As we close this year, it seems surreal that our team at Ellerman House has shared very little time in person with any of you and yet in many respects, we have probably shared a similar rollercoaster ride of emotions.
Yes, there’s been sadness, anger, frustration, loss and heartache, but amidst the chaos of 2020 have been profound moments of exhilaration, happiness, generosity, hope and most of all, creativity and ingenuity.
Running a busy hotel leaves one with little time to stop and reflect. It is a way of life my team and I are accustomed to, but COVID-19 changed all of that, as South Africa’s initial lockdown was strict and intense with everyone confined to their residences for the most part.
Our usual complement of on-property staff suddenly shrunk to two during the first few weeks of lockdown. Being forced to slow down and do routine activities such as mowing the expansive lawn and cleaning the pool gave me time to reflect, time to appreciate each staff member’s contribution to the whole and empathise with their daily frustrations and delights and also to know that the ongoing involvement of Ellerman House in the community is vital.
In times of crisis the real heroes always emerge, and I was completely blown away by the support, tenacity and hard work of key personnel at Ellerman House during this year — those who put up their hands and without ever being asked, gave everything of themselves to support others and to ensure that Ellerman House emerges out of this crisis stronger and better than ever before. Even while facing their own tough circumstances, they were determined to create magic and it is thanks to this magnificent team that the following transformative projects happened:
Music for Meals was born from a desperate need for food in the communities around us. Ellerman House has always supported the Click Foundation, which Nicola Harris formed to counter the education crisis in this country by providing numeracy and literacy programmes in underprivileged primary schools. When Click Foundation adapted their model to include food relief, chefs Peter Tempelhoff, Rudy Blaauw and their teams arranged special permits to start preparing meals for needy communities in the then-closed Ellerman House and Fyn Restaurant kitchens.
Each week since March, Ellerman House staff has prepared and delivered food to vulnerable communities in collaboration with Be the Difference Foundation. One of the founders of BTD is Springbok hero Cheslin Kolbe and on the days we give out meals, one can see the influence of the team culture filtering through as CEO Granthem Abrahams gathers us in a circle and stresses that it’s not just about feeding. Every interaction we have with each member of the community is a chance to give hope and lighten their day, which in turn lifts us up and leaves us more energised, enthusiastic and centred.
We realised early on that providing meals was not a short-term project and that the need is and would remain dire. To raise funds, we teamed with Fyn Restaurant to create the Music for Meals Sessions, where top musicians and chefs collaborated on virtual performances and cooking demonstrations hosted by the incredible Dan Nicholl, produced by Stefanus Rabie and broadcast throughout the lockdown.
These sessions inspired us to create a massive virtual concert featuring both South African and US superstars on 30 October. Once again collaboration was key. The musicians who helped with the Johnny Clegg project happily gave of their time and incredible talent. Regular guests and friends Manuel and Jessica Kosar, who often join us for the feeding project, put us in touch with the wonderful team at UCOOK, who became partners in the project. Rain, the company that brought 5G to the continent became our key sponsor. And the best music streaming company in Africa, Militia Broadcast, headed by the phenomenal Eban Olivier created a masterful production. Nicola Harris and The Click Foundation also worked tirelessly with the team at Ellerman House in creating a hugely successful event which raised over R1 million to provide immediate meals to needy communities while assisting with sustainable solutions to the hunger problem. For those of you who missed it, you can still view or donate at www.musicformeals.co.za.
This year also saw a long-held dream finally come to fruition as we released our first wine, The Ellerman 2018, in collaboration with one of South Africa’s best and brightest winemakers, Erika Obermeyer Wines. The wine is a true labour of love by Erika Obermeyer and Manuel Cabello, Ellerman House’s operations manager and former head sommelier. The two spent several years perfecting a wine that speaks so eloquently of the South African terroir. Just released and already awarded 5 stars by the renowned Platter’s Wine Guide for 2021, our red blend is beautiful and elegant, yet utterly approachable, just like Ellerman House itself.
Guests will notice another exciting new creation at the bar and in their rooms now: the limited-edition Ellerman House Botany Bay Gin by Inverroche. Using the rare botanical plants called fynbos, which flourish in Ellerman House’s Botany Bay home, luxury boutique distillery Inverroche has handcrafted for us an iconic gin that speaks of place and celebrates the origins of humanity and our relationship with nature here at the southernmost tip of Africa. It is a fantastically delicious gin, perfect for sundowners on our expansive terraces.
In another first, our longstanding partnership with iconic brand BMW developed into a fascinating and beautiful project and after years in the making, our highly customised BMW 745 Hybrid vehicle was launched on property just weeks ago. Our wonderful guests Leo and Marilyn Oostendorp became the first guests to be transported in this magnificent car.
Designed by BMW Individual in collaboration with one of Ellerman House’s featured South African artists and botanical sculptors, Nic Bladen, this piece of art on wheels is a homage to the unique fynbos of the Cape Floral Kingdom.
Ellerman House has become a place for artists of all genres to find a space for creative thought. One such artist, phenomenal musician Arno Carstens wrote a song about Ellerman House whilst staying here. His Fellow Springbok Nude Girls band member and top producer Theo Crous recorded the song in Arno’s studio and asked some of our staff members to come in and provide backup vocals.
We are humbled by the acts of generosity shown during what has been a difficult time for the entire world: neighbours dropping off groceries and veg for our feeding project; guests donating to Music for Meals or joining us in the townships; guests calling and emailing daily just to see how we are; staff using their immense talents to showcase their true potential; our owners showing their deep kindness and understanding to all staff.
We have witnessed kindness and joy in communities so often perceived as nothing more than zones of crime and aggression, where even the most vulnerable grannies pitch in to help and where we watch kids without shoes and tatty clothes joyfully laughing and teasing one another in the queue for food.
We have seen our musician friends lose their entire source of income, yet still volunteer time after time to perform to raise money for causes close to their hearts.
We are grateful to our travel partners across the world for showing such kindness despite their own tough situations. Hidden Doorways and Imagine PR in the US, Elle Reinink in the UK and Segara Kommunikation and Marketing Collection in Brazil have continued to selflessly promote us. And we give huge thanks to the travel professionals across the world whose own businesses have been under huge strain for your ongoing support and kind messages. We will all be back stronger than ever!
Members of our staff are working harder than ever before, even getting special permission to arrive at work during lockdown to give a hand where they could. I will always be grateful to those staff members who have given 600% of their time and effort and made me so proud to be a member of this caring, fun, magnificent group of human beings.
Hospitality, now more than ever, is about transforming people’s lives, from those within the organisation, to the guests and the surrounding communities and businesses. COVID-19 has merely accelerated the changes, which were already happening in defining what luxury actually is.
With the opening of the international borders last month, South Africa is back in business and as the days become longer, sunnier and more colourful, it’s arguably the best place on the planet to be right now. It is wonderful to see the return of our guests on a daily basis and to feel the energy in the house again.
We wish you all a blessed, wonderful festive season and a brilliant 2021!
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+27 21 430 3200
180 Kloof Road,
Bantry Bay, 8005
Cape Town, South Africa