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Secret pre-service rituals from the kitchens of our 2014 nominees

Variety may be the spice of life, but more often than not it’s ritual that breeds quality and consistency. But what exactly are these rituals that the Rock Stars of the restaurant world practice before taking the stage? We asked some of our Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Award nominees to reveal the pre-service rituals that keep their service (and sanity) intact:

Some listen to some music…

Following a pre-service coffee with her manager and sommelier, Executive Chef of Makaron, Tanja Kruger likes to set the mood with some appropriate tunes; “Something like Passenger on a quiet night and Linkin Park on a busy night, and we’re ready to rock and roll,” she says. Chef Richard Carstens of Tokara meanwhile, turns DJ. With music from The Cure, Glass Candy, Chromatics, Burial and Nicolas Jar on his kitchen playlist, we’re keen to join in the party. (Although we suspect that Friday I’m in love might take on a different meaning in the restaurant trade.)

Inside the kitchen at Tokara.

Some rally the troops…

“I don’t really know if we can call this a ritual”, says Gregory Czarnecki, Head Chef of The Restaurant at Waterkloof, “but I walk up and down along the pass waiting for the first orders to come in and before shouting that first order I tell the guys ‘prepare for battle!’”

David Higgs, Executive Chef at Five Hundred at The Saxton, demands that his team does a few stretches before service. “When service hits and there are sudden movements, the last thing we need is someone pulling a hamstring – this is a serious part of the last minute prep.” (Hardly surprising, perhaps, given David’s passion for sport.)

In the kitchen at Five Hundred

Some enjoy a strong cup of coffee…

Henry Vigar, chef and co-owner of La Mouette, believes that a strong cup of coffee and a good chat is key; “We all drink double espressos together, talk about football and make sure all is a go for service.” Eric Bulpitt from The Restaurant at Newton Johnson also ensures that evening service starts on a good note with a sit-down at the chef’s table for iced coffee and a meal.

The team at Newton Johnson prepare for service.

Some are all business…

At The Kitchen at Maison, Head Chef Arno Janse van Rensburg uses the time before service to ensure everything (and everyone) is in order; “I go around to everyone individually and ask them if there is anything they want to tell me, check all the prep and make sure each individual is prepared for what is about to happen.” Chef-patron of DW Eleven-13, Marthinus Ferreira, is also meticulous in his preparation: “I have a cup of coffee and personally check each one of the tables as well as the bathrooms,” he says.

Marthinus Ferreira of DW Eleven-13.

Some crack a few jokes…

The Test Kitchen may be a serious restaurant, but chef-patron Luke Dale Roberts maintains that humour has a place in the kitchen; “I’ll either wander around nervously looking at everything or I’ll be cracking a joke,” he says.  Neil Jewell, Head chef at Bread & Wine reveals his comical side by answering our question with “Apart from sacrificing the goat and playing hide the cucumber?”

Some seek inspiration…

Rudi Liebenberg, Executive chef of Planet, takes the time to scribble an inspirational quote on the chalkboard before sipping a homemade energy drink made with mint, lemon, honey and ginger. (Sounds downright delicious to us!) Chef Bertus Basson of Overture likes to catch up on feedback on social media before getting stuck into service.

Chef Rudi and pastry chef Vicky Gurovich of Planet.

Join us for the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards on Sunday 16 November. Tickets are on sale now. See the other nominees here.

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