The historic Homestead on Constantia Main Road, Wynberg is home to Food Fanatics, one of Cape Town’s long-running catering companies. Established in 1998, Food Fanatics has earned a reputation for its can-do attitude, enthusiasm and five-star cuisine backed by extensive experience.
The Homestead itself is a heritage protected building constructed in the late Georgian style that dates from the 1820s. A study of its past has revealed a link between its earliest use, as a farm produce supplier to the garrison at Wynberg, and Food Fanatics, which took ownership of the property in early 2016.
The area where it is located has a long history. Amongst others, the Duke of Wellington is believed to have spent time here during his visit in 1796/7 while a junior army officer en route to India. At the time of the Homestead’s construction, Wynberg was the preferred place of retirement, convalescence and holiday for British garrisons and civil servants returning from tours of duty in India.
Today, the Homestead is the only building to have retained its original character from that era. Where there has been remodelling over the years, the owners have set about renovating much of the stately thatched building to its former glory.
It’s gardens that once supplied the garrison now too live again to supply produce for many of Cape Town’s prominent festive occasions.
The management team comprises:
Founder and owner Elaine Rousseau
An experienced restaurateur and caterer, Elaine was born and raised in Malmesbury. She was educated at La Rochelle Girls High in Paarl and later graduated with a degree in political science from the University of Stellenbosch.
Nonetheless, she became increasingly drawn to hospitality. “My fondest memories of food are of home, where every Sunday was a special gathering of friends and family, with lots of great cooking,” she says. She was also moved by the late Maureen Brink of the Swartland and Blaauwberg Hotels. “Her passion and love for food and people was very inspiring.”
Elaine entered the industry and ran the Cape’s famous wine house, Paddagang in Tulbagh. Her next step was her own restaurant and she opened Fiddlewoods in Observatory. “It had a great community feeling and vibe,” she says.
When she’d run her course with the business, she spent a year travelling and returned to continue the next exciting part of her food journey. Food Fanatics was born.
Today, she remains an avid collector of great food memories. “Our family lunches during the festive season always involved the planning of the menu, styling, table setting, wine courses and a guest list. Then, there were the travels that included my first steak a poivre in Paris; street food in Thailand; Vietnamese Beef Pho in Hanoi; the Sydney fish market and fresh simple crab curry; the amazing beef of an Argentinian BBQ; and, the best tortellini and broth at a restaurant called Diana in Bologna, Italy. My 40th birthday party was a feast; there was a long table in chocolate-and-burgundy satin and tall candelabras, dressed for a banquet. To start, there were oysters with apple jelly, tempura prawns, then amuse-bouche of seared tuna, Norwegian salmon starter, mains – whole roast rhubarb duck, crispy loin of pork, crushed potatoes, homemade hot choc pudding, and mature brie and dessert wine – the function started at 8pm and finally ended at 4am!”
Head chef Elrika Kruger
Elrika hails from Pretoria and spent her youth in the Northern Cape town of Upington. After school, she completed a law degree and practised law for more than ten years before following her love of food and hospitality. Her interest was sparked in her earliest days, when she cooked, cleaned and rang the cash register with her grandmother and mother at the family restaurant, ‘Bekkie se Kombuis’.
“Both my grandmothers were excellent bakers and were famous for their ‘koffiekoekies’, Hertzoggies, “mosbeskuit” and of course, freshly baked bread. It was fascinating to watch them produce these amazing treats, perfectly, week after week, from a yeast starter kept in a Consol jar that travelled everywhere they went,” says Elrika.
She switched career to hospitality and graduated top of her class with a diploma from the SA Chefs Academy under the mentor-ship of renowned chefs’ - Garth Stroebel and Paul Hartmann.
She worked at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town and ran her own little coffee shop in Kalk Bay before joining Food Fanatics in 2011.
She describes her style as having emerged from her upbringing. “I strive for unpretentious perfection. No project is ever too big or too small; no challenge or new ingredient, too scary,” she says. “I believe honesty is always the best policy; do your best; and if you don’t succeed or are not completely happy with a result, then try again.”
Cooking is the best part of her job at Food Fanatics, but she loves managing, planning menus and taking a project to a successful conclusion. “What you put in is what you get out, especially when it comes to food” says Elrika. “With food there is only one way, the right way. If you take shortcuts, they’ll always reveal themselves in a dish.
“As a chef, I believe it’s important to keep learning; to treat ingredients with the respect; taste as you go; and be proud of what you and your team achieve. That’s the route to success.”