The South African restaurant industry is saddened by the news that the iconic and award-winning establishment, The Test Kitchen, will be closing its doors on 30 September 2021. In a media statement on Thursday, Chef proprietor, Luke Dale Roberts said that the current global uncertainty around COVID has become difficult to sustain a restaurant of its kind and maintain everything that he believes in.
Heralded as a founding pillar of the vibrant South African fine dining landscape, The Test Kitchen has operated for eleven years, having won numerous local and international awards in that time, including ‘Eat Out Restaurant of The Year’ more than three times.
In an interview with Eat Out, Dale Roberts provided insight into what prompted the decision to close The Test Kitchen: “There are mixed emotions, of course. I am sad in a way, but at the same time, I feel like it’s the right time to do it. It was obviously a very tough 18-months and I feel happy that we have managed to see everyone through those 18-months but in order to sustain the running of the restaurant, we need to be pretty full for lunch and dinner and with the number of people that we have running the show, I am concerned that it is not the case and it puts a lot of pressure on us.”
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Not only has the restaurant produced impeccable dishes with stellar service to match, but it has also moulded the careers of many talented chefs as they underwent mentorship from Dale Roberts. This leaves a legacy as the restaurant was home to inspiration, creativity, and culinary exploration.
True to his nature of excellence, Dale Roberts explains that the decision to close is also based on offering a premier experience for guests: “It is serendipitous that there are some people that are moving on that are very close and dear to me and I feel like if I were to run a full lunch and dinner operation I would be compromising what we are doing. I am happy for them and I fully back it. A few years ago we decided to close for lunches and limit the cupboard and turn it into a whole experience, and I made this decision based on delivering quality and experience. In order for us to remain open, we would need to fill it up for lunch and dinner and it would feel like we are going backwards again. I would rather quit while I am super proud of what we are doing.”
Although the news is sad as the industry feels the loss of a landmark culinary experience, it’s not all doom and gloom as Dale Roberts explains that there are new and exciting projects on the horizon.
“Jason Kosmas, the chef at The Pot Luck Club and I are looking at a collab dinner or a series of dinners in October or November and I am going to shift a lot of my creative attention into ‘Fledgelings’ and assist them, and spend time mentoring the students. I am also looking at a few projects in Johannesburg”
The Test Kitchen has left an incredible legacy and while it will be serving its last meal on the 30th of September, the experiences it has offered both guests and those who have worked there will last a lifetime.
“It’s been the most rewarding journey. The Test Kitchen afforded me the opportunity to redefine what I was doing with food, it has been the most wonderful experience being able to have free reign to create with flavours as I wish for these eleven years and I have enjoyed every minute of it,” concludes Dale Roberts.
Watch the message that he shared on social media.
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Have you eaten at The Test Kitchen? Share your memories with us in the comments section!