From the Zimbabwe Standard
Saturday, 23 July 2011 16:41
by Rosie Mitchell

The Livingstone Room, Victoria Falls Hotel

Around 100 invited restaurateurs, plus representatives from The Standard, The Cheeseman and the new co-sponsors for 2011, gathered at the Stables Winery last Sunday to enjoy some hospitality from The Cheeseman, founder and sponsor of the Zimbabwe on a Plate, Zimbabwe in a Glass, Restaurants of the Year Competition and Awards, since late 2005, and before that, since 2002, in its previous incarnation.
This of course is always a pleasant change for anyone engaged in running a restaurant — an often thankless task that demands gruelling hours and very hard work! With delicious food presented by Lee Vermaark, showing off The Cheeseman’s fare to best advantage, the mellow sounds of the saxophone played by Tony Vas, and a really relaxed, convivial atmosphere, all enjoyed the event, which held a few surprises.

A smaller and more intimate event than those of previous years, attendees thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and basked in the glory of being either a finalist for an award, or a winner. For budgetary reasons, a slightly scaled down affair, this event was the last annual awards ceremony funded and hosted solely by The Cheeseman.

It was accordingly, a very exclusive and lofty group of restaurateurs and service people who were invited along; just, the award winners for 2009 and the finalists for 2010.

The 2011 awards ceremony will be co-hosted and co-funded by The Cheeseman with three other official Zim on a Plate sponsors of this well-established competition, now in its sixth year.

Mahatma Rice and Lake Harvest came aboard as co-sponsors for 2011 in April this year, and Sunday’s event saw the official announcement of their co-sponsorship, as well as the welcome return of a previous co-sponsor — African Distillers. This brings the sponsors to four, spreading the considerable load of funding this high profile, year-round competition.

The event kicked off with the formalities, so that invitees could then relax and enjoy themselves, no longer in suspense!

Rosie Mitchell, the Competition’s Manager on behalf of the Cheeseman, since the competition was first launched, was the event’s Mistress of Ceremonies. She announced all finalists and award winners, and in addition gave a speech about where Zimbabwe on a Plate is today, paying full tribute to the trade for their courage, tenacity and their achievements.

Raphael Khumalo, the CEO of Alpha Media Holdings, also gave a speech, and presented some Awards, as did the Editor of The Standard, Nevanji Madanhire. Jackie Hunter and Gary Davidson of The Cheeseman presented the balance.

There were several surprises in store. While the 2009 winners already knew who they were, for the most part, the exception was the recipient of the last 2009 award announced, and he could not have been more surprised, or delighted!

The Deluxe Restaurant of the Year Award for 2010 went to a brand new winner, in a category dominated throughout the existence of Zim on a Plate by Makuwa-kuwa at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge.

The Livingstone Room at the Victoria Falls Hotel, part of the Meikles Group, pipped this illustrious multi-award winning restaurant which won this award for a fourth consecutive year for 2009, to the post, for 2010. The representatives from the group who were present, from both Vic Falls and Harare, were absolutely thrilled with this surprise win! So, the competition is well and truly on, up in the Victoria Falls!

Makuwa-kuwa and its sister restaurant The Boma still did inordinately well, however. Makuwa-kuwa, as well as collecting their 2009 Deluxe Restaurant of the Year Award, won Most Imaginative Menu for both 2009 and 2010, bringing to five, the consecutive years for which they’ve scooped this prize! The Boma, meantime, won Most Imaginative Dining Experience for both years.

This award, introduced in 2009, goes to the restaurant offering the most exciting, unusual, memorable and imaginative dining experience viewed as a whole package — which in addition is excellently and consistently executed. Previously, The Boma had won The Award of Excellence, three years in a row. The Award of Excellence goes each year to an exceptional restaurant which has consistently excelled itself in every way, delivering a unique, creative and original dining experience to the highest of standards in every aspect.

A couple of particularly hardy Zimbabweans were also amazed to hear their own story of perseverance in adversity, over the past several daunting years, being related by Mitchell — suddenly realising it was themselves being described! Pieter and Elise Oosthuisen of Spring Fever were named the Personalities of the Year for 2010, for their sheer staying power, after losing everything they’d ever worked for in Karoi, moving to the capital and starting from scratch, and after a series of challenges and difficulties, running a 5 Plate rated restaurant in Borrowdale (Mimi’s) very successfully before ultimately, resurrecting their popular Spring Fever restaurant recently, in Milton Park. Their waiter, and before that, farm employee of many, many years, Smart Saluti, was also a proud finalist for the Service Personality of the Year Award 2010.

Almost all finalists and award winners made it to the event, with a few sad exceptions. These included Andrew Sagambe of Victoria 22 and Ephraim Munyengwa of Arnaldo’s in Graniteside, both finalists for Service Personality of The Year 2010, multi -award winning Kusum Low, again Winner of Deluxe Coffee Shop of the Year 2009 with The Roasted Berry (which has since closed), and David Graham of the White Horse Inn in the Bvumba, the new winner of Deluxe Family Restaurant of the Year, for 2010.

Another multi-award winner over several years, Tony Robinson of Tony’s legendary Coffee Shop in the Bvumba, which has now won Coffee Shop of the Year for four consecutive years, was totally stunned to hear the Award of Excellence for 2010 being announced. His Coffee Shop, “has over many years and throughout many challenges, consistently delivered an extraordinary experience to any traveller who goes there to partake of its famous, outstandingly delicious cakes, imaginative teas and coffees, and an all round excellent experience which fully evokes the Wow! Factor”, read the citation. He could clearly hardly believe his ears!

The same award for 2009 went to The Coach House in the Nesbitt Castle, Bulawayo being “found by the judges to have been consistently delivering a memorable and excellent dining experience over many years and to be fully deserving of credit and recognition for so doing.”

Owners of Papa’s Meze and Grill in Newlands, Harare, the Kalamatas family, also had a wonderful surprise. Having rebranded and re-launched their always popular family restaurant (formerly, Mama Mia’s) and entered it in the Speciality Category with its focus on Greek cuisine, in their first year of entry, they scooped the Speciality Restaurant of the Year Award, for 2010!