Wandering Chef: Scott Kendall in South Africa

How the beauty of Cape Town’s wine country, inspired this chef in Napa Valley.

Wandering Chef: Scott Kendall in South Africa

Chef Scott Kendall, who runs Carpe Diem Wine Bar in Napa, California, draws a lot of menu inspiration from his travels. He and his wife and business partner, Stephanie, recently visited one of their favorite cities, Cape Town, South Africa. The couple explored both the city and its surrounding wine country. The trip provided him with fresh ideas for his new project, Second & Brown restaurant, which will open in mid-November. He also came away with a new appreciation for Indian food, wild game, and the beauty of South African wine country. Here, he shares highlights from the trip.

Codfather Seafood & Sushi
“My wife and I took a five-day safari during lion mating season and then checked into our bed and breakfast in Camps Bay, a ten minute stunning shoreline drive from the heart of Cape Town. Our first mission: to find the best seafood restaurant. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy dining on boar, antelope, ostrich, and such while we were landlocked on safari, but we were ready to taste the local seafood. Everyone and anyone we ran into said we had to go to Codfather, and even though the name seemed a little off-putting, we made reservations. The first thing you notice, other then the ocean view, is the gigantic display cases of every type of fish, oyster, clam, calamari, and other seafood you can think of. You get to choose the piece of fish or seafood you want, the sauce you want it cooked in, and how big of a portion you want. How exciting is that! Everything we ordered came with four sauces, including a garlic butter and a spicy African harrissa, which I love to use at Carpe Diem. Huge portions of rice and French fries accompanied both of our selections. Anyone that is in the area has to experience this for themselves. The extensive local wine list and local craft brews only enhance the great flavors the chef uses to accentuate the fresh seafood you choose. You can even buy any of the fresh seafood or sushi to go.” 37 The Drive, Camps Bay Corner, Camps Bay, 27/(0)21-438-0782, codfather.co.za

Buitenverwachting Restaurant
“My wife, who is probably more of a foodie then I am, found Buitenverwachting Restaurant online, and wow does it deserve to be in the top three restaurants in Constantia wine country, which is located just outside of Cape Town. We wound our way in our little rental car through the countryside, passing small farms that sit in the shadows of the massive mountains that surround Cape Town. The first thing we noticed when we arrived at the restaurant was the stunning bougainvilleas and the horses grazing in the pastures. Then we kept looking and saw the vineyards in full bloom and majestic mountains filling out the background. It looked like paradise, but we had no idea what we were in for when we entered the restaurant and were escorted to a beautiful courtyard setting where our superb server showed us the menu of the day handwritten on a vintage wooden framed chalkboard. Our amuse bouche started with a carefully cut eggshell filled with caviar and créme fraîche. I hadn’t seen anything like this outside of the French Laundry in Napa. The saltiness of the dish was paired perfectly with their local winery’s bubbles. I then went on to select the beetroot tart that came out with a local goat cheese—one of the best I’ve ever tried. We then ordered the prawn salad that was served with none other than perfectly prepared sweetbreads with spring corn to brighten up the savoriness of the sweetbreads. We also couldn’t pass up the springbok, a local delicacy, which was presented with a beautiful lobe of foie gras. The chef here pulled out all the stops to deliver everything we could have hoped for and more. Make sure to check out their novel of a wine list. We could have spent an afternoon reading through those pages!” Klein Constantia Rd., Constantia, 27(0)21-794-3522, buitenverwachting.com

Bukhara Stellenbosch
“One might be surprised to know that Cape Town offers some fantastic Indian cuisine. One of the main reasons my wife and I decided to return to Cape Town was that a great customer-turned-friend had invited us out to experience “his” Cape Town. Born and raised right outside of Camps Bay, Bertus Van Zyle, then famed winemaker at Glen Carlou Winery in Stellenbosch, is now in Napa making wine at Regusci and James Cole wineries. He actually got engaged to our manager at Carpe Diem. Bertus always raved about the Indian food in Cape Town, and continually said Napa had nothing on what his hometown had to offer. While we were visiting he made a huge point to take us to what he considered the best spots for Indian food. After a long, strenuous day of tasting at some incredible wineries, we arrived at Bukhara absolutely famished. We ordered a meal suited for a king: perfectly cooked garlic naan, butter chicken that melted in my mouth, kingklip curry accented with mustard and fenugreek seeds. We of course had to order the house specialty lamb madras curry, which had the perfect amount of heat and paired perfectly with the cucumber raita and a beautiful local pinot noir. We couldn’t resist finishing every last bite of food and after that three-hour meal my wife and I conceded that South Africa’s Indian food does surpass what Napa has to offer.” Corner of Bird and Dorp Streets, Stellenbosch, 27/(0)21-424-0000, bukhara.com

Restaurant at Glen Carlou Winery
“We finally made it to our friend Bertus’s winery. Bertus had always talked so much about Glen Carlou. Heck, we even poured their Chardonnay by the glass at Carpe Diem. It’s a great paring with my seared diver scallops served over fried green tomatoes, with housemade pork belly. There are a few great restaurants located in the wineries in Napa. Étoile, located in Domaine Chandon, is a Michelin-rated favorite. But there are not many that match the creativity we experienced at Glen Carlou. Huge wooden beams line the ceiling in this masterpiece of a tasting room/restaurant. You can belly up to the gorgeous bar and taste through their highly-rated wines, or enjoy lunch inside or on the patio with views of the vineyards surrounded by the famous mountain range of South Africa’s Paarl Valley. The food here was farm-to-table with innovative African ingredients and a slightly French classic undertone. We started with the springbok carpaccio and moved onto a prawn salad that was accompanied by strawberries, roasted potatoes, and a balsamic glaze. My wife enjoyed the quail and I ordered a beautifully presented line-caught local fish that was finished with a saffron butter sauce. Since our friend worked there we got to experience a barrel-tasting tour, and the chef took us on a walk through their extensive gardens. It was truly an unforgettable afternoon filled with great food, wine, and friends. Make sure not to miss the Gen Carlou Gravel Quarry Chardonnay—it was a perfect complement to our meal!”
Simondium Rd., Klapmuts, Paarl, 27/(0)21-875-5528, glencarlou.co.za

>> Next: AFAR Travel Guide to Cape Town

Jen grew up in Pt. Pleasant, NJ (yes, the Shore), escaped to school in Boston, and fell in love with travel when she went abroad to study in Australia. After nearly ten years of eating and drinking herself silly in NYC, she finally reached the west coast. Things that makes her happy: the ocean, books, mountains, bikes, friends, good beer, ice cream, unplanned adventures, football, live music.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR