“I haven’t had a good conversation that wasn’t based around food” answers Jackson Boxer when asked on what meal holds his greatest food memory. Those few words sum up my experience at the Spier Secret Festival – a day of food inspiration filled with nonstop eating and exciting conversation. I was constantly reminded of why I love food and cooking, and people that love food and cooking so very much.
The day took place on a sunny Friday morning, where the Spier Secret Festival goers gathered at 9am for registration. We collected our goodie bags and our team badges, which separated us into four different groups. I was in the Worm team while others were Cheese, Bread or Wine team members. With our badges clipped on, we hopped onto the back of Spier’s large farm trucks and were convoyed away to our brunch destination.
After travelling through the beauty that is Spier on a summer day we arrived at our brunch spot, which was conveniently located next to Farmer Angus’ truly free range egg mobiles. While we hopped off of our transport and back onto land, our group was told to pick our own eggs amongst the happy chickens. We approached the rowdy little guys and collected a few eggs while they pecked at our feet – truly free range and happy chickens they unquestionably are.
With the sun beating down on us, we strolled over to the brunch stations and began our first feast of the day. Welcomed with a beautiful meal that was conjured up by one of the festival’s international speakers – Frederik Bille Brahe from Atelier September. We were served a variety of freshly baked Breads and Croissants with cheese and butter, yoghurt and granola with Carrot & Elderflower preserve and a Poached Egg with Asparagus combination that was so, so good. Top it all off with freshly squeezed orange juice and you’ve got a brunch of champions. A highlight of my day and it was only the beginning.
The demolishing of brunch had come to an end and it was time to climb back onto the trucks and travel back to Spier. Once we had arrived, the Worm group was whisked away to our International Speaker session. This is where all the goosebumps, connecting and food inspiration truly began. We sat in an intimate setting, Spier’s Old Wine Cellar, where Jackson Boxer was first to take the stage.
A chef, a restaurateur and a man who has devoted his life to food. I have never witnessed someone speak with such confidence, conviction and really really big words as Jackson. With only a coffee machine, a few mugs, some chairs and tables he opened up his first restaurant Brunswick House at the age of 24 in London. Brunswick House is now famous for serving sustainable, uncomplicated and honest food. Captivated by Jackson’s journey and life in food – I sought out to remember every word he said, yet couldn’t look down to write a single note because I just needed to listen.
Next up was Something & Son. Founded by the seriously creative and hilarious Paul Smyth and Andy Merritt – these two are the guys that everyone wants to be friends with. An incredible combination and shared passion for art has led to thought provoking and meaningful work inspired by food and created for diverse interest groups. If you’re curious (and you should be), check out their Farm: Shop project.
The final speaker out of the morning session was Frederik Bille Brahe of Atelier September in Copenhagen. Frederik’s talk truly resonated with me – well known for generosity, simple food and an Instagram friendly restaurant – I am inspired by his belief of sharing food thoughts and ideas. After working in kitchens where yelling chefs took a toll on his sensitive personality, Frederick stopped cooking at the age of 21 and became a DJ (how cool is this guy?). As time went on, he began to miss the daylight, cooking and “all the beauty that comes with it” Frederik got back into the kitchen and created a space where everything matters. Simple food – with all of its complexities – is a source of great inspiration at Atelier September. “You can cook the same food every day, but creativity comes from love.”
Inspired after being in the presence of such unconventional and lovely speakers, our group moved on to the wonderful Mariana Esterhuizen. We joined in on a talk comprising of home cooked food, growing a seasonal garden and a sentimental childhood memory involving tamatie konfyt. Then, swiftly onto Zayaan Khan’s Insect Café where I ate a nutritious and delicious Mopane worm cracker and considered becoming an insect eater for a short while.
Our group learned the correspondences between sound and flavour with an Oxford PhD student, Janice Wang. Janice had us listen to a variety of music while we sipped on wine and taste tested Sriracha. Each different jingle and noise made for a development of flavours, sensations and things definitely got spicier. The next stop was the Woolworths flavour installations. Think Sriracha ice cream, becoming a super taster (it’s all about that bitter note) and spicy chocolate truffles.
Following up was Luke Williams of Culture Club Cheese and Spier cellar master Frans Smit’s workshops. The Worm team gathered in one of Spier’s smaller cellars and began our cheese tasting. A Bavarian Blue, Gonedsa and Forest Phantom cheese was devoured by moi while Luke Williams demonstrated how to make your very own Camembert at home. A short walk later and we were in the hands of Frans Smit. This wine tasting and pairing allowed me the opportunity to eat even more of the Bavarian Blue but this time, on a braaibroodjie with wine. Winning.
Our day of tasting and reflecting on food had ended with – you’ve guessed it – even more food. Under the blue Stellenbosch sky, the festival goers, organisers, local and international speakers sat down together to indulge in one unprecedented feast of non-stop, delicious food. We demolished a Waste Lunch that was catered by PJ Vadas and his HogHouse team.
To name a few favourite dishes– the Pickled Vegetables, Ox Heart Tartare, Grilled Asparagus with Buffalo Mozzarella, Pickled Beef Tongue with Nasturtium, Bone Marrow and the main man – Roast Pig’s Head with Sweet Potato and Walnuts. Roasted for hours on end, this dish allowed the opportunity for a fellow diner – in our case, Farmer Angus – to pick up the butcher’s knife and hack off crisp portions for the surrounding guests to share.
As we sat down and passed plates of this and that to one another, I had a knowing feeling that yet another beautiful memory and important conversation was underway stemming from a collective and meaningful love for good food.