Dulini Cheffing with Executive Head Chef Lamek Mnisi
Elegant safari camps beg for elegant safari meals and, at the three sumptuous, uniquely decorated ultra-luxury Dulini lodges, in the western sector of the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, gourmet food is an important part of the day’s events.
Executive head chef Lamek Mnisi, who has been at the Dulini helm for the past two years, divides his time to expertly oversee the gastronomic dishes that are freshly prepared three-times a day for the guests at Dulini Leadwood, Dulini River and Dulini Moya lodges.
Curious to know more about the man behind the wonderful dishes that were prepared for me while on a recent visit to Dulini, I decided to ask Lamek about his two great passions: culinary art and the bush.
LM: I was born in Hluvukani, a small village close to the Kruger National Park, and raised by my strong, independent single mother. After passing my matric, I started work as a gardener, but soon advanced to the position of field tracker in the Kruger Park. During that time, I learnt that Singita ran a community enrichment program called “the Singita School of Cooking”. This appealed enormously and, after training for two years and gaining immeasurable experience from several great chefs at Singita, I passed my national qualification. I continued to hone my culinary skills and personal style across the country, from the Madikwe Reserve to Cape Town. These all provided the invaluable mould for the career I enjoy today.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef in the bush?
The bush is simply the most inspirational place; it is grounding and humbling. Since not everything is as easily accessible as in the city, you really need to draw from the environment, mentors, and peers to create magic.
Can you tell me a little about the produce you use and what kind of dishes are you most inspired to create and do you have a specific kitchen influence to follow?
All our ingredients are locally produced and sourced, supporting and empowering a great many families in the communities. I find a great deal of inspiration in Asian flavours, follow all the great chefs, and enjoy fusing these with the traditional African cuisine. Dulini grants me complete creative culinary freedom; my personal goal is only to satisfy every individual guest.
As custodians of this beautiful place we strive to ensure to waste as little as possible; all left over food is taken to a community farm to create compost and fertilizer for the vegetables they farm, and in turn produce and supply to us.
Have you ever had any encounters with wild animals on the job?
During my first week at Dulini River Lodge, I went out to pick some fresh herbs from our planter boxes and found myself eye to eye with a leopard that was staring straight at me! It was a phenomenal welcome to the bush.
The bush breakfast and dinner in the riverbed was a real surprise for me. How much preparation goes into these bush events?
The bush events require a lot of preparation and work, but not just from my kitchen. It is truly a collaborative effort with many hands at work behind the scenes from the entire Dulini team. We need to ensure the chosen site in the bush is perfect and safe, and that we have all the necessary equipment, crockery, cutlery, crockery, lamps and other necessary items on site to ascertain the smooth operation of it all. If it looks effortless, we are doing our job right.
Many thanks, Lamek.
Sundried Tomato Dip
200g sundried tomatoes
100ml sunflower oil
30g basil leaves
30g fresh parsley
30g fresh dill
100g grated mozzarella
100g almond flakes
Sundried Tomato Dip
Mix everything together in a blender to a consistency of individual preference. I recommend a chunkier consistency, over smooth.