December 2021

A spirit of celebration & connection – Singita’s food philosophy

in Community

A spirit of celebration & connection – Singita’s food philosophy

At Singita our food philosophy is one of sharing and community – food bringing people together in celebration surrounded by nature. Over the holiday season this rings ever truer. 

Harnessing the healing power of the continent’s most remote and wide-open spaces, Singita celebrates the festive season by emphasising renewed connections with loved ones – and a focus on shared experiences, a lightness of spirit, and Africa's authentic and hopeful energy. Often this time finds families and loved ones gathered around a table, sharing a meal and, at our lodges and camps, our chefs make this time of year extra special with a festive twist. 

While the spirit of celebration is infused into Singita's food all year round, during the festive season our chefs make extra effort to make meals celebratory

The heart behind the food 

Singita’s chefs continuously strive for excellence in the creation of dishes that are globally inspired but that also honour the local roots and cultural nuances of the locations of our lodges and camps. 

Over the holiday season, they take this spirit of togetherness still further by curating intimate celebrations featuring beautiful meals that foreground connection and celebration. Imbued in every dish is a sense of joy, passion and inspiration. It’s food that not only satisfies the senses but that touches the heart, and sparks a sense of warmth and nostalgia. And behind every dish are the people who have crafted it. Our chefs come from different backgrounds, and their local food knowledge and varying viewpoints contribute to the eclectic, diverse and delicious food we serve at Singita.

We asked a few of our Head Chefs to tell us about their favourite Singita dish from our very own cookbook, Singita - Our Food Journey.

James Kenny, Head Chef at Singita Pamushana brings both fun and hard work into his kitchen

James Kenny, Singita Pamushana 

James Kenny, Head Chef at Singita Pamushana is inspired by the spirit of enthusiasm and teamwork across the Singita team. His journey from Junior Sous Chef, to Sous Chef and now Head Chef is testament to his constant striving for perfection. Describing himself as self-driven, adaptable and courageous, Kenny says nothing brings him greater joy than exceeding a guest’s expectations. Food is integrated into all areas of his life – he even has an organic garden at home where he grow herbs and vegetables. Bringing both joy and hard work into his kitchen, he exemplifies both the dedication and celebration Singita’s food embodies. 

“I have so many favourites in the cookbook and choosing one is close to impossible, especially with my sweet tooth. I love the bream and chips – using fish just caught from the Malilangwe Dam. It does not get fresher than dam to table. And the chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream and honeycomb – that combination of flavours and textures and the contrast of hot and cold is magic,” he says. 

Kenny's dish of choice is battered fish, caught in the Malilangwe Dam, for its dam-to-table freshness, served with chips and bean salsa

Vanie Padayachee, Singita Sabora Tented Camp 

Neelamani (Vanie) Padayachee was raised on South Africa’s East Coast and has Sri Lankan and South Indian heritage. She grew up surrounded by the flavours and influences of many different cuisines, which has informed the food she creates, and she has taken this flair for flavour into the kitchens of numerous celebrated restaurants in South Africa. 

After a year as Head Chef at Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Padayachee has been promoted to Group Roaming Chef. In this new role she will work across lodges, support staff on leave cycles, and assist with VIP guests. “Singita’s core values inspire me to be a better person, to innovate and empower growth within our team. While I cook, I’m able to look onto the savannah – filled with wildebeest or zebra – and my heart is full,” she says of cooking in the bush. 

For her favourite recipe Padayachee has chosen the coconut lentil stew. “There are so many recipes to choose – I love all the dishes – their presentation, simplicity and freshness. But as a vegetarian, this is a winner. It’s also so versatile and can accompany many of the sides,” she says.  

Roaming Chef Vanie Padayachee loves the coconut lentil stew for its versatility and flavour

Xavier Francis, Singita Kruger National Park

Xavier Francis hails from Durban in South Africa and joined Singita in 2020 to oversee both the Singita Lebombo and Singita Sweni kitchens. Passionate, driven and creative, he started learning in the kitchen at a young age and loves to experiment with food, especially local flavours. “I’d love to create as many proudly South African menus as possible using local flavours and ingredients and highlighting the phenomenal locally sourced produce,” he says. 

Head Chef at Singita Kruger National Park, Xavier Francis loves the sense of community in the Singita kitchens

Francis' mother was a lecturer, and this has informed both a love of sharing his knowledge with the team and his sense of community – the Singita Community Culinary School was also one of the reasons he was inspired to work at Singita. "The laughter, banter and camaraderie within the team brings me joy every day,” he says.  

Choosing his favourite, he honours local. “It’s really tough to pick one. But I would say umngqusho. It’s a staple of many Southern African communities and is extremely versatile, it is something we serve often in the lodges - add some raclette or fresh truffle and it packs a massive flavour punch,” he says. 

Passionate about local flavours, Francis' choice from the Singita cookbook is a South African staple - Umnqushu

Sharing this festive season 

Our flagship Community Culinary Schools – now in three of our regions – are a vital part of our vision, and our guests’ support of this initiative ensures life-changing opportunities for young talent in neighbouring communities. 

Spread the festive cheer well into the new year by offering promising culinary stars a chance to take their talent wide in 2022. You can do this by donating here to sponsor a student, or simply by purchasing our beautifully curated Singita cookbook whose dishes our chefs share with guests daily.

Click here to enquire about our Singita cookbook, Singita – Our Food Journey



By Julia Freemantle

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