Serial expat and traveler Chan

Serial expat and traveler Chantel Dartnell named South African Chef of the Year — again

Chantel Dartnall – renowned not only in South Africa but in culinary circles around the world for her innovative and meticulous approach to modern fine dining – was once again named Eat Out Chef of the Year at the annual Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards.

Serial expat and traveler Chan

Dartnall is currently in residence at Mosaic, which has been named Restaurant of the Year at the Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) Rosetta Awards. It also won the Best Elegant Dining Award.

Dartnall first won the prestigious Chef of the Year award in 2009. The Eat Out Awards, which celebrate the best of the South African restaurant industry, also placed Mosaic in the Top five best eating establishments in the country.

After graduating, renowned UK chef Nico Ladenis offered Dartnall the position of commis chef in the kitchen of his restaurant, Chez Nico at 90 Park Lane, in London. It was a big break: At that time Nico was one of only two British chefs in possession of three Michelin stars. She also worked with Michael Caines of Gidleigh Park in Devon while chefs such as Ladenis, Alain Ducasse and Marco Pierre White set the standards by which Dartnall measured herself on her return to South Africa. She regularly travels the world to keep up with trends and ensure that Mosaic continues to compete with the best dining establishments around the globe.

Says a clearly delighted Dartnall:

“Both times I received the Chef of the Year award were truly unexpected. There was absolutely nothing different about the feeling of pure adrenaline and excitement at hearing my name announced. In 2009 I was still the new kid on the block and Mosaic had only been open for three years. Five years later and I believe that both Mosaic and I are better known and established. I feel I am now a little more deserving of the title than I was in 2009.

“We are also humbled and delighted to have been honoured by our peers at the annual Rasa Awards.”

Chantel Dartnall chef of the yearTrained at the Prue Leith Culinary Academy, Dartnall has gained a huge wealth of knowledge from her extensive annual travels to some of the world’s finest restaurants. This year she visited Portugal, Madeira, Spain and France.

Dartnall explains:

“As a chef it is important for me to know what is happening in my industry across the globe and I enjoy meeting other chefs, sometimes working with them, and experiencing their creativity. It inspires me to work harder at what I do to ensure that our quality at Mosaic is parallel to what you would encounter in the best restaurants in the world.”

She will be off to Italy in January as part of her prize as the 2014 Eat Out S. Pellegrino Chef of the Year. Dartnall will be participating in the Chef’s Cup SüdTirol in Alta Badia, an annual event which brings together 70 renowned chefs from around the globe.

But despite her extensive travels, Dartnall also takes inspiration from Mosaic’s gorgeous setting in the lush Francolin Conservancy in the Crocodile River Valley.

Dartnall and her team have built longstanding relationships with local farmers and suppliers in the area and also grow some of their own produce. Mosaic has always been a supporter of sustainable food practices.

Dartnall is known for producing nuanced, nature-inspired food to rival the best of French fine dining. She believes it is vital to serve visually appealing dishes that tell a story and start stimulating the diners’ senses from the moment the food arrives at the table. She produces dishes that are extraordinarily elegant while, at the same time, bursting with flavour.

Flavour pairings are original, unusual and carefully engineered: think rainbow trout served with lime, vanilla and chervil. Sauces are perfectly executed: from classic bisque to a rich jus, all perfectly seasoned and textured. A West Coast lobster dish with citrus beurre blanc and morels, for instance, features a rich sauce that is delicately flavoured to permeate and complement the lobster – an “absolute knockout”, according to Eat Out judge Andy Fenner.

“There’s amazing attention to detail, radical technique on display and surely some of the most beautiful plating in South Africa,” said Fenner.

Concludes Eat Out judge Kate Wilson:

“It seems unlikely that such a remote, over-the-top restaurant would be serving technically precise, delicious French food – yet that is exactly what Chantel Dartnall is doing. She is cooking exactly the kind of food she wants to, relaying her culinary stories on the plate with skill and restraint in a totally unrestrained setting.”