How restaurants adapted fine-dining food for home

the year we went back to basics
At the beginning of lockdown, our social media feeds were filled with reproductions of golden-brown amagwinya, sourdough loaves and banana bread. It was all about nostalgia as we had to replace real-life lunch dates with virtual experiences. But very few people could replicate the intricate flavours dished up at fine-dining restaurants around the country.

But if we couldn’t get to them, could they come to us? And could we get the same experience? What about the sonic seasoning (music and sound to make food taste better) of communal feasting?

A report on the future of food, shared with Times Live by Studio H, forecast that there would be a wealth of design innovation because of lockdown restrictions as takeaway boxes became the new restaurant tables. “The use of sound and ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) will further help to amplify taste sensations and recreate the experience of eating out at home,” it stated. 

And so chefs quickly rose to the challenge. 

Fine-dining at home

Chef-patron Kobus van der Merwe of Wolfgat in Paternoster, whose four-course interactive hamper for two consisted of a cardboard box, hand painted the inside of the lid with the view you would see when you sat at the actual restaurant. Instructions to help you assemble the dishes in your kitchen and a playlist were all delivered to accompany your meal preparation. 


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Jason Kosmas of Pot Luck Club in Cape Town found that their restaurant’s menu was already very adaptable as a takeaway model because of the style of cuisine that they offer. He says: “We took our classic dishes and reworked them to be able to put them into takeaway containers.”

They did a couple of trial runs to see how the delivery of those would work. There are certain things that just don’t travel well in a box. For example, he says “certain items that were fried would go soggy, certain sauces just didn’t travel”, and they learned how to adapt the menu for delivery. The braised cuts of meat worked well because “they retain heat, the cooking temperature isn’t something that you have to worry about too much, and we brought in a couple of cuts that were a little bit more cost-effective”.  

They also had to research which containers would work best in terms of holding temperatures. Jason says: “We wanted to serve ice cream, because it’s always something that’s delicious and people love an ice cream. So we didn’t want to scrap that idea.” In the end, they got a lot of great feedback from people about their sweet endings and the pivot has served them well. “I think partly because we were very early in the game of doing it as a high-end restaurant. I mean, we literally opened within a week of level four being announced,” he says.


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Chef Marthinus Ferreira, the owner of DW Eleven 13 in Johannesburg, adapted their fine-dining menu for home by creating more family-style meals to share, brunch for two on the weekend and weekly lunch specials such as burgers and subs. 

You could even get a bespoke dinner experience for up to eight guests in the comfort of your home, prepared by Marthinus himself.

He adds that even before lockdown they had been trying many different ideas to keep people coming back. It’s important now more than ever before. He says: “Guests are a lot more precise or demanding of what they want to eat. They want value but they also want great tasting food.” So the fun part for him has been experimenting with new ideas and not worrying about being too “fine dining” but rather focusing on making food that also supports local suppliers and seasonal ingredients.

Steenberg’s executive chef, Kerry Kilpin, also kept their offering as varied as possible by recording online cookalongs and creating Steenberg @ Home. With a combination of Cape Town’s Bistro 1682- and Tryn-style dishes that you could “heat, plate and serve”, ingredients for a “semi-prepared dinner”, deli items, curated boxes and a three-course moveable feast for two, she says: “Careful consideration was taken of the fact that these items needed to travel well and reheat well.” They adapted recipes to provide the same result as you would get in a restaurant cooked to order as you would get when heating at home without the effort.

For more adventurous cooks, Kerry says she thought YouTube videos would be “a fun and interactive way to bring a bit of the chef into your home and share a few tips and secrets”.


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Peter Tempelhoff, founder and managing director of FYN Restaurant, says one of the first things they had to do was “set up the website to allow for more efficient website ordering”. Once the shop was launched, they received many requests for other items, so they introduced a retail arm of the restaurant. “In order to keep our staff employed, we decided to use them to deliver the food, as opposed to using the usual delivery companies,” he explains. They then marketed through their database and used indicators from their social media platforms and guest feedback to guide their decisions on shop and menu items to include.  



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And to offer guests an experience they would get in the restaurant, they designed dishes that would travel well (delicate ingredients like lettuce leaves were tossed from recipes), look good when opened, taste just as good as they looked, and allow the guest to assemble the meal with minimal effort. They put a lot of effort into printed instructions that had to be clear and well thought out.

Jason reminds us of the resilience of South Africans and how many restaurants have become accustomed to rolling with the punches. “The thing with South Africa is that we constantly get challenged with regards to how we operate our restaurants,” he says. Like being hit with daily load shedding. “It was fun to adapt the menu, and the team took it on really well.”

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