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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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….
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!