Kwandwe has restructured the shifts around, so one group of staff will continuously look after and attend to specific guests. No rotation or excess staff means less exposure. We have checkpoints and questionnaires before, during and after shifts. There's an endless supply of sanitiser that could last till 2034 (laughs).

Where is the first place you want to travel to when you both are not creating top-class dishes?

We would love to take a road trip up the coast from about Elands Bay to Mowe Bay.

Can you share a memorable experience that you had from a guest at the reserve?

Last year around this time, we had an exceptional group from Bugatti for an exclusive booking. It took about 4 months of prior planning. In between all the lost in translations, language barriers, missed connections, lost phone calls and roughly 17 amended menu versions, this visit from these guests was the pinnacle of their trip. They complimented our understated luxury and surprising flavour, and our less is more approach.

What are your tips for guests travelling during the pandemic?

Follow the basic rules and guidelines set out by properties you are visiting. We all want to feel safe. Last but most important, have one more bite of the food you are craving, one more gin at sunset, read that book you brought, close your eyes and just breathe.

What are your travel essentials?

I take a minimum of 6 books, extra underwear, extra spending money, wet wipes, Leatherman, wine opener and secret snacks.

When you travel- do you prefer an all-inclusive package or self-catering?

We tend to do a bit of both. We absolutely love eating local, but sometimes we just need that homecooked roast or braai.

What are your travelling pet peeves?

One of my biggest peeves is travelling with my child. It's really only a relocation of the screaming and dramatic behaviour. Others include people who cannot laugh off the small things, lack of basic personal hygiene or etiquette from fellow cabin travellers, and basic human kindness and manners when travelling.

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