Design HotelsTM will be introducing Gorgeous George, Cape Town’s first cool downtown property, to its group in April. Only a select collection of privately owned and run establishments make the cut, and the exciting addition of Guy Bennett as executive chef of the new restaurant, Gigi Rooftop certainly puts this one on par in the worldwide collection. Bennett has wielded his knives at top restaurants in Cape Town, most recently Grande Provence Heritage Estate and the One & Only, and is looking forward to creating European-style cuisine with some unique flourishes for the Gigi menu.
The man in the chef’s jacket
South African-born Bennett got his first taste of the food markets in Paris on a family trip to Europe at the tender age of 7 – an experience that made a huge impression on the youngster. “The variety of fresh produce and being able to interact with the farmers was eye-opening for me as a child, and it was something we didn’t get to see much of in South Africa,” he says.
He grew up in a family that enjoyed cooking together, and Bennett could often be found in the kitchen with his mother and grandmothers. “My father is Afrikaans, so there was a strong culture of braaiing [barbecuing] in our family, a very South African thing to do on weekends.” This gave the aspiring young chef a unique connection to cooking and further confidence in his kitchen skills.
After a gap year in the United Kingdom working at a café in Surrey, Bennett enrolled for the Paarl (South Africa)-based Hurst Campus Advanced Food and Wine Chefs diploma, which he completed in 2009.
Gaining the culinary edge with top chefs from around the world
Bennett’s first post-diploma job was under the classically trained Edgar Osojnik at Buitenverwachting Wine Estate in the South African winelands, where the young graduate learnt discipline, values and the importance of strong management. “It was a huge honour to work with such a renowned chef and he’s still a mentor whom I hold in high regard,” says Bennett. During his three-year tenure at Buitenverwachting, he worked his way up to demi-chef in the pastry section.
In 2013 Bennett was appointed sous chef at the One & Only Hotel in Cape Town, working with South African celebrity chef Reuben Riffel, a restaurateur known for his television shows and cookbooks. “Riffel is more than a chef, he’s a successful human, and consistently inspired me with his unique and modern take on local heritage food that he made his own,” says Bennett.
Next, Michelin-rated head chef Michael Deg at Delaire Graff Restaurant gave Bennett the dedicated work ethic required to create high-quality food for large numbers at this prestigious establishment. He got to work closely with Deg and legendary pastry chef Andre Steyn, who changed the menu weekly and kept the standard of creativity high. “I got the opportunity to create my own dishes and put my creative skills to the test, and it was gratifying to see my dishes on the menu,” says Bennett.
Bennett is looking forward to introducing some of his new and unique touches to the menu at Gigi Rooftop at Gorgeous George. “Our philosophy at Gorgeous George is ‘come for breakfast, stay all day’, so the menu will have a relaxed feel, using some classic French techniques, while also drawing on all my experiences, which include Asian fusion, South African and modern UK influences,” he says.
Being part of Design HotelsTM, Gigi will stay true to the ideology of innovative design and architecture, with a strong cultural rooting in hospitality. This will be brought out in the menu, which will benefit from cutting-edge cooking techniques, distinctive plating and seasonal locally sourced ingredients.
Gorgeous George will be taking bookings from 18 April 2019.