Donna Patterson, Chef at Singita Serengeti House, reflects on the first days with guests at Singita’s newly opened homestead on the plains of Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania.
The recent opening of Singita Serengeti House was an exciting time for all involved. Carefully guided by Boyd Ferguson, master creator at Cecile & Boyd’s, who has thoughtfully directed design strategy for Singita for almost two decades, Singita’s latest project was no less a marvel.
As everything came together in the last few minutes before opening, in a bloom of dust the magic helpers disappeared and a vehicle full of delighted guests pulled up. We were open!
Serengeti House oozes the opulence of a locally-styled East African home. Guests walk in and immediately become part of the family. There is a wonderful feeling of ‘arriving at your own private homestead’, derived from the serenity and beauty of the location and the stature of the house on the plains of Grumeti Reserves.
Guests are treated to one of Serengeti House’s top attributes of it being entirely private and secluded from anyone or anything else on 350,000 acres of private reserve. The home hosts its own tennis court and pavilion, 25 metre infinity pool, four plush bedrooms and endless living areas for relaxation at any stage of the day. There is also a waterhole just in front of the house, which has become a favourite drinking spot for general game as well as a breeding herd of elephant.
The food at Serengeti House is personalised to guests’ requests and we tend not to use a menu. As the chef, I interact directly with the guests throughout their stay and discuss their meals with them. The food is locally sourced, healthy and styled around simple but robust recipes. All of the guests enjoy the ‘family-style’ dining which entails the kitchen team preparing platters of food and serving it in the centre of the table. Be it delicious cakes for afternoon tea, banana bread and coffee before the sun rises or a fresh lobster braai (BBQ) to end off the day, the food is designed and catered to whatever whim is the preference of the group. The kitchen is also part of the home and guests are more than welcome to pop in at any time and get their hands messy with the chefs.
I know that wonderful memories will be created here and return visits have already been mentioned among departing travellers.
Today was Lucien Green’s last day in the kitchen at the Singita School of Cooking. He managed to squeeze in one more demo before he left: confit duck gizzards, duck hearts, and orange segments all drizzled with a Dijon mustard dressing. I was worried I might not sample the duck delicacy as there was a sea of students in front of me destroying the delicious salad by the fork-full. As a thank-you to Lucien he was given a cooking school jacket with his name embroidered on it, a Singita book and an invitation for him and his wife to return to Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges. His remark? “I’ll certainly return but not in summer. I hear there are a lot of snakes around at that time!”
This has been a remarkable week. The students have gained mountains of knowledge and also a new friend. Everyone is looking forward to the return of Lucien Green.
The End…for now.
Four points separated the teams in the end, but let’s start at the beginning. Lucien Green, Senior Training and Development Chef from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Apprentice Programme, started the day by presenting his demo for plating carpaccio.
Then the students split into their teams to begin their own creations and Amos started the clock-watch – a 25 minute challenge! All teams finished in time so the first challenge was met. Some great dishes were created by all and the sirloin was delectable and tender.
After the judging it was time to announce the winner. In 4th place with 39 points was team D. In joint 2nd and 3rd place with 40.5 points were teams B and C and in first place with a whopping 43 points was team A. The grand prize? Each member of the winning team proudly accepted a chef’s jacket from Fifteen, together with a Fifteen-branded apron. The smiles couldn’t have been any bigger.
(Written by Archie Maclean, Head Chef at Singita Lebombo Lodge.)
Here’s the winning team A and their scrumptious creation.
The excitement at Singita Kruger National Park has been contagious this week. What’s been causing the stir? Lucien Green.
Visiting from Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen” Apprentice Programme in London, Lucien Green (Senior Training and Development Chef) has hailed an energy at the Singita School of Cooking like never before. Each day has been jam-packed with activities, revving up from one day to the next.
Day One – the Singita team whisked Lucien out into the bush to look for lions.
Day Two – stepping into the kitchen at the Singita School of Cooking for the first time, Lucien observed students elbow-deep in dough and perfecting their focaccia-making skills.
Day Three – Lucien took some time out to review curriculum. He gave the cooking school a thumbs-up!
