September 30, 2011
Singita Game Reserves has appointed Tamarin van Zyl as Head Chef at its recently reopened flagship lodge, Singita Ebony, situated within the game rich Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. Renowned as the authentic ‘grand dame’ of the safari circuit, Singita Ebony Lodge exudes a classic charm from its breathtaking setting on the banks of the Sand River, within a majestic wilderness environment. The epitome of elegance and comfort, it offers the ultimate in safari luxury and an unsurpassed game viewing experience. This is enhanced by a bespoke gourmet food and wine offering that rates among the best in the world.
30-Year old van Zyl brings invaluable local and international experience to the Singita table, with tenures served at a number of South Africa’s top restaurants, and international experience garnered at world class establishments such as Jamie Oliver’s celebrated Fifteen Restaurant in London.
Born and raised in the historic town of Paarl, outside Cape Town, her earliest memories are happy hours spent in her grandmother’s kitchen. She embarked on her chosen vocation early in life, enrolling at the Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA) in Stellenbosch, directly after matriculating from Paarl Girls’ High School in 1999. Since graduating from the ICA in 2002, she has carved an impressive career as a top notch chef, working alongside some of the world’s best chefs.
She first trained as Commis Chef at the Blue Danube Restaurant in Cape Town where she prepared dishes from their cosmopolitan fine dining menu under the guidance of respected Chef Proprietor Thomas Sinn. This was followed by tenures at the renowned Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek, where multiple award-winning South African Chef Margot Janse heads up the team, and then at Five Flies restaurant in Cape Town, where she worked until January 2002. This was followed by her appointment as Junior Sous Chef at Pontac Manor Restaurant in Paarl, where she gained considerable experience working with international guests until December 2003.
In 2004 she spread her wings and relocated to London to expand her culinary repertoire at prominent restaurants such as the People’s Palace at the famed Royal Festival Hall. She served as Chef de Partie under the watchful eye of world renowned French Chef Guy Busson, before accepting a position as Chef de Partie at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. Here she prepared food under the guidance of Executive Head Chef Andrew Parkinson, and was inspired by Italian celebrity chef Genarro Contaldo, whom she credits as the chef who awoke in her a true passion for cooking. She worked at Fifteen until the end of 2007, attending to private functions for celebrities such as Elton John.
Returning to South Africa she held the position of Head Chef at La Petite Ferme in Franschhoek, where she acquired her passion for cooking with fresh, local ingredients. During her time here, she also contributed to the popular La Petite Ferme Cookbook, written by Patron Mark Dendy-Young.
Relishing the opportunity to live and work out in the untamed African bush, she is inspired to offer guests an authentic dining experience at Singita, which showcases her love affair with indigenous African cuisine. Her food philosophy is simple though sage: ‘Cook using the freshest available produce and keep everything you do simple, allowing the flavours to burst through’, she enthuses.
She draws on the wealth of international culinary influences she has absorbed, to add exciting elements to her dishes at Singita Ebony Lodge, and is currently exploring traditional Shangaan cuisine. One of her favourite pastimes is spending time behind the cooking pots with elders from the Shangaan tribe, who are predominant among the communities bordering the Sabi Sand Reserve. Priceless tips and cultural secrets passed on to her are integrated into traditional dishes on her menus, to the delight of Singita’s guests, who may look forward to an unforgettable dining experience in an unrivalled riverside bush setting, and augmented by Singita’s superior wine offering.