Behind the scenes at Garonga: Meet the Waiters

Meet the waiters at Garonga and hear about how they were ‘Under the Influence’ in the name of good service…

If you have ever had a wonderful meal and ambiance spoiled by an apathetic waiter then you will know what a difference a ‘service with a smile’ really makes to your dining experience. Waiters are a huge asset to any lodge and a vital ingredient in the customer service pie; they serve, they converse and they strike a relationship with the guests. But there is also a distinct difference between genuine or fake service which is easily noticed by diners. Here at Garonga the smile is real. We are very proud that our waiting staff simply seem to ooze courtesy, grace, interest and all round happiness.

The waiting role is varied and includes not only serving meals but also packing and unpacking of cooler boxes for safaris, constant cleaning and checking of items for meals as well as an in-depth knowledge of what is being served, pairing of wines, setting up of tables and stock taking.

Meet our happy chappy team:

Our waiting team on training in Cape Town
Our waiting team on training in Cape Town

Herfric
Herfric has been here since before Garonga opened as he started assisting on the farm once Bernie (owner) purchased the land. He has a heart of gold and will do anything for you. He oversees the department, and is also Head Butler at Little Garonga. When the Manager (Robert) is away on leave then Herfric stands in as Manager.

Aldrin
Aldrin has been at Garonga just over 4 years. He is extremely competent and quietly dedicated to his work. However he also has a comical streak and every now and again will perform a dance for the Guests. Aldrin is in charge of the waiters at the Safari Camp.

Courage
Courage has been at Garonga just over three years. He started at Little Garonga in the security department, then he became a casual waiter at Little Garonga. When an opening became available he was then employed permanently at Safari Camp. Courage is from Zimbabwe, he is very friendly and helpful and very amusing. He won Garonga’s ‘waiter prize’ in 2017 for the ‘most special wines sold’.

Bongani
Bongani has been employed at Garonga for just over two years. He is ‘the mischievous one’. He is extremely good with guests and has that knack of remembering names very easily.

Eric
Eric has been at Garonga for over a year. He started off in the security department at Little Garonga, and then an opening became available and he became a casual waiter at Little Garonga. Due to the occupancy success at Little Garonga, Eric now has a permanent position as a waiter there under Herfric. He has settled in very well and taken on the training extremely fast and competently.

Waiters ‘Under The Influence’
This programme was started in 2017 giving waiters the opportunity to excel in their sales skills. The prize was 5 days training with our main wine supplier in Cape Town called ‘Under the Influence’.

The competition endedon 28th February 2018 (just before our annual three week close down). Courage, as mentioned above, won the competition, however as a surprise Bernie (owner of Garonga) decided to send all of the waiters to do the training course. None of them had ever flown in a plane before, let alone been to the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town.

Garonga Safari Camp Waiting Staff
Our waiting team in Cape Town experiencing wine pairing with their meal

During the course they visited many wine farms, saw the whole process in action, had lectures and lessons, sat down for wine lunches (that was the toughest part of course!) and in the end completed a test which they all passed. They also saw a bit of Cape Town too. Not only was it meant to educate them even further on wines and therefore be able to sell them better on return, but was also meant to be a fun, engaging, motivating and bonding experience.  Big thanks to ‘Under The Influence’ for providing this great week of wine education!

Our team of waiters wait eagerly (with their big genuine grins) to welcome and serve you.

Behind the Scenes at Garonga: Meet the Kitchen Team

Feeding your soul at Garonga Safari Camp is in the artful hands of our passionate and skilful kitchen staff. And they take your tummy’s satisfaction very seriously.

Over the next few months we are going to take you on a journey behind the scenes at Garonga Safari Camp. You will have insight into the love, passion and history behind all aspects of the lodge’s services which, of course, stem from its beautiful people as a foundation.

A focus on Food
Breakfast buffet at Garonga Safari Camp
The Breakfast Buffet

In January we start with a focus on our champion chefs and kitchen staff who not only guarantee that no one ever goes hungry at Garonga but also promise to bust your new year’s diet resolution in a flash. From the droewors (traditional South African dried meat) and spicy corn snacks served on your game drives paired with fabulous wines, to your high tea or potjie (South African stew) night in The Boma, everything is sprinkled with a generous dose of African spirit, energy and a smile. They are even kind enough to share with you their ‘not-so-secret’ recipe for their renowned Amarula Chocolate Cake (see below)…what a lovely bunch they are!

The Team
  • Reineth – Head Chef 

Reineth, (our ever faithful!) started at Garonga when we first opened in 1997. Over the years she has performed magnificently, and quite rightly was given the position of Head Chef 10 years ago. During our Closedown in 2016 for 3 months, she spent 3 weeks in a top hotel in Cape Town learning more tricks of the trade.

  • Venecia – Assistant Head Chef
Venecia at Garonga
Venecia at Garonga

Venecia has been at Garonga a few years now coming across from Makalali. She is a very capable stand-In when Reineth is away and a valuable assistant to her day to day.

  • Sylvia, Caroline and Phumzile – Sous Chefs 
Caroline at Garonga
Caroline at Garonga

Syvlvia and Caroline both previously worked in the scullery and over the years learnt cooking techniques by observing the other Chefs. Both are now very capable Sous Chefs. Phumzile started at Garonga about a year ago as a Breakfast Chef and she has progressed beautifully and is now more than capable of preparing dinners as well.

  • Paulinah – Scullery Manager
Paulinah at Garonga
Paulinah at Garonga

Paulinah (another ever faithful staff member) has been at Garonga almost 20 years and has overseen the scullery ever since she started. She also takes casual staff under her wing when they come in for short periods of time.

  • Lee-Ann – Trainer from the Culinary Guild

Lee-Ann started consulting in 2015. She comes up from Cape Town about 3 times per year for 10 days. She completely overhauled our food style and presentation when we reopened in June 2016 after our 3 months refurbishment. It has made a huge difference and the standard and quality of food and presentation has dramatically improved.

Each evening at Garonga takes on a theme, and we rotate between private and communal dining. We do also cater for all dietary requirements on request. You can see more about our daily offering in our previous blog ‘A Foodie Traveller’s Delight’.

The people behind the food, and of course the food itself, at Garonga is something we are exceptionally proud of. We would like to publicly thank our staff for the commitment and enthusiasm they show to not only delivering top quality food to our guests but also for their motivation to continually learn and develop themselves, meaning Garonga can also only grow bigger and better and, importantly, keep creating more delicious and unique cakes like this one…

Not-So-Secret Chocolate Amarula Cake
Afternoon Tea - Amarula Chocolate Cake Garonga Safari Camp
Afternoon Tea – Amarula Chocolate Cake

Ingredients for the Chocolate Cake:
(Separate mixture into two tins when baking. Use spring form cake tins, they are more user friendly)
120ml good quality cocoa powder
250ml boiling water
6 whole eggs
440ml caster sugar
120ml vegetable oil
500ml cake flour
20ml baking powder
4ml salt

Ingredients for the Amarula Syrup & Topping:
800ml granulated sugar
1000ml water
300 ml Amarula liqueur
4 tins caramel condense milk
800ml fresh cream, whipped to stiff peak for topping
Flake chocolate

Method for the Chocolate Cake:
Preheat the oven to 180 C
Sift the cocoa powder
Pour the boiling water the cocoa, stir to dissolve into the water and leave to cool.
Beat the eggs, caster sugar and oil together until ribbon stage and sugar is dissolved
Add the cooled cocoa mixture to the egg mixture
Sift the rest of the dry ingredients together and fold into cocoa / egg mixture
Divide the mixture into two 22 cm x 30 cm pans and bake for approximately 20 minute or until a skewer comes out clean

Method for the Amarula Syrup
Heat the granulated sugar and water together for about 5 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and the liquid has reduced slightly.
Remove the sugar mixture from the stove and whisk in the Amarula slowly until well combined.
As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, while they are still hot, prick the cake with a skewer (all over – leave the cake in the tin)
Divide the syrup and pour an equal amount over both cakes while hot.
Place the cakes in the fridge to cool completely.

Method for the Topping:
Once cake has cooled completely in the tin, in the fridge, spread caramel on one of the cakes
Remove the other cake out of its tin and place the cake on top the caramel topped cake.
Spread whipped cream on top of the cake in the tin.
Place the cake back in the fridge to set for another 1 hour or until serving. (keep in the tin)
Just before serving sprinkle chocolate shavings on top and serve.