Exquisite Fine Dining and the Company of Friends

Exquisite haute cuisine, the company of friends, and a wondrous autumn day in the lowveld are only some of the ingredients for great times. Add a stunning setting and the special experience of a Chaîne de Rôtisseurs lunch, and you have the making of a precious memory. Gerthinus, known to his friends as GT, Lundie, owner and executive chef of the Orange in Nelspruit presented a delectable menu, starting with four tasty canapés unobtrusively served on the deck at the pool.

Guests and members of the Lowveld Baillage of the Chaîne de Rôtisseurs introduced their taste buds to the day's culinary delights with servings of caviar mousse with lemon scented asparagus tips, honey glazed pork belly with plum veloute, Asian duck and lentil parcels and deboned oxtail and wild mushroom ballontine.

After the ice-breaker, the professional and amateur gastronomes took pleasure in the truffled vischyssoise, tempura oyster and parmesan palmier with a 2007 L'Ormarins Sauvignon Blanc served at the elegantly set table. This was followed with mouth-watering lobster ravioli, vanilla nage served with beetroot salmon gravadlax with its own roe, Saldanha mussels with Thai essence and the 2007 L'Omarins chardonnay. The lamb tasting plate comprising slow braised lamb shank, choux farci, a spring roll of kidney and porcini and truffled pomme puree and Bordelaise sauce rounded off with a glass of 2005 L'Omarins Optima, testified to GT's forte of combining a classical background with an innovative approach to food.

He creates fresh and modern ideas by "working with the French classics and inspired by restaurant goers and food loving friends." Most of the foodies agreed that the 2006 Pierre Jourdaan Rattafia was a good match for the sweet treat of Gateaux Opera, petit lemon tart, brandy truffle and crème brule ice-cream before cheese and petit fours were served in the Orange wine cellar.

After GT completed a BA degree at the Rand Afrikaans University in pursuit of a higher degree in law, he gave in to his true passion - food. He started his career as chef at Rivonia's popular Browns Restaurant. "Here I had three years of valuable experience both in the kitchen and in the running of a restaurant," he says.

GT combined his love for the lowveld and intention to expand his culinary experience in a country setting by moving to White River where he worked at Jatinga Lodge. A few years later, he was offered the opportunity to work at Singita, a luxurious private game lodge in Mpumalanga's lowveld. "As a member of Relais & Chateaux and the winner of the Conde Nast and Harper's Best Business Hotel in Africa and the Middle East two years in a row, this lodge demanded excellent quality and innovation from its chefs."

It was at Singita where GT met his wife to be, Lizelle. With her background as Singita general manager and consequent experience gained at the Pepper Bark Lodge, Lizelle has brought her hospitality industry background to great advantage at the Orange restaurant. Before settling in the lowveld, GT sharpened his skills overseas. He and Lizelle spent two years exploring the culinary routes of London and Scotland. During his time abroad, GT worked under Michelin-star chefs at Glanapp Castle and the Relais & Chateaux Amberley Castle.

On their return to South Africa, GT was appointed head chef at Roots restaurant at the Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg. The restaurant's innovative menu was recently judged by the Tourism Grading Council as one of only two five star restaurants in Gauteng and rated one of the top ten restaurants in the country. In November 2007, GT realised a long-held dream when he and Lizelle opened the Orange restaurant, adjacent to the Francolin guest house on a koppie overlooking the city of Nelspruit. "A chef is only as good as his brigade," says GT, who takes pride in his staff and their achievements.

Sous chef, Patrick Moirwagale, has been nominated as one of three chefs to compete for the lowveld representative spot in a nationwide competition. Cecilia Mnisi and Stephelina Letswele complete the chef corps at the restaurant. Apart from the à la carte menu, GT and his team also offer a 'menu combined', comprising six dishes at a set price. He adds, "We change our menu four times a year," coinciding with the seasons.

GT is a member of the Chef's Association of South Africa and the Chaîne de Rôtisseurs, an international association "devoted to choice dining and the camaraderie of the table. The Chaîne promotes the art of fine cuisine amongst both professional and amateur gastronomes and supports the development of young culinary professionals."

Professional membership of the Chaîne is by invitation. GT and Lizelle blossom in the Lowveld, appreciating the luxuries of less traffic and more time compared to Gauteng. They have a one-year-old daughter, Leyla, who will become a sister in June.

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