For the third year running, three forces have come together to transform what would be a life-changing simple safari to South Africa into an engine room allowing access to world-class digital education, conservation, lessons and emotional literacy. The Londolozi family is so proud to be the founding patron of the Good Work Foundation, whose impact in the world continues to escalate. More than anything though we are so deeply grateful to our wonderful guests, now considered family, who take the spirit of Londolozi and the GWF back to Sarasota, Florida and every second year, run the amazing Safari Sarasota event. Inspired by a little girl and implemented by the incredible team at Michael’s on East, this special group of guests have shown that you can experience a magical holiday in South Africa whilst doing so much more. It’s a true expression of the famous quote by Margaret Mead, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Michael and Terri Klauber, Beth and Steve Knopik as well as Tom and Sherri Koski are the special group I refer to and through them, together with the Good Work Foundation, I have been able to do the two of my most-loved things in life – cook and travel!

Steve Knopik and Beth Knopik (Leanna’s parents and the founders of the All Heart Fund), Michael and Terri Klauber (also founders of the All Heart Fund and Gulf Coast Connoisseur Club and owners of Michael’s on East) with Tom and Sherry Koski (board members of the All Heart Fund) have a bit of fun during our first fundraising event.

Safari Sarasota 2017 started on Tuesday 31st October when myself, Nick Kleer & Paris Moeng arrived in Sarasota to meet up with my dear friend Kate Groch and her daughter, Maya.

Paris, Kate, Maya, Anna and Nick (far right) photographed with Terri and Michael Klauber on arrival in sunny Sarasota, Florida.

Safari Sarasota is an event held every second year where people from across the US (and beyond) make the pilgrimage to the Michael’s on East, the AAA four-diamond award restaurant on the south-western coast of Florida for a Londolozi-inspired interactive cooking event and auction that blows the roof off ordinary fundraisers. The funds raised are then used by the Good Work Foundation to provide world class digital education in Africa.

It was wonderful to be back in the Michael’s on East kitchen working together with Chef Jamil and his team, creating the Londolozi Featured Menu. The buzz and the excitement that you find in this Floridian restaurant is something that is just so incredibly exciting. The chefs hail from many different countries including places like Mexico, Argentina and America, with every one of them being passionate about their jobs. The environment is incredibly inspiring.

Londolozi Kingclip served with caper, lemon and fennel hollandaise. Here Anna shares the recipe secrets with Michael Klauber, Chef Jamil and Kyle, a Michael’s on East chef.

Thursday 2nd November was our first event and together with 190 guests in their favourite safari-themed outfits and Safari Sarasota aprons, cooked up a storm! We started off with Seared Scallops accompanied by a Rocket & Grapefruit Salad, followed by the Londolozi signature Gorgonzola Gnocchi.

Safari Sarasota. Pink for the All heart Fund, leopards for Londolozi and proteas and South African wines for a truly South African twist.

Anna demonstrates how to make the beef fillet with green peppercorn sauce.

Micahel’s on East Chef, Nicholas shows Chef Anna just how quickly you can make gnocchi. 1000 pieces of gnocchi made in twenty minutes. The man is an expert.

Londolozi’s signature gorgonzola gnocchi with deep fried basil and tomato concasse.

Before cooking up the next two courses, we had the privilege and honour of listening to Paris Moeng, the first student to receive the Leanna Knopik All Heart Fund Cup. It was an absolute honour to have travelled by his side for as he said, “the very first time, in a very big aeroplane, across a very big ocean to a very big Atlanta airport”. But after his very first Starbucks, he was good to go! He made a fantastic speech and received a standing ovation from the entire room that we are sure he will never forget! His talk’s theme of “courage” touched everyone and inspired all of us. Following that, Beth shared a beautiful letter of gratitude from Leanna, the guest of honor! There was not a dry eye in the room.

Beth and Steve Knopik photographed with Paris Moeng, the very first recipient of the Leanna Knopik All Heart Fund Cup. The cup is given to the GWF learner that shows the greatest heart.

Paris Moeng enjoying the photo booth after his speech.

We then continued cooking our Londolozi Beef Fillet with Green Peppercorn Sauce and ended in tradition with a flambeed banana, chocolate sauce & macadamia ice cream! All the table chefs did very well and the Michaels on East Ballroom is still intact!

The signature Londolozi beef fillet with peppercorn sauce.

Then the live auction started with Michael as auctioneer, a talent I have told him he should definitely pursue further! It is quite a moment when listening to Michael auction off the various images and auction items and not giving up easily. Michael even managed to auction the chef’s jacket off my back for a record $4000. The most expensive chef’s jacket in the world I’d imagine!

And that was just the first night….

Tom Koski got the highest bid of Chef Anna’s tailor-made jacket – now known as the most expensive chef’s jacket in the world.

On Friday evening we made the impossible possible! Michael wanted me to recreate the Londolozi Bush Dinner he’d experienced in June. He wanted this in Sarasota. In a botanical garden where fire is not normally allowed. “Mmmm,” I thought. Ok.

Peter Ferreira, AKA Mr Bubbles from Graham Beck and Chef Anna create the welcome drinks for the guests arriving at the Bush Dinner.

The Londolozi-styled bush dinner in Selby Gardens.

Michael and his team went on to have grills and lamb spits made, potjie pots bought, and even managed to find the exact same red pot as Londolozi! Wow!

Fire pits brought and fire grills specially made to give the authentic Londolozi cooking on fire experience.

Rosemary and garlic rubbed whole lambs on the spit for five hours.

Under the light-draped banyan trees, the tables were laid for a bush dinner extravaganza.

We had flares and lanterns and even a slight breeze to give us the smoke we normally have at a Londolozi bush dinner. The setting felt so authentic!

As the sun went down, the lanterns were lit and the second evening’s bidding began.

Guests being treated to a Londolozi-style bush dinner spread including venison potjie, boerewors, pap lasagne made with grits and whole stuffed pumpkins ending off with traditional malva pudding. A delicious night to remember.

150 safari-dressed guests arrived to a magical evening of fire-cooked food and angelic Banyan Tree lighting under the stars in the magical gardens. African Drums and costumed dancers provided great entertainment and we even managed to pull off two guitarists singing around a fire pit at the end of the evening!

African dancers and drummers came in from Tampa to give their own version of the African songs sung at Londolozi by our very own ladies choir.

Together with Michael’s On East Executive Chef and good friend Jamil, we produced an amazing recreation of the same Bush Dinner menu we served to the Gulf Coast Connosieur Club at Londolozi in July. One of the highlights for me was that we had a full moon at the Londolozi dinner in July and another full moon for the Bush Dinner at Selby Gardens in Sarasota!

We raised another $37,000 this evening, including my second chef jacket! What a night to remember.

All good things have to come to an end, but not before we gathered in Michael’s Wine Cellar and watched as wine glasses flew off the check-in table. Guest after guest arrived for a tasting of over 60 of South Africa’s finest wines! We counted over 300 guests! Kate and I were able to further share our passion for the Good Work Foundation, All Heart Fund and Londolozi to another huge crowd. Pieter Ferreira (Mr. Bubbles) from Graham Beck, could barely keep up with the crowd calling for his amazing sparkling wines!

Anna, Kate and Michael on the final lap of Safari Sarasota. Meeting 300 guests in the Michael’s on East wine cellar, tasting 60 different South African wines. It was lovely to have Londolozi guests, Patti and Roger Webb, who drove down specially for this event.

Mr Bubbles, Anna, Kate and Michael proudly representing South Africa in Sarasota.

Whilst an incredible $200 000 was raised, the spirit of this sort of endeavour is priceless. Thank you Sarasota and all our friends there that have become family. Bring on 2019!

Filed under GWF

About the Author

Anna Ridgewell

Executive Chef

A lodge like Londolozi, although famous for its wildlife, is about far more than just that. The superb culinary experience which awaits every guest at Londolozi is thanks to the continued efforts of Anna, who has been instrumental in the development of new ...

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on What is Safari Sarasota? Now A $200 000 Safari

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Marinda Drake

Anna what an incredible experience. I am getting goosebumps reading this. You made us South Africans proud. It was lovely to have Pieter Ferreiea there with you. All for a wonderfull cause. It is so inspiring. Well done.

Michael & Terri Klauber

Anna, Wow what a story! Terri and I along with Beth & Steve Knopik, Tom & Sherry Koski and Vin & Michele Beni (our All Heart Fund Board of Directors!) are so honored to work with such a passionate team in South Africa to help provide digital learning to so many deserving young people. Our visits to the Good Work Foundation schools and interactions with many of the students continue to inspire us! Anna, your non-stop enthusiasm and fabulous food created for Safari Sarasota guests, created the backdrop for this incredible fundraiser (and friend-raiser!). Kate Groch and Paris Moeng were fabulous speakers and having young Maya Groch, Ranger Nick Kleer and Winemaker Pieter Ferreira on hand to share their stories rounded out the winning team. Kudos to the entire Londolozi family for founding this amazing initiative for learning!!

Jeff Rodgers

Congratulations on a grand success. Hope that Vivian & I can attend the next time.

Denise Vouri

Bravo Anna!! What an amazing experience you had and all for a good cause. The menu sounded so South African which I’m sure was challenging to recreate in Florida but nothing is impossible when your heart is at the forefront.

Wendy Hawkins

Wonderful! All those delish treats made my mouth water! Thank you Anna

Ryan James

GRATEFUL! For our tribe in Sarasota and at Londolozi. For Anna. For Leanna. For Safari Dreams. For the power of community. For our team here in South Africa who don’t take “no” for an answer and continue to deliver digital learning to communities who never had it before. THANK YOU, on behalf of the entire Good Work Foundation team.

Vin Beni

Anna–thanks for bringing your passion & talent to Sarasota once again. The 29 guests Michele and I brought to the events continue to rave about the experiences. (One guest mentioned that it was the best fundraiser she had ever attended, including one organized by George Clooney.) Several of our friends intend to return to South Africa & Londolozi; others are inspired to take their first adventure.
We continue to advance the cause of GWF beyond fundraising, including a developing partnership with a NY college.

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