If you’re drawn to the beautiful and delicious things in life, you’ll know that walking into a fable-ish, curated reality has the potential to blow your mind. Recently we had the absolute pleasure of finding ourselves in the midst of what can only be described a living poem, at the hands of the enigmatic team of Jackie Burger and Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen at a Salon 58 gathering.
We’ll confess, the legendary Jackie is our not-so-secret style crush – what a dame. It’s like Coco Chanel and Marlene Dietrich somehow managed to have a love child and then dropped it into the South African milieu so it could learn about grit and verve and how to conjure mesmerising moments out of the fabric of everyday moments. Sorry, we’re fan girls and we’re not ashamed to admit it. The former editor of ELLE South Africa now stands at the helm of Salon 58, a concept that she calls a ‘live magazine’, which brings together art, fashion, food, and is somewhere in between a concept store and an art gallery.
Jan Hendrik, of course, is everyone’s favourite international success story – the farm boy who picked a Michelin star after feeding the famously fussy French bobotie and peppermint crisp tart and having them line up for more. The best bit is that this talented chef, photographer and author didn’t disappear into the gentrified fabric of international cuisine – he remains stoically South African and returns to our shores as often as he can. This sets him apart from the Charlizes and Trevors who often lose their innate RSA-ness when they hit the big time. It also helps that the man is utterly gorgeous, mind-bendingly creative and doesn’t have a pretentious bone in his body. Oh, and he has his own show on VIA TV now! You can also catch it on Showmax if you prefer to binge-watch your favourite foodie programmes.
Jan Hendrik and Jackie’s paths crossed when he worked as intern for ELLE South Africa. She was instrumental in his move to the test kitchens at the HQ of ELLE International in Paris, which would eventually pave the way to Restaurant JAN in Nice. As such, a collaboration of the kind we enjoyed on the banks of the Kromrivier at the Old Tannery outside of Wellington was only a matter of time.
We don’t mean to gush, but we’re gonna. It was a freaking fairy tale. These kids know how to collaborate. Jackie and Jan Hendrik drew from their vast pool of super talented friends and created a living art work with the help of, among others, Blomboy, Kraak Events, Baie Goeters and Slippery Spoon Kitchen. Think of it as the Springbok team of creative execution (circa World Cup 1995, pre-Steinhoff debacle). And boy, did they deliver.
The Old Tannery outside of Wellington provided the perfect backdrop to a visual feast that treaded that fine line between spellbindingly sumptuous and effortlessly sparse – like an elegant royal dressed for the races in pure white linen in the style of the star-crossed-yet-stunning Daisy from the Great Gatsby. The event used the notion of gathering and heritage as a springboard for new creation and did so in inimitable style. Entitled Trace, it was a magical day of food, fashion and finery as everyone dressed according to the theme: ‘bringing the bow tie back’.
The highlight of the soirée was definitely the breath-taking long table, Jackie’s expertly curated fashion show and JAN’s showstopper of a dessert – a tempting confection of sago, vanilla ice cream and berry coulis in a delicate shell of meringue, surrounded by a little lake of vanilla-infused cream. It can only be described as mesmerising (unless you count unintelligible sound words like ‘hmmm-ermagherd-yummmm’).
Johnny Hamman, Marius Uys and the rest of the Slippery Spoon gang created an array of rather exquisite appetisers based on ingredients Jan Hendrik grew up with on his parents’ farm. Think mieliepap panna cotta with biltong and cheese, and mampoer with watermelon, black salt and capers. This was dished up at food stations amidst a French-inspired pop-up market where guests could shop a variety of artisanal goods and objects from local makers.
Then came Jackie’s fashion show. Featuring looks and garments by Stefania Morland, Trenery, Witchery, Country Road, H&M and more, it was all about trans-generational classics. “Sustainable style and authenticity go hand in hand as we seek to take the best from the past and reinvent it for today. Therefore, I chose classic items with dramatic updates and new-millennium cachet,” explained Jackie.
Throw in a sensory installation by the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography, a Graham Beck MCC bar, followed by Moët, cheese, mosbolletjies and honeycomb under the stars, and you’ll understand why we’re still a little less than impressed with real life at the moment. Events like these are like fancy punctuation marks in the prose of everyday life – it reminds you to take a breath, to exclaim with joy and to make room for magic.
Psst: Keep an eye on Eatsplorer Magazine in coming weeks and months as we share more cool stuff about talented people doing cool and tasty things in South Africa. PS. The whispers in the Cape Town foodie hallways suggests that Jan Hendrik may be opening a little something-something in South Africa soon, and that it won’t be in the Mother City (or will it?). Watch this space – we’ll let you know the second we find out what’s cooking!
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