December 15, 2019
The most innovative cooking in Africa
South Africa is a rainbow nation when it comes to cooking, drawing on the cultures of its colonial past and using ingredients that are inextricably linked to the land itself. Luke Dale Roberts – based in Cape Town – is a name synonymous with the finest, most creative and innovative food in Africa. Born in the UK, Luke has travelled the world; he trained in Switzerland and England before going to Asia to work for five years at various successful restaurants in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and the Philippines. ‘My time in Europe taught me how to cook, while my time in Asia broadened my horizons,’ says Luke.
At his restaurant The Test Kitchen – which seated just 16 people when it opened and now seats 50 – he and his team ‘explore food and flavours to the max’ and he now devotes ever more time to food’s creative side. His culinary creations also embrace the exuberant flavours of Africa. Luke Dale Roberts’s dishes can be described as cutting-edge with hints of Asia, and their presentation is like that of an artist. In fact, some of his desserts are made using a mould based on watercolours of trees, flowers and seeds he commissioned a painter to do for him.
Since arriving in Cape Town in 2006, Luke has received a non-stop stream of recognition. In 2018, The Test Kitchen won the Best Restaurant in Africa award. His concept is a successful formula that consists of two spaces: Light Room and Dark Room. 40 lucky guests embark on a culinary journey via 21 dishes. The experience begins in the Dark Room, where diners share a shadowy and intimate space whose aim is for them to focus on finger food from around the world. The adventure continues in the more causal Light Room, where the gastronomic journey ends.
Recognition from diners and international food critics alike has led him to become a successful entrepreneur: he opened The Pot Luck Club in 2012; Shortmarket Club, in 2016; and Salsify at The Roundhouse, in 2018.
But not every project in Luke Dale Roberts’s life is geared towards business. He teaches lifelong skills to students at the Siviwe School of Skills situated in Gugulethu, near Cape Town, a special needs public school. Here, students overcome learning barriers and are ensured an inclusive education via gastronomy.
This year, Dale Roberts has heeded the international call to ‘protect the planet and its people’ by joining forces with Chefs for Change, an initiative set up by the 50 Best Restaurants in the World to support the upliftment of farmers, suppliers and traders involved in Kenya’s Farm Africa project that focuses on sustainable farming approaches to protect Lake Victoria’s strained resources.