South African Restaurant Crowned As “Overall Winner” At The World Restaurant Awards

The inaugural World Restaurant Awards took place in Paris’ Palais Brongniart Monday night and the overall winner was none other than South Africa’s own Kobus van der Merwe for his restaurant, Wolfgat in Paternoster.

To his clear astonishment, chef Kobus van der Merwe took home not one but two awards for Wolfgat. He won the prize for “Off-Map Destination” and — far more significantly — the prestigious overall prize: the award for “Restaurant of the Year.”

Screenshot 2019 02 19 at 10.13.36 South African Restaurant Crowned As Overall Winner At The World Restaurant Awards

“It’s an amazing honour, being in a room full of people that I admire. I had so many fan moments since I arrived! We’re a small team, a total of six, we all do everything with no distinctions.”

“There’s no kitchen hierarchy so it’s all about collaboration and learning from one another. I’m incredibly proud of them. They don’t come from any formal food background, so this achievement is all the more amazing.”

kobus van der merwe wolfgat South African Restaurant Crowned As Overall Winner At The World Restaurant Awards

Not bad for a journalist and blogger who only started cooking at the age of 30.

“I went to culinary school straight after school, got the fright of my life and then ran in the opposite direction,” he says.

Wolfgat’s seven-course tasting menu costs diners who make the journey to the restaurant, housed in a historic 130-year-old cottage on the west coast of South Africa, around $60 — barely enough to cover an appetizer in most Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris.

As for the food?

“We serve a small seasonal tasting menu of seven courses, predominantly seafood, then we enhance that with indigenous pickings that we find seasonally around the village like succulents and seaweed,” says the chef.

wolfgat food South African Restaurant Crowned As Overall Winner At The World Restaurant Awards

The award marks a proud moment for South Africa’s culinary scene — with an impact that is set to go beyond borders and maybe around the continent — but part of van der Merwe’s approach is to continue to define his nation’s cuisine.

“South Africa is such a melting pot of cultures, we are such a diverse nation,” he says.”Eleven official languages, so there’s no such thing as South African cooking, very diverse cuisines. But I think it’s finally starting, there’s a lot of momentum coming with people that really appreciate the ingredients we have and showcase them in innovative ways. So we’re all working towards a concept of South African cuisine, trying to establish something that is representative of who we are and where we are.”