I called Urs Gamma at Restaurant Gathemann to set up an appointment. Instead I got an invitation to a cooking demonstration over the weekend. “I am cooking green asparagus”, Mr. Gamma told me. Now I like Mr. Gamma. In fact, I like him a whole lot. I like his restaurant. I like his the way he cooks. I like the ingredients he uses, and I like the way he presents his food. But perhaps most of all, I like his passion for food. So, I was quite excited about the invitation, grabbed my camera and my notebook and headed for the venue.
Upon arriving, I bumped into a friend I had not seen in a while. The day just got better. “So, what the event about?” I asked. “Gosh it is some French thing”, she replied. “My French is shitty but …” and she mumbled something that, if in different circumstances, I would have believed to be Polish or even Hungarian. “Oh well, let’s go and see”.
She introduced me to one of the organizers of the event, who wore a medal on a colourful ribbon that would put the city’s mayor to shame. “Come one tell him”, my friend urged her on. Over her shoulder I see cheese. Lots of cheese. And wine. Lots of wine.
“Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs” my host replied. That is who we are. Blimey. That is mouthful. I grabbed a pamphlet. I am not going to remember this. I see more people with colourful ribbons and medals. I smell tradition. French food tradition to be exact.
As it turns out, the Chaîne’s history is traced back to 1248 – I told you I smelled tradition – and the establishment of the guild of Goose Roasters. Back then, King Louis IX tasked Etienne Boileau to organize guilds to develop young apprentices and improve the technical knowledge of guild members.
Over the years since then, the guild’s authority expanded to include the roasting and selling of all meats, poultry and game. For more than five centuries the roasters developed culinary art and standards of professionalism and quality to fit the splendor of the ‘Royal Table’ until the guild system was disbanded in 1793.
It was resurrected in 1950 as the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.
Today, the Chaîne is truly an international organization bringing together more than 25,000 members in over 70 countries to share the values of quality, fine dining, culinary arts and ‘pleasures of the table’. Within the Chaîne, the L’Ordre Mondial des Gourmets Dégustateurs represents those with special knowledge or interest in wine and spirits. And now, the Chaîne has come to Namibia with the support of the Finnish Government.
Time to taste. Cheese. Olives. Wine. Brandy. My Saturday afternoon is heading in the right direction. At the olive table, I paused for some photos. Some petit lady is chomping her way through the bowls of olives the speed of light. “I just love food”, she announced through a mouthful of delicious olives. I am jealous. If only my metabolism allowed for such careless eating. Snap, snap – that is me. Chomp, chomp –that is her. Oh well, life is not fair.
On the demonstrations. Bugger my lethargic metabolism. I am going for Urs Gamma green asparagus. All of it.
Wrapped in a saffron crêpes with cream cheese. With sauce Hollandaise. Chomp. Chomp. On a tartlet with mushrooms. Chomp. Chomp.
I ate my way through Chef Makhosi’s sushi platter, and watched Chef Yannick Schweighardt pan-fry oryx fillet with heaps of butter and thyme -classic French style. Basting the meat with pan jus and butter. Yummmm.
I left before dessert. Had to. Bulging girth.
Back at home, I drank a final toast. To the Chaîne! Love having you guys and gals around.
During a quiet moment I asked Chef Makhosi about his favourite dish. Without a moment’s hesitation he said “pap en vleis”. It is such a common dish in our part of the world, so I thought I’d give it a bit of a lift. Just a few extras to take it to a different level.
First, I make it with oryx, instead of stewed beef. For a sauce, I propose that classic Italian meat sauce the ragù, but instead of ground meat, I have used chicken livers for extra richness. Finished it off with a few button mushrooms. Finally, for the “pap” I use yellow, coarsely ground maize meal, known as polenta. With heaps of Italian sheep’s milk cheese called pecorino and butter.