When world-famous chef Elena Arzak visits South African forager Kobus van der Merwe

While award-winning chef Elena Arzak was in SA to present at the Design Indaba Conference, she visited the Paternoster-based forager chef Kobus van de Merwe.

At his restaurant Oep ve Koep on South Africa’s West coast, Kobus van der Merwe serves indigenous seafood and shellfish (including limpets and rock lobster), succulents, herbs, wild berries and seaweeds – the ingredients used by early human hunters, foragers and herders. He’s also been experimenting with making his own wild herb-infused vermouth.

Sitting at his table is Elena Arzak, one of the most influential chefs in the world. In 2012, she won the Veuve Clicquot award for World’s Best Female Chef, largely due to the fact that she creates new and inspiring dishes for her San Sebastian restaurant in a laboratory rather than a kitchen. While she was in South Africa, the world-renowned Chef Arzak wanted to get a real sense of the local flavours and local culinary innovations.

“Until you come here, you wont understand – we want to try as many items as possible, because it gives us ideas,” says Arzak.

Van der Merwe took Arzak and her sous chef Igor Zalakain scavenging along the beach and then treated them to a foraged feast.

“We are in heaven,” said Arzak. “The food is incredible, it is for us a discovery to be here.”