It may seem like strange advice, but next time you’re ordering seafood in Cape Town, make sure it’s Green.
Don’t worry; your fish is sure to be fresh out the sea… Green is simply the colour-code for the most sustainable seafood choice you can make.
That’s according to the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative – ‘SASSI’, as it’s more commonly known – an initiative championed by the World Wildlife Fund to encourage diners to make informed, planet-friendly choices when it comes to seafood.
An awareness of climate impact and sustainability is woven into every aspect of Ellerman House, and “the SASSI system has really become a way of life for us in the kitchen here,” says Head Chef Kieran Whyte. “It’s a wonderful way to remind our guests about the importance of making the right choices when it comes to seafood.”
While Whyte is committed to championing sustainable ocean produce, it’s also useful for Ellerman House guests to understand SASSI’s user-friendly ‘traffic-light’ system when dining out in the city.
‘Green’ choices are the most sustainable, sourced from healthy fish stocks, ‘Orange’ is for a species under threat, and ‘Red’ highlights endangered species or harmful fishing methods. They are to be avoided, always.
Another remarkable initiative travellers may encounter at Cape Town restaurants is Abalobi, a technology-enabled social enterprise offering artisanal fishermen a direct route to market. That means a better income for fishing communities, and fresher fish for chefs and diners.
“Abalobi is just fantastic, and we use them all the time in sourcing fresh fish for Ellerman House,” says Whyte. “It allows us to trace every single fish right back to the fisher who caught it, the boat they used, and where and when it was caught. We love sharing that with our guests, and there’s a real sense of ‘hook-to-table’ traceability. I also love the fact that it all helps to support local fishing communities. It’s about sustainability, over the long term.”
That commitment to making more planet-friendly choices is a thread running through so much of Ellerman House, where a Sustainability Committee meets monthly to plot progress and brainstorm new innovations. In the past, that’s meant sourcing eco-friendly in-room amenities (in fully recyclable packaging) and slashing the use of single-use plastics.
“In the kitchen food miles are also a real focus for us,” says Whyte. “Wherever we can, we look to hyper-local producers and seasonal ingredients, and we’re putting a lot of energy into reusable containers to reduce packaging waste.”
Mindful of the impact agriculture has on the environment, Whyte is also incorporating foraging and wild ingredients into the menu. Ellerman House makes use of a specialist forager to supply the kitchen with everything from wild mushrooms to seasonal herbs, and when his busy schedule allows, chances are you’ll find Whyte wading through the shallows on a wild Atlantic beach, foraging for the Ellerman House kitchens.
For a recent dinner to mark World Oceans Day, Whyte and his brigade returned with edible seaweeds, abundant urchins and wild nori, to whip up a feast celebrating seafood from local shores.
It’s all part of a growing culture of sustainability amongst Cape Town’s leading chefs, who each play a part in ensuring the ongoing conservation of the oceans that surround South Africa’s ‘Fairest Cape’.
Seeking sustainable Seafood? We love what these chefs are doing…
Since opening in 2018, FYN – a fellow member of Relais & Chateaux – has built a loyal following for their innovative kaiseki-style menu fusing South African ingredients with Japanese culinary traditions. Chefs Ashley Moss and Peter Tempelhoff (also the Culinary Director for Ellerman House) bring a razor-sharp focus on sustainability, a dedication rewarded in 2023 with the Flor de Caña Sustainable Restaurant Award at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Judges hailed FYN’s ‘ethical celebration of South African ingredients’.
Opened in mid-2023, Galjoen’s approach to sustainability puts the focus on local shores, with only South African seafood on offer. A multi-course table d’hôte menu is offered for lunch and dinner, with the number and composition of courses changing according to the whims of the weather, and what the boats bring in.
In the village of Paternoster (two hours’ drive, or a 40-minute helicopter flight, from Cape Town) chef-patron Kobus van der Merwe celebrates the wild bounty of the West Coast. His unique take on Strandveld cuisine blends heritage techniques and dishes with hyper-local ingredients, largely foraged from the nearby shoreline and dunes. It’s utterly unique and deeply focused on sustainability with a sense of place. Little wonder Wolfgat was named ‘Restaurant of the Year’ at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards in 2019.
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