With years of experience, training and long, long hours behind them, chefs are finding new and interesting ways to apply their considerable skills and cook up a storm for their guests. Here are some of the innovative companies where chefs are thinking out the box and moving away from the traditional.

Reverie Social Table

Just as the name says, Reverie Social Table in Observatory, Cape Town focuses on social dining. It offers an informal, warm-and-welcoming space where guests are encouraged to put away their phone and chat to the people around them. Guests book and pay for their five-course set menu online, then gather together around Chef Patron Julia Hattingh’s 18-seater communal table. Food-wise, Julia’s style is contemporary and influenced by both local flavours and her global travels. The menu is kept a surprise until the night, although obviously dietary requirements are taken into consideration. Each dish is perfectly paired with a wine from a carefully selected wine estate or wine region, which will be featured for a few weeks.  Local art is also displayed on the walls and available for purchase. During the day, Reverie is open for lunch with a small selection of more casual dishes on offer.

UCook

Innovative home-delivery service UCook hit South Africa with a bang two years ago, starting off in Cape Town and recently expanding their services to Johannesburg. It’s a relatively simple concept: clients select three meals a week from three different menus (Rustic, Low Carb and Vegetarian) and the portioned ingredients and recipes are delivered on the Monday. “UCook aims to make cooking nutritional meals accessible, easy and stress free. We eliminate the need for extensive grocery shopping and instead deliver the exact ingredients you’ll need for whipping up what’s on our recipe cards to your door. Through doing so, we enable you to create three mouth-watering meals each week,” says UCook Co-Founder David Torr.

“We like to plan our recipes around seasonality and local produce,” says UCook’s Katie Barry. “Once we have found out what is available, our glorious food team creates simple yet interesting dishes combining a variety of different cuisines, which are then shot and tested before they eventually appear on the website. The logistics side of it is a little less glamourous. We order in all the produce (I never knew what 110kg of butternut looked like until recently!) and it is checked for quality, weighed and portioned if necessary, packaged and put into individual meal bags. The bags are packaged into boxes and then delivered.”

“The reception has been great, which is really wonderful,” says Katie. “We have just hit 500 customers a week, spread across Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and KwaZulu-Natal. It’s crazy to think that this time a year ago we were delivering about 5 boxes a week.”

Foodwelove

FOODwelove aims to bring a lunch revolution to Cape Town businesses, with affordable meals delivered straight to the desk. Ranging in price from R45 to R69, the Woodstock-based deli FOODwelove has created a range of meals that are not only delicious but also balanced, healthy and free from preservatives, artificial additives and refined sugar. All meals are produced fresh daily and use only high quality, locally sourced ingredients on their weekly-changing menus. Menus also cater for all dietary types.

The company, owned by Christina Thomas and Stephanie Schwatlo, is appealing to contemporary Cape Town-based businesses, encouraging them to sign up to the office lunch delivery service. Companies can either pay for the lunches in full, subsidise the meals or simply promote the service to their employees. FOODwelove believes that it’s in a business’ interest to help boost productivity through encouraging their staff to eat a balanced, healthy and deliciously nutritious meal in the middle of the day. Meals are delivered daily to offices before 12h30PM and all orders need to be placed by 11.30am on the Friday before.

Come wine with us

Come Wine with Us is a wine and food loving community that is informal, fun and unpretentious. Each event brings together wine estates, restaurants and patrons, with a shared passion for good food and wine. The company was founded in 2012 by Sybil Doms, who studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts and also has experience in the wine and media industry. At the time, Sybil’s aunt asked for her advice. She sent Sybil six bottles of wine and asked for her ideas on what canapés she could serve with the wines. Sybil worked out the menu, invited some food-loving friends around, they loved it… and Come Wine With Us was born. Each event takes place in a beautiful location and features a wine estate, with selected wines paired to the meal.

The success of the business is that it’s a great networking opportunity, with all guests sharing the same passion. “Many people religiously come to our events and today, the business is snowballing; people feel proud to associate with our brand, but mostly love to feel part of this passionate foodie community,” she says. Given the success – including a partnership with Zomato this year − Sybil has big plans for the company. “In the future, I would like to align with other alcohol brands such as whiskey, vodka and brandy”.

Going forward, Sybil’s aim is to make CWWU a ‘Proudly South African community’ – and take it overseas. “South African wines definitely don’t have enough exposure overseas; our local wines are fighting for shelf space, as Italian, French and Spanish wines dominate the overseas market. I want to create an emotional experience for overseas wine lovers to fall in love with South African wine and ultimately, to explore the South African wine regions and boost local tourism,” she says.

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