I want to send my condolences to family and friends of a great South African chef whose big personality will be greatly missed. Bruce Robertson was suddenly diagnosed with Leukemia a few days before he passed away on 3 November.
Bruce was immensely gifted, passionate and determined. After working in some of London’s greatest restaurants, he returned to South Africa to become a leader in developing the Western Cape’s fine dining scene. He was Executive Chef at the Waterfront’s Cape Grace Hotel, before opening the famous The Showroom Restaurant. With its colorful open kitchen, stylish interior and memorable food, The Showroom gained international attention. It helped to really put South Africa on the culinary map. The relaxed Showroom Café followed soon in Cape Town’s city centre. Bruce then focused his attention on hosting gourmet adventure tours throughout Africa.
Recently he opened his home on the Cape’s coast in Scarborough, The Flagship, where he served seafood delicacies to lucky guests at his chef’s table. It is Trip Advisor’s number 1 dining experience in the Cape.
Closer to home, Bruce was one of my personal inspirational people. As a young chef, I won a competition to represent South Africa at the Concours International des Jeunes Commis Rôtisseurs in Frankfurt. As part of my preparation and training for the event, Bruce invited me to experience service at The Showroom, and I stayed at his home in Stellenbosch. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. He took me to some great restaurants in Franschhoek – it was a real eye opener for a boy from Mothotlung. He also introduced me to other leading South African Chefs who have influenced my career, including Peter Goffe Wood, Bertus Basson and Craig McCormack. Without a doubt, the main thing I remember about Bruce was his energy and enthusiasm. He’d be up at 5am, raring to go. That’s the drive one need to succeed in the kitchen.
Later in my career, I trained at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch, where Bruce was a regular visitor, giving talks to students about his real life kitchen experiences, so they were under no illusion about the big highs, hard graft, challenges and camaraderie involved in this crazy career choice. He put aspiring apprentices through their paces in his kitchens, giving them an excellent grounding for the future.
We need more people like him. Goodbye Bruce – you will be missed!