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Michael Cooke

Michael Cooke, who joined Camphors as Executive Chef in 2014, has enjoyed a stellar career in food. He studied at the prestigious Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch before sharpening his knives in many a famous kitchen. He worked at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin three-star Fat Duck, awarded Best Restaurant in the World and Best Restaurant in the UK, then went on to top posts at Cape Town’s award-winning La Colombe and Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort.

Launched in 2012 and taking its name from the giant trees that were planted around the front of Vergelegen’s historic homestead over 300 years ago, Camphors has developed a formidable culinary reputation. It was included in the list of Top 20 Restaurants in South Africa in the 2015 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurants Awards, and achieved three-star status (the highest award) in the annual independent Rossouw’s Restaurant Guide. In the newly launched JHP Gourmet Guide, Camphors is named as one of 21 exceptional restaurants in the country.

Michael changes his menu seasonally, constantly developing bold new avours and dishes. He’s known for his exquisite presentation, something he says he learnt from his mentor Peter Tempelhoff, critically acclaimed Executive Chef at the Greenhouse. He also works closely with Camphor’s sommelier to ensure there is a perfect harmony between his food and Vergelegen’s award-winning wines.

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Chris Erasmus

Chris Erasmus’s love for food and organic produce began as a boy growing up in the Karoo. One of four children raised by a single mother, Chris would pitch in to help prepare meals. He was taught by his mother how to make everything himself – from preserving jams and butchering meat to making jellies, biltong and tripe.

After leaving home Chris irted with chemical engineering and dentistry while working part-time in bars and restaurants – until he decided he should pursue his dream and study to become a chef.

After graduating from the Elsa van der Nest Culinary Academy, Chris worked at Cape Grace under Chef Craig Cormack before doing his in-service training at the busy Five Flies restaurant in Cape Town.

Chris then left South Africa for the UK, where he met Chef Shane Osborn, who was to become his culinary mentor. Shane taught Chris urgency, precision and skill, and also allowed him room to explore his interest in chemistry and the cooking techniques and processes used in the fast-paced kitchen.

On his return to South Africa, Chris took on the position of Executive Chef at the new Pierneef à La Motte restaurant, where his culinary air put it on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants list in 2013. In 2014 he opened his own restaurant in Franschhoek, called Foliage, where he marries his passion for foraging wild ingredients with heritