With much hype around culinary tourism, the industry needs to constantly find new ways to be innovative. Tourism Update looks at how foodies based in Southern and East Africa are creating innovative, authentic culinary experiences for tourists.

Donaldson Madubela, Executive Chef at Anantara Bazaruto Island says a significant amount of chefs are now cooking slow food that is produced or prepared in accordance with local culinary traditions, typically using high-quality locally sourced ingredients. “It’s the best way of eating healthy food and not wasting food. Gardens are being used a lot more in terms of producing good tasty meals,” he explains.

Renzo Bico, aha Hotels & Lodges Group Executive Chef, says: “Trying to be innovative is not always the best way to showcase a quality ingredient. It is great to see food being prepared in a different way, or in a different light, however, for us, the quality of the ingredients is important as that comes through on a plate.”

According to Madubela, there is a growing emphasis on reinventing local cuisine for travellers to sample. “There are a few places that focus on local food. At Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort we have Spice Spoons cooking classes which teach guests to cook local Mozambican dishes.”

Anatara’s Spice Spoons is a cooking school designed to connect food lovers from around the world to Mozambique’s authentic flavours, spices and cooking techniques, whether a newcomer to cookery who is hoping to learn the basics or an aspiring chef looking for fresh ideas, Spice Spoons is an ideal place to take the next step in one’s culinary journey. A wide array of lessons include fresh produce selection, skill-enhancing techniques and masterclasses on perfecting everyday local dishes, whilst working with personal chefs. 

One of the more popular dishes that guests learn to cook at Spice Spoons is the prawn matapa, a Mozambican dish prepared with peanuts and young cassava leaves, cooked in coconut milk with crab or shrimp. This century-old recipe has been passed down from generation to generation and is named after a once thriving African empire. The dish is a firm favourite among local communities who often add a mix of seafood ingredients to create their own unique versions.

According to Nicky Coenen, Marketing Manager for The Last Word Intimate Hotels, it is not so much about reinventing local cuisine, but rather incorporating local flavours into classic dishes. “This is the inspiration for our dinner menus,” she adds.  

Aha Hotels & Resorts keeps food offerings as authentic as possible. Bico elaborates: “We don’t try and over complicate our food; our South African cuisine is tasty by nature as opposed to using artificial flavours. Our South African food has the different elements, especially because we braai (barbecue) a lot, we’ve got the char and smoked taste automatically. We’ve got the crispy and crunchy taste because of the manner in which our food is prepared. These elements come through naturally.” 

South Africa has beautiful, unique locations, with its winelands being one of them, this according to Catherine Entwistle, Owner of Val du Charron Wine & Leisure Estate (VDC), together with her husband Stuart. “Combine the setting with our traditional foods such as boboetie, braaivleis and melktert, you have a winning combination,” says Entwistle.

VDC is located on a working vineyard with its own cellar 10 minutes from Wellington and under two hour’s drive from Cape Town, and offers two restaurants, namely The Grillroom and Piza e Vino.

One&Only Nyungwe House in Rwanda celebrates the best of Rwanda’s natural resources through its inspired farm-to-table dining and locally-inspired cuisine.

The resort’s Executive Chef, Treasure Makwanise and his team curate every menu daily, based on guests’ preferences and the best of the season’s ingredients. The cuisine at One&Only Nyungwe House celebrates the natural flavours of Rwanda, prepared with rustic tradition and served with contemporary flair, favouring organic and local produce wherever possible. Guests can choose to enjoy nourishing breakfasts, leisurely lunches and comforting evening meals in The Dining Room, the elegant Rwandan-inspired restaurant with idyllic plantation views. Alternatively, the resort’s chefs can prepare a gourmet picnic to devour during a day of exploring, or set up memorable private dining experiences on one of the resort’s decks.

Other memorable dining experiences include GOLD Restaurant in Cape Town, an African cultural dining experience, which Private Safaris recently visited.

Upon arrival, Private Safaris' staff were welcomed inside by singing and dancing of members in traditional attire. Once guests were seated, hosts offered refreshments while making sure everyone had a djembe drum between their feet.

Two men in traditional attire stepped on to the stage and started playing African beats on their drums. The ceremonial washing of hands followed the last set of drums, and this signalled that the local African cuisine was to be served shortly. Baskets of tapas-styled dishes were placed on the table, each with an inspiration drawn from a different African country or tribe. Throughout the eight courses served, guests were entertained with stage performances.

Following traditional innovative culinary experiences, Santorini Mozambique’s wooden dhow features relaxed seating with supportive lounging cushions, and can sail in the bay offering sunset cruises or short trips to Pansy Shell Island. The boat is supported by a motor in case of calm weather, and has a traditional fire pit on board for freshly grilled meals and snacks. 

Creating innovative culinary experiences can be multi-faceted, however when using local cuisine, coupled with an African setting, the stage is set for a memorable culinary experience for visitors.