As part of Relais & Châteaux, we are celebrating #FoodForChange from 3 – 6 October in partnership with Slow Food International. Food is both cause and victim of climate change, but also a possible solution. One-third of green-house gas emissions come from the food system. By sourcing local, seasonal and ethical ingredients while reducing food waste, we can have a positive impact on the future of our planet. Our food choices can make a difference.

When speaking to Peter Tempelhoff, Ellerman House Culinary Director, on the subject, he says, “Logically, I ask how we can possibly make a difference with so much change needed in the world? But, like most revolutions, change starts with us and will radiate outwards as long as our voices are unified, justified and get amplified. Using ingredients that are beneficial to the environment (or not detrimental), that promote cultural diversity and that have a positive social impact (i.e. create more jobs) will always have a positive effect, especially when a collective gets behind the cause.”

Over 200 chefs around the world will champion a hero ingredient in honour of this initiative and in our case, we chose the ‘Wild Cape Rock Oyster’. To enhance and celebrate the clean, natural flavours of the oyster, Peter and his team decided to serve the oyster, freshly shucked with shallots and Ulva vinegar.

About the ‘Wild Cape Rock Oyster’.

The Cape Rock Oyster (Striostrea margaritacea) is found naturally with a geographic distribution occurring on rocky reefs from Cape Agulhas to Mozambique. It is sold as “wild oysters” in South African restaurants and fish retailers. The Cape Rock oyster is a much slower grower with a heavy shell and is therefore not used for commercial cultivation. These oysters are found in the intertidal zone (the area that is above water at low tide and under water at high tide, in other words, the area between tide marks) and up to about 6m water depths. Scientists exploring a cave in Pinnacle Point, South Africa report evidence of shellfish consumption by humans who lived 164,000 years ago. Anthropologists say the find, together with other evidence found in the cave, could point to one of the earliest examples of “modern behaviour” and this discovery suggests that modern human behaviours began earlier than previously believed. The eating of raw oysters was also considered a delicacy by the Khoi people as many shell middens (giant heaps of shell deposits) dating back more than 2000 years are found along the coastal regions in South Africa. All evidence therefore points to the Cape Rock oyster being a very ancient food. Currently these oysters are harvested by a limited number of licensed collectors but as with any marine life, the Cape Rock oyster is susceptible to pollution and there are a number of areas, in particular around large ports, where the oyster is disappearing altogether.