It’s Monday 10th March 2008 and let’s get cooking


It’s Monday 10th March 2008 and let’s get cooking

Last weekend was our first ever Gourmet Weekend.  The idea (the first seeds sown by Jo and Conor), was brought to reality by Marko, Emily and six lovely ladies from Lusaka. Here are Marko and Emily for a sneak peak behind the scenes …

Gourmet!

Marko: It was somewhat of an inaugural occasion, not only for Robin Pope Safaris and guests, but for all our chefs too. Never before have they prepared such intricately composed, delicately flavoured and artistically presented dishes. So when I was first approached with the idea of conducting such a demanding undertaking, I was slightly apprehensive. My mind drifted back to the grand dining halls of the Ritz and courts of King Louis – ‘Impossible’ I thought. No sooner had I yanked myself out of my reverie than I thought of our very own femme geniale – Emily!

Marko's Vision

Now, Emily springs from French lineage. Style and eye for quality are the very fibre of her existence and if there was anyone who could resurrect my vision of the Ritz, she was the one. With the speed and agility of an Olympic athlete, she launched herself into our project with explosive zeal, which by anyone’s standards would have earned her gold medals. Suppliers were e-mailed, equipment ordered and waiters briefed with military precision. 

The Waiters

Emily: A trip to Lusaka was called for to acquire essential supplies and I hit the shops with a vengeance. Set loose in the capital, I successfully procured 168 glasses (from just one shop), purchased all the delicious French cheeses now available in Zambia and found some other goodies. Somewhat shell shocked, I returned to the airport just a few hours later and had to convince the airline to allow 56 kgs of baggage on to the plane. A big smile, Dave Seaman’s charm, a near-empty plane and we were winners!

Marko: Meanwhile back in the kitchen, I was briefing the chefs about the first event to take place – the braai. Extended discussions about prawns, quails, bream escallops, fillet mignons and their respective marinades ensued.

The Chefs

Emily: Friday afternoon and the gourmet guests had arrived – along with the clouds and a looming threat of rain.  Ignoring the somewhat daunting rumbles of thunder we went ahead with setting up a delicious braai at Nkwali swimming pool. Somehow we snuck in between the rain and had a wonderful evening with the chefs outdoing themselves. This was just the beginning – with Marko at the helm what could possibly go wrong?

Mark at the helm

Marko: Round 2: the big event THE GALA DINNER which, as imagined by all of us, was to be the pinnacle of this momentous occasion.

Emily: Saturday was the day of reckoning with an extravagant brunch being prepared at Robin’s House and prep work being done at Luangwa House for the Gala dinner. Stoves were moving between kitchens and wooden spoons were flying.  Luangwa House was a picture of tranquility with my millions of glasses being polished and the table being set with brand new sparkling white napkins and tablecloths – we were really pulling out the stops.

Marko: Once I was secure in the knowledge that my salmon mousse was happily chilling in the fridge; my fleshy duck breasts were soaking up their juicy marinade, and my lemon tart was just reaching its correct setting temperature, the chefs and I made our way home for a refreshing shower and a bite to eat. ‘I’ve got a wonderful feeling everything’s going my way’ I sang to myself as I drove, merrily down the dirt road which cut through a tall growth of aromatic green grass. Well, the python that decided to cross the road at the exact moment I came around the bend at a leisurely speed, thought otherwise and forced me to veer off and end up in a muddy ditch.

Python

Now, you know how things usually happen in three’s right? Well for me it was the dreadful prospect of rain on such an important evening, the python and then a herd of stubborn elephants that awaited us right in front of the kitchen which the chefs and I desperately needed to get into …

Elephant!

EmilyWe narrowly missed another big rain storm but were held hostage in the car park by a herd of elephants instead. The Luangwa Valley’s version of The Great Escape then began.  No sooner had we reached the safety of the house did I receive a frantic radio call from Marko asking to be saved from the car park, where they were also being held hostage.  In a moment of French emotion I ran from the house, not realising quite how close the elephants actually were and pivoted with the accuracy of a polo pony making a bee line back into the house – to the great hilarity of all onlookers!  The watchman stood their ground and the elephants moved off just before the guests arrived so they had safe passage inside.

Marko: Next, I was invited inside Luangwa House by Emily to give her an honest opinion on her splendidly laid table. And there it was; the moment I first imagined and had been waiting for. Emily had done it for me! She brought to life a small slice of culinary history and gave me a moment á la Ritz.

Luangwa House - a la Ritz

Emily: The champagne started to flow and soon the kitchen was ready to start with their incredible delicacies. The service was anything but boring as we concentrated on carrying the dishes in style and avoiding the lone bull elephant setting up his own private dinning room on the Luangwa House lawn. Four magnificent courses later and a 10 pairs of very tired feet, pinnies were off and the mission was accomplished – or so we thought …

The main course

Marko was leading the first exodus of staff from the House and reversed the vehicle with a vengeance (one can only imagine the call of the pillow was too great). With the cunning of a fox he went straight into some incredibly gooey mud so magnificently that both rear wheels were stuck – oops! Fear not, 10 minutes later we managed to pop the car out like a champagne cork and off they went with no further problems.

Chiseka putting  the final touches to dessert

Sunday was upon us far sooner than any of us had hoped and we were on the go with another extravagant feast.  The chefs waxed this event and soon Marko and I were sitting on the banks of the Luangwa River, gin and tonic in hand with large sleepy grins plastered across our faces.

Marko: I’d like to thank my partner in crime Ems for sharing my enthusiasm and interpreting it exactly based on my vision. A big thank you to my dream team Lameck, Patrick, Chiseka and Collins (our amazing kitchen porter) and Jacob for delegating and organising Luangwa House.

Thanks Marko & Emily – it would seem that there is never a tame moment behind the scenes … (with the exception of sundowners, of course!)

Cheers till next week.

Fiona

Elephant

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