Margot Janse, the chef who founded Isabelo Charity which focuses on feeding young children in schools in South Africa has described the Brussels charity dinners that were held last month as an ‘amazing and humbling experience’.
“It was amazing to see all these people in all the three Brussels restaurants (Bon Bon, Le Chalet de la Foret and Bozar) come to cook without any issues. All the chefs arrived, they put their heart into what they did and created amazing food with an added twist of using South African indigenous ingredients,” Margot Janse told Food and Wine Gazette in an interview.
For the simultaneous charity dinners, she got over 70 kilos of ingredients with her to Belgium and said that whoever she was thanking for being there were actually thanking her.
“It is really humbling that this is possible at this level. It is great for me because I have played on this level with my restaurant for a long time. The exposure was amazing and of course I want to continue,” she said.
She said that she is not doing this to be seen. “While I am here, I am thinking whether I have ordered the milk for tomorrow. But when people recognise what you are doing and come together to help, I am really humbled by it.”
The Dutch chef who helped put South Africa on the international map and was the first woman to enter the World’s 50 Best restaurants list said there are no other events planned yet to raise funds for the charity but a lot is brewing. “There needs to be more meaning in what we do. The world of fine dining is a niche market and it needs to be more connected to the real world.”
Margot said the bottom line for her is that “we cannot have this extravagant business of fine dining which is soulless and is just about what a good chef you are. We need to be better humans and we need to take care of what is around us, whatever that is.”
She said that there were many needs but for her in South Africa what was most pressing is that children are the future leaders and there needs to be better leaders in South Africa. “Unfortunately, government is not providing a great education. We need a better education but to study you also need food in your stomach. This is basic,” she said.
Margot has also started work on another project which is an early learning school where the focus is not just on the food but also on the education.
All proceeds from the evening, including spontaneous donations after the dinner went towards Janse’s charity which feeds poor school children nursery and primary school children.
At the charity dinners, each of the 25 chefs from around the world where asked to create one original dish inspired by a specific indigenous ingredients that was selected by Margot.
The ingredients used were:
- Baleni salt by Joris Bijdendijk, Isabelle Arpin and Ana Ros
- Buchu used by Pascal Barbot, Mauro Colagreco and Alain Passard
- Baobab powder used by Rodolfo Guzman, Heinz Reitbauer and Christophe Hardiquest
- Honeybush tea used by Christophe Pele, Virgilio Martinez, Pia Leon and Willem Hiele
- Marula Nuts used by David Martin, Vilhjalmur Sigurdarson and Maksut Askar
- Sorghum used by Emma Bengtsson, May Chow and Chiho Kanzaki
- Samp used by Karen Torosyan, Pascal Devalkeneer and Christophe Hardiquest
- Sour Figs used by JP McMahon, Manu Buffara and Sang-Hoon Degeimbre
To read more about Margot Janse and Isabelo charity don’t miss our long interview with her in the coming days. She speaks about how Isabelo came about, what it felt like to nearly lose everything when she quit her job and an oak tree came crushing on her house and how she is systematically growing the charity.
You can donate to the Isabelo Charity on the link here.