Werner Venter is the brain behind FORAGER. – a pop-up restaurant concept that aims to take their diners on a carefully curated culinary adventure as it moves through different venues. Guest writer Dominique Vieira spoke to Werner to find out more.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Werner…
I’m a Pretoria-based landscape architect, designer, entrepreneur and pop-up restaurateur. Having graduated from the University of Pretoria in 2008 with a degree in Landscape Architecture, in September 2013 a friend and I started Capital Urban Market, a food and design market in Pretoria (currently at Menlyn Maine every first Sunday of the month). Then, in June 2014, I started FORAGER…
So what is FORAGER. all about?
The concept of FORAGER. is to educate diners about food, flavours, and tastes. We use locally-sourced seasonal produce (soon out of our urban vegetable garden) to create a unique dining experience where diners engage with their food, harvest and add ingredients and ultimately become more aware of what they are eating. As the Founder & Eating Designer, my main focus is on eating design and shaping the social dining experience.
The concept of FORAGER. is to educate the diners about food, flavours, and tastes.
Where did the idea come from?
Chefs like Jamie Oliver had a huge impact on me when I was younger and influenced the way that I use and see food. FORAGER. brings together my love for food, design and landscape architecture. I’ve had a dream of owning a restaurant for years and by starting a pop-up restaurant has given me the opportunity to do just that.
FORAGER. brings together my love for food, design and landscape architecture.
How does this dining concept play into current trends?
Pop-up restaurants are a big trend at the moment because they are providing diners with something different to a normal restaurant menu and allowing them to be more experimental with food and flavours. A major trend and focus this year is on vegetables and herbs and we are seeing them on plates in restaurants everywhere. Herbs are the miniature heroes of gastronomy, full of flavour and used as garnish or in salads. This ties in wonderfully with our focus on locally-sourced seasonal produce and ingredients.
FORAGE: a wide search over an area in order to obtain something, especially food or provisions.
CULTIVARS: a race or variety of a plant that has been created or selected intentionally and maintained through cultivation.
DEGUSTATION: a culinary term meaning a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods and focusing on the gustatory system, the senses, high culinary art and good company. It can also involve sampling small portions of all of a chef’s signature dishes in one sitting.
What can DECO readers expect from a FORAGER. experience?
After welcome drinks and canapés, the experience start with a 5 course degustation menu – the focus is on vegetables and herbs but it is definitely not vegetarian. A major effort is also made to forage the freshest and highest quality seasonal ingredients and produce from local farms and suppliers. The Guest Chef and I also work closely with the wine farms to pair the most interesting and best cultivars from some of South Africa’s best wine farms with each dish.
A major effort is also made to forage the freshest and highest quality seasonal ingredients and produce from local farms and suppliers.
Where in the country is FORAGER. travelling to?
FORAGER’s first few pop-ups were in Pretoria at the Black Bamboo Restaurant and Ginger and Fig (with Seline van der Wat as guest chef) and Prue Leith Chef’s Academy in Centurion and in Bramley, Johannesburg at Unit8 with Prep’ed by Sasha‘s Sasha Sonnenberg as guest chef. For the moment FORAGER. is only popping up in Gauteng but we will hopefully have one in Cape Town in the near future.
What makes FORAGER. special – what do you love most about the concept?
FORAGER. is a social dining experience and is definitely not your normal sit down restaurant. Diners engage with their food, harvest and add ingredients and become far more aware of what they are eating.
How can DECO readers get involved?
Information for the next FORAGER. pop-up restaurant experience will be available soon in our e-newsletter (subscribe through our Facebook page) and on our social media channels closer to the event. For bookings you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the FORAGER. story at forager.flavors.me
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Dominique Vieira is a self-proclaimed health-food nut, bookworm and ‘words girl’. She is a lover of beautiful things, real human connections, and of course, delicious food. When she isn’t living the café life, working on her healthy-food and lifestyle blog or doing yoga, you’ll probably catch her trying to figure out a way to text her dogs back home in Joburg. Follow Dom’s adventures on Instagram at @domandrea.