Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses.

Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated at Summerhill Stud on the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander, South Africa.

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Sunday Times Chef of the Year 2012

Jackie Cameron, Nik Rabinowitz and Samantha Linsell / Drizzle & Dip (p)

Jackie Cameron, Nik Rabinowitz and Samantha Linsell / Drizzle & Dip (p)

Sunday Times Chef of the Year in association with Foodcorp
4 October 2012

Snapped at the Sunday Times Chef of the Year competition; Hartford celebrity chef and competition judge Jackie Cameron, comedian Nik Rabinowitz and food stylist, recipe developer and author, Samantha Linsell.

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Drizzle & Dip


vanilla bean panna cotta

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
(Photo : Hartford House)

"When a chef labels a dish panna cotta... it must be so..."

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

My job morphs into many different forms depending on the day and what is required of me.

A few weeks ago I was invited to help judge the Sunday Times Food Awards 2010, hosted in association with Foodcorp. Our task was to look for the hottest talent in our South African kitchens. Written entries were reviewed and a short-list of six contestants competed at the South African Chef's Association kitchen in Joburg. A first-class experience!

The requirement was that all meals were to express an African feel. A lack of imagination was evident – and we were completely Amarula"ed" out by the end of pre-judging with Amarula Crème Brule, Amarula Parfaits, Amarula Chocolate Mousse and Amarula Crème Anglaise. We were grateful Amurula did not feature as one of the compulsory ingredients in the final cook-off! The contestants were required to make interesting dishes from ingredients such as guavas, rhubarb, white peaches, fennel, strawberries, pigeon, springbok loin and lamb kidneys.

Terminology and an understanding of foodie words excite me so chef/judge table discussions around topical flavours and recipes were stimulating. Call me a purist – and I'll agree! When a chef labels a dish panna cotta it must be so - cooked in the traditional way in accordance to its name or custom. Panna cotta is the Italian word for boiled cream hence the method should reflect this.

A satisfactory sign for the competitors must have been witnessing the amount of food we judges ate over the two-day period. It was enlightening being in close proximity to the competitors and judging the unusual combinations they created in the tight conditions. Their standard of work was highly impressive. Entrants in all the categories (Sunday Times Chef of the Year, Sunday Times Young Chef of the Year, Sunday Times School Challenge and a new category: Sunday Times Stalwart of the Kitchen) had worked extremely hard to get to the final and each was as nervous and enthusiastic as the other. As a mark of respect I took my role as a judge very seriously. Their's was not an easy task and I take my hat (apron!) off to them.

I came home motivated to work with the ingredients used in the competition and to create my own methods. I'd like to share the following ideas :

Silky-smooth Amarula crème brule. Refreshing guava sorbet which, when served with a creamy gorgonzola and honey, makes for an interesting cheese course. Quick-and-easy vanilla-bean panna cotta, with "sexy hips" - not toO firm or too soft. A skilfully-textured Frangelico and pecan nut parfait, when served with a simple berry sorbet can be magical. Classical orange and Cointreau Belgium chocolate mousse – a favourite standby.

Straightforward strawberry crème anglaise served with fresh fruit is a perfect summer dessert. Rhubarb and strawberry compote is so versatile and can be served sweet, in a tart, or savoury, with a seared duck breast. Bring on your sweet tooth this month!

Take these recipes and try them.



Hartford House Executive Chef Jackie Cameron / Sally Chance (p)

Hartford House Executive Chef Jackie Cameron / Sally Chance (p)


The Sunday Times, in association with Foodcorp, is looking for South Africa's hottest talent in the kitchen. The partnership is committed to supporting South Africa's chefs and food innovators through the awards.

Now in its fourth year, the competition aims to recognise and reward the country's top chefs - and it offers the largest prize money in South African chef competition history.

There are four categories in the competition - Sunday Times Chef of the Year, Sunday Times Young Chef of the Year, Sunday Times Chef School Challenge and a new category, Sunday Times Stalwart of the Kitchen. In each category, entrants are required to submit a menu using uniquely South African ingredients from a predefined list.

Hartford House's own award-winning chef Jackie Cameron is one of the judges for the competition and was interviewed recently by Hilary Biller. Following is an extract from the article published in yesterday's Sunday Times :


Q : You are listed by SA Tourism as one of South Africa's young and upcoming chefs to watch. How does this make you feel?

A : Recognition always inspires me to continue re-inventing myself. It also increases the pressure of not wanting to disappoint the many people who have and are working with me.

Q : Has it been difficult being a woman in a male-dominated arena?

A : Definitely not. This has in a way pushed me to prove my worth. My parents, especially my father, brought us girls up knowing that anything is possible and that we have to work just as hard as any man if we want to get anywhere in life. Hard work and determination are the keys. But, at the same time, we girls should never lose our femininity.

Q : Hartford House, where you are executive chef, is known as one of South Africa's gourmet destinations. What gives the hotel the edge?

A : It's the only one in the world situated on a world-class stud farm.

Q : You are heading off to dine at El Bulli restaurant in Spain. Is chef/owner Ferran Adrià one of your food heroes?

A : Of course Adrià is one of my food heroes. Who would not be inspired by his creativity and absolute devotion to the cooking industry? I heard the other day that 90% of anything new in the world that a chef claims he or she created was inspired by something that has already been done.

Q : The emphasis today is on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. List three of your favourite suppliers.

A : I love keeping it local : Swissland Cheese for their goat milk cheese, La Petite France for their superb camembert and Wayfarer Trout for their fresh trout.

Q : What are three things every cook should know?

A : When in doubt, strain.

A : Any ingredients that grow under the ground, such as potatoes, must be cooked in cold water to start and anything above the ground, such as cauliflower, must be cooked in boiling water.

A : Always cook with the best quality ingredients you can afford. Never compromise on quality.

Q : If your kitchen was on fire, what would you grab?

A : The hand-written recipe books I have had in my kitchen, at Hartford House, for nearly eight years now. Each page tells a new story with all the different writing styles. Nearly every person who has been through the kitchen has written something in these books.

Q : Like all famous chefs, you must break down occasionally. What is your favourite takeout?

A : Mine is Chinese food, but I realised recently, after a trip to Shanghai, that the Chinese flavours I enjoy so much in South Africa are not necessarily the flavours one finds in China. I love "South African Chinese food", such as sweet-and-sour pork with noodles and fried rice.

Q : What dish have you failed to make successfully?

A : Putu pap. I never seem to make it as well as the ladies in the kitchen.

Q : What dish has your name all over it?

A : Our soups at Hartford represent my main basic principle about food - to always keep things simple and always highlight the main ingredient. Never over-complicate and confuse flavours.

Q : As a judge in the Sunday Times Food Awards, what advice would you offer prospective entrants?

A : Cook what you know and cook it well.

Q : What is the value of entering chef competitions?

A : It is a brilliant way to showcase a chef's talents and allows one the opportunity to grow and develop.