Day Four – this was a special day – it was marked as the official opening of the Singita School of Cooking. Mark Witney, Singita’s Chief Operating Officer was also present for the honours.
Day Five – then it was back to the kitchen. Lucien conducted a day of teaching, introduced the students to carpaccio for the first time, and iniated a competition to see who could produce some winning results. For the competition the students were split into teams and over two days they’ll compete for the top prize. It is going to be a gruelling, fast-paced stretch. Stay tuned!
First day at Singita School of Cooking, Lucien Green, Senior Training and Development Chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Apprentice Programme in London arrived this morning to find the students all huddled around a bench paying attention to Amos, the chef in charge, giving instruction on stuffed focaccia. Amos was enthusiastically demonstrating how to prepare the fillings, which looked world-class: tomato, caramelized onion, mushrooms, all roasted with rosemary and garlic. He placed the filling in the middle of the bread then folded the bread around. Then the challenge was presented: Group A against Group B – whose baked delicacy will win? While the bread baked it gave Chef Lucien time to talk to some of the students individually as they continued with their prep duties. Forty minutes later with the smell of freshly cooked bread, the focaccia was done. In true chef style everyone approached, not giving time for the bread to cool and everyone waiting for a bite. Lucien was asked by Amos to do the honor of judging. All of the breads were mouthwatering but there could only be one winner and group A took the prize. Group B was a close second and poor Amos came third. It takes a good teacher to lose to his students!
You can imagine how difficult it might be to source fresh and interesting greens and speciality vegetables in the far-reaches of the Serengeti. This was the challenge that Frank Louw faced when he took over the helm of the Singita Sasakwa Lodge kitchen a few years ago. In an effort to add some pizzazz to menu items and maintain the high standards set by Singita excellence, Frank set about to establish a kitchen greenhouse that would produce some delicate garden products not normally sourced in the surrounding wilderness areas.
We thought our blog followers would like to hear how the Greenhouse is doing at Singita Grumeti.
The green house is doing well. We are using it to the full extent and gathering herbs and lettuce from it every day. Just yesterday I picked some Zebra tomatoes…they are scrumptious and pretty. We are also growing spinach and our very own purple basil. So nice for our salads. (Frank Louw – Sasakwa Chef)
Frank Louw, Singita Sasakwa Executive Chef and Michael Matera, Senior Chef de Partie – caretakers of the kitchen greenhouse, now in its second growing year.
One of the highlights of spending nights under canvas at Singita Explore is the feasting experience. Nothing like dining with china and crystal in the permanent tented camp of Singita Sabora – instead Singita Explore presents something that harks back to an earlier explorer experience where tents are pitched in remote locations to follow the wildlife. Pots are settled into camp fires for slow stewing and hot water heated over the coals for morning coffee.
Loraine Trollip, Operations Manager Mobile Division (Singita Grumeti), describes one of the firm favourites on the menu at Singita’s mobile camp in Tanzania – a potjie.
A potjie is a stew that is simmered for hours over an open fire in a three-legged cast iron pot. Oxtail is often the traditional choice of meat for a potjie and provides a rich flavour. Other ingredients that meld together for mouth-watering taste, include beef stock, red wine, sherry, mushrooms, garlic, leeks, bay leaves, and tomato.
Now that’s something to warm up an evening under the stars.
If you have ever started the day at Singita Sasakwa Lodge with their famed breakfast spread then you will remember the delectable homemade pastries…including Sasakwa’s breakfast seed bars. That’s Justina Munuo in our photo above displaying mouthwatering morning fare.
This is a recipe that you will want to tuck into your most-loved recipe file and pass from generation to generation.
224g flour (1 cup)
256g sugar (1 cup + 2 Tablespoons)
128g coconut (1/2 cup)
128g oats (1/2 cup)
56g Rice Crispies (4 Tablespoons)
120g honey (1/2 cup)
200g butter (7 oz or almost a cup)
8g bicarbonate of soda (1/2 Tablespoon or 1 1/2 tsp)
50g condensed milk (1/4 cup)
20g sesame seeds (1 1/2 Tablespoons or 4 tsp)
20g poppy seeds (1 1/2 Tablespoons or 4 tsp)
20g chopped almonds (1 1/2 Tablespoons or 4 tsp)
20g sunflower seeds (1 1/2 Tablespoons or 4 tsp)
20g pumpkin seeds (1 1/2 Tablespoons or 4 tsp)
Not for the faint of heart – so close your eyes and fold in the condensed milk and butter – then enjoy these purely delicious squares!
Instructions – melt the honey and butter. Mix all the other ingredients together and then add the melted butter and honey mix. Mix well and place into a baking tray, pack down well, and bake for 30 minutes at 170 degrees Celcius. Cut into squares while still warm.
The above link is a helpful baking resource for calculating conversions from grams to cups.
The long-awaited graduation day at the Singita School of Cooking is now just around the corner. After an arduous 18-month-long-programme, 6 students are currently completing assignments and going through the assessment process in order to qualify. Excitement for graduation at the end of March, is mounting.
The team at Singita Kruger National Park is already starting to prepare for the next programme – in the next 2 weeks Oriel Mbowane (Singita Kruger National Park Chef Skills Developer) will be finalising details with the educational assessors. April is the planned start date for the new intake and we are delighted that this will be the 5th intake of students at the cooking school since its inception in 2007.
Scroll through the photos and some of the memories from the year – well done to students, Oriel Mbowane, and visiting chefs. It has been a great year.
For more information about the programme at the Singita School of Cooking, take a look at Singita’s website or feel free to contact us for a brochure or further details – SLReceptionmanager@singita.com (General Manager at Singita Kruger National Park).
The next time you bite into a decadently chocolate-filled brownie at Singita Faru Faru Lodge, you may be surprised to know that the Pastry Chef in the kitchen who makes these creations, has a very interesting past.
(Peter is standing with the bow.)
Peter Andrew was born in 1979 in Fort Ikoma village on the outskirts of Singita Grumeti Reserves. Peter’s mother died when he was 16 years old; his Dad remarried and thus Peter was forced to leave his home and village to fend for himself. At the time he had no options for employment but poaching. He learnt hunting and tracking skills from a man much older than him, named Matere Muita, a father figure who taught him everything he needed to know about the skills of the hunt. They hunted together on foot day and night to harvest bush meat, tusks from elephants and skins from Colobus monkeys. Peter remembers that they took pride in never being caught – “You were not a skilled poacher if a Wildlife Officer caught you”.
However everything turned a corner in 2003 when Peter learnt that a good-hearted man named Mr. Harris, was offering jobs to poachers in neighbouring villages. This was Peter’s chance to change his life and earn an honest wage without fear of being locked in jail or eaten by lion. So Peter started work at Singita Sasakwa Lodge as a temporary employee helping with construction. He was interested in cooking and in 2004 took the opportunity to become the staff cook at Singita Sabora Tented Camp. He excelled in this position and developed quickly, so much so that in 2005 Peter became a Commis Chef at Singita Sabora and then further moved to Singita Faru Faru in 2011 as a full-time Pastry Chef where he currently works.
Stories like that of Peter Andrew continue to provide encouragement for the investment made by Singita in valuable conservation efforts.
With over 500 000 acres of land under management, Singita offers luxury safari, tourism opportunities whilst pursuing a core vision: the protection of vast wilderness areas that are home to magnificent wildlife populations and sensitive landscapes, for future generations.
Controlling poaching in the area has been a key priority facing Singita Grumeti Reserves since 2002. This illegal industry threatened the dynamics and balance of the eco-system and undermined the potential of the commercial tourism venture, required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the area. With the establishment of an effective anti-poaching unit consisting of 120 game scouts and thanks to the support of the Tanzanian Wildlife Division, Singita Grumeti Reserves has to date been able to achieve an increase of game populations by up to 600% in some species. Now Singita Grumeti employs close to 600 members of staff (a large proportion from local villages) in its effort to conserve the enormous tract of land in its care, and to support special Singita-style service to the guests that visit Singita Grumeti Reserves.
To read more about Singita’s community development and conservation projects in four regions around Africa, please take a look at Singita’s website.