Chantel Dartnell Named World’s Best Chef
It’s official, the best female chef in the world is South African. As announced in Warsaw last month, Chantel Dartnell the owner and head-chef of Gauteng-based Restaurant Mosaic took the coveted title after being selected by 300 voters, comprising an international panel of chefs, food writers, and culinary experts, as well as 1.5 million voters on the competition’s digital platform. Moreover, she was one of three women to make it into the Top 50 and the only South African chef in the Top 100. High praise indeed although Chantel is no stranger to local acclaim, having twice won SA’s Chef of The Year award.
Citing the father of botanical cooking Frenchman Michel Bras as her inspiration, Chantel serves up botanical cuisine (la cuisine du terroir) at Restaurant Mosaic. Here food is light and simple using edible plants and flowers in its construction. ‘I have a feminine style of cooking, and so I make a point of studying the historical and botanical origins of ingredients when planning our menus,’ explains Chantel. As such everything on the plate is inspired by the restaurant’s location in a spectacular 280ha of the Francolin Conservancy Area, in the Crocodile River Valley, an hour outside Johannesburg.
Restaurant Mosaic is part of the offering of the Orient Private Hotel, a property that was once her uncle’s home but that has now been extensively renovated and styled into ‘a Moorish-style castle’ with exotically themed suites, opulent furnishings, and Art Deco furniture. For those who stay the night – and many do – facilities include a shaded Palm Court and a private Alhambra Theatre. And while Restaurant Mosaic is not a strictly pop-in kind of place, there is a helipad to accommodate the restaurant’s ever-frequent out-of-town guests.
The restaurant and hotel are also very much a family affair with Chantel’s mother, Mari running the restaurant while her stepfather Cobus is behind the scenes and credited with conceiving the hotel concept. The restaurant boasts one of the most comprehensive wine cellars in Africa with an estimated 75 000 bottles of wine comprising some 5 500 different labels. This year the restaurant’s sommelier, Moses Magwaza – who started his working life as a gardener – walked away with the 2017 Wine Services Award at the South African Eat Out Mercedes Benz Restaurant Awards.
Whatever your gastronomic predilection, there are many reasons why a visit here comes highly recommended. Not least the bread selection, with a spread of gluten- and lactose-free bread that comes with an assortment of flavored butter (from plain salted to butternut and calendula). Or the not one but two amuse bouche that are served, along with palate cleansers between courses that defy description. Then there are the cleverly named main dishes such as Song of the Sea (salmon, kombucha and yuzu) to Where the River Meets the Sea (a tilapia and halibut duo) and Birds Don’t Fly (ostrich, beetroot, and plum), all giving an indication of the levels of passion, detail, and attention that goes into the food at Restaurant Mosaic.
Plans are afoot to build a museum on the estate that will showcase the family’s private collection of South African old masters that include works by Alexander Rose-Innes, Gregoire Boonzaier and many more.
All of which conspires to make Restaurant Mosaic an exciting new destination. If you would like us to include a visit here as part of your luxury African safari itinerary, call us on + 1 855 666 7627 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org