To describe my friendship with Dave would be ‘odd’ at the best of times. He’s my best friend but we’re both at the opposite ends of profession, personality, and temperament. The first day we met I confused him with a Bergie sitting on the steps of my former agency. Unkempt would be polite a word to describe my first impression of him but he was dating one of my favourite people at the time so I remained schtum and went with the flow.
Time passed. An incident at Mercury Lounge that we never speak of (it involved way too much tequila, loud rock music and drunk dancing in full abandon). Sushi at that place in Wembley Square. I mean I knew he was a cook or chef or something by profession … but it didn’t mean much to me. Give me R10 and I’ll give you 100 foodies/cooks. Cape Town is filled with foodies/cooks. And hipsters. And Creatives. And tourists. However, it was my first time to #SecretEats where he was the featured chef for the evening and he imagined and cooked course after course of the most amazing, innovative food that I have had since moving to Cape Town.
And I guess that is what #SecretDinners and later [spacie] came to represent to me: discovering innovation, creativity and uncovering the unexpected. So, when Dave was in town a few weeks back our diaries collided with an invitation to attend the same event at the newly launched UPSTAIRS on Bree Street by Gregory Zeleny, the genius behind both break-out concepts on the South Africa culinary/eventing space scene. So, I was very keen to see the inaugural concept that would launch UPSTAIRS to what has become a cynical and jaded audience spoilt for choice in this Mother City of ours.
And there it was: ROOTS – a first ever multi-sensory exhibition by the iconic Caro de Waal honouring ROOTS in all their forms, both literal and ancestral. “I started by looking simply at edible roots in all their forms. I found that there are hundreds of different kinds of roots – firstly you have true roots which are things like beetroot and carrot, then tubular roots – the humble potato, bulbs which are things like leeks and fennel and then the amazing rhizomes which are the ginger, wasabi and turmeric type of root. So many colourful, diverse and interesting varieties. Just like us. Humans were first ‘born’ in Africa and from this, so many wonderfully contrasting and colourful variations formed over millions of years and travelled and settled in all the corners.” Caro explained at the beginning of the evening to the chic and knowledgeable hand-picked group.
Caro has worked with 9 outstanding creatives (most notably Hein van Tonder who photographs what I consider #FoodPorn for Taste Magazine) to curate a first of its kind, cross-disciplinary exhibition. She looked to various mediums to represent the simple but powerful subject of ROOTS in the form of installation, edible, drinkable, photography, words, illustration, sound, iPhonography and film. We were fortunate to enjoy the food and cocktail pairing (Marcelle’s ‘Wormwood’ cocktail using Absinthe as the base spirit was pure genius) and though Dave and I never stayed long it was an experience that has resonated with my current thinking of repurposing and relooking how we use more natural substrates in more commercial ways.
For those not in the know, UPSTAIRS by [spasie], an immaculate new conceptual exhibition space in the heart of Bree Street and the second space from the [spasie] team, is an interactive art gallery and premium cocktail lounge dedicated to pushing past the conventional through the use of mixed medium art. During the day, UPSTAIRS plays host as an art gallery, filling its white walls with creative, colourful and collaborative artwork from young and established artists. In the evenings, UPSTAIRS will open its doors as a premium bar and cocktail lounge, dedicated to the magic and craftsmanship of bespoke cocktails handcrafted by skilled artists.