Looking Back At The 2018 Johannesburg Appetite Fest
Early Saturday morning on the 18th of August, I made my way to the Times Square Casino and Arena. This venue, which opened just last year, has already become the new home for Miss South Africa 2018 and hosted massive acts such as Live, Bryan Adams, and Anthony Hamilton. I was very curious how the organisers of a food festival would transform the space into a foodie’s paradise. The first ever Appetite fest promised to deliver on a wide range of foodie excitement and entertainment, offering book signings with international and local chefs, food theatres, intimate masterclasses, stalls, tastings, and live music entertainment.
Before the doors even opened, a long queue of people, young and old, were standing in the cold morning air waiting to get inside. Walking amongst the stalls, both in the indoor and outdoor sections, there was a definite buzz in the air. Almost any type of food you could think of was up for sale. Think gin tasting, wine tasting, delis, specialty stores, and almost anything food-themed filled the venue.
Notable Guests And The South African Food Industry
As a huge MasterChef Australia fan, I was incredibly excited to meet the three judges: Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris. Being in the same room as them was slightly surreal. I soon realised they had a well-rounded view of the South African dining culture. Matt Preston explained that, in his experience, the South African food culture has changed beyond recognition.
“If you think back maybe 5 years in Johannesburg, the best restaurant was probably David Higgs, and there were a lot of places that tried to be French with bad ingredients and that awful kinda German, big hat, white top type chef stuff. But now you have really exciting things. The old idea of that French-style stuff … that fine dining kinda stuff … has been replaced by a more relaxed South Africa. Seeing this casualisation of dining is exciting … you want to go out two or three times a week rather than just for anniversaries and birthdays.”
He went on to talk about which restaurants had really made an impact on them over the past few years, and the list included Saint (Sandton), Marble (Rosebank), Farro (Illovo), and, in Pretoria, Fermier and Restaurant Mosaic.
The big names in the South African culinary scene who attended the event included Siba Mtongana, Sarah Graham, Nti, J’ Something, Bertus Basson, Peter Tempelhoff, Chris Papayannes, Eric Bulpitt, Katlego Mlambo, Nathan Jacobs, and Stephanie Ceronio.
The Cookies & Milk MasterClass
The masterclasses gave food lovers an opportunity to have an intimate culinary experience with a variety of local and international chefs. I was lucky enough to nab tickets to the J’Something Masterclass. What an experience! J’Something (Mi Casa front man, My Kitchen Rules South Africa Judge, and Restaurateur) made two new dishes for a group of about 15 people. The dishes will be seen on his restaurant’s spring menu.
Whilst a guitar softly strummed away, he took us through making the dishes ‘Cookies and Milk’ and ‘Perfect Portuguese steak’. Promising that the recipes would be posted soon, everyone sat down for a two-course lunch eating everything he made. The experience of sitting around a table with fellow foodies and talking with the chef about the meal he created was one I will never forget.
The Festival As A Whole
With 5.5k tickets sold for the first day before the doors even opened, logistics would have been a mammoth task. But I felt the organisation of the two-day event ran quite smoothly. Food has become part of our lives so much more over the last few years, whether we attribute it to social media or globalisation. But, as Matt Preston stated:
“If you are between the ages of 22 and 35, you are more likely to go to a food festival than a rock concert.”
Looking Forward To What’s To Come
I loved my time at the Johannesburg Appetite Fest, although felt that I could only experience a small portion of what it had on offer. I wish it had spanned over a longer period of time. But, like the slogan of the fest read, I came hungry and left very happy. I really look forward to seeing how the festival will develop and grow in the years to come and what new flavour-filled experiences it will bring!
Article Date: August 2018
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