Food for Thought at Convivium 2018

On Sunday, 4th February, Convivium, the most collaborative food event of the year, took place once more in the Swartland. This year’s event saw the country’s best chefs and producers from all corners of the food industry band together to produce an all-round inspiring and delicious day. Convivium 2018 took on a slightly different format this year, one that featured chefs and talks stationed all across Adi Badenhorst’s wine farm, which took the event to an entirely new level.
Convivium, thought up by local food heroes Andy Fenner and Wesley Randles, was based on a simple concept of unifying the culinary industry in the hopes of bettering it overall. And this was a big reason for the change in format. In previous years, the focus of the day was a leisurely lunch, put together by the chefs, winemakers and producers. This year chefs and producers were partnered up and given their own stations to cook. Guests were then split up into groups and walked from station to station, interacting with the chefs about their dish.
In addition to local heavy hitters like Luke Dale-Roberts, Ivor Jones, Jess Shepherd, Giles Edwards and PJ Vadas, London-based Neil Rankin made an appearance, too. His attendance at the event was significant, as he’s well-respected in the British food scene for his dedication to ethically-sourced ingredients and knowledge, and he gave Convivium international credibility and exposed it to a much wider audience.
The day can, with difficulty, be summed up in one word – inspiring. Watching so many facets of the food industry team together was touching, and naturally everything cooked was delicious. From Vergelen’s Mike Cooke’s many textures of carrot – composed of sweet, salty, savoury flavours, crunch and tenderness– to The Table’s Jess Shepherd and Chef’s Warehouse’ Ivor Jones’ impala and sorrel ssam, the food was extraordinary. And was only eclipsed by the heartwarming bond between all of these people in the industry. For added brain food, there were also short talks from experts in various fields. There were foraging fundis Justin Williams, Chris Erasmus and Peter Lebese, as well as a refreshing take on wine from David Cope.
The thing that makes Convivium truly special is that, at its core, it’s a charity event. Nearly all of the ingredients were sponsored or donated – most notably, all of the veggies, fruit and herbs from Boschendal, as well as bottled water, from Mountain Falls. All proceeds go towards improving the restaurant industry as a whole. Convivium looks to get more young chefs inspired to cook the best food using the best ingredients while trying to encourage consumers to question (and care about) where their food comes from. Provenance, locality and sustainability are some of the most important terms in food at the moment. And for good reason, and this is what Convivium is trying to put literal meaning behind.

With Convivium growing in popularity every year, the hope is that more guests will start to buy into what the overall ethos is – food is about more than just what’s on your plate. It’s about the meat, and every single component of the dish, as well the person who cooked it and the person who farmed, butchered or sourced it.
There’s no doubt Convivium 2018 has set a new benchmark for itself, and can, genuinely only get better from here. Which, when you consider the positive impact that will have on industry, is a truly exciting thought. Fenner, Randles and Hannerie Visser’s Studio H, along with every chef, winemaker, forager, mixologist, farmer and producer can be exceptionally proud of what they did out there in the Swartland. It’s an exciting time for food in South Africa, and we are incredibly lucky to have such forward-thinking people propelling it to the best it can be.

Photography: Xander Venturas.

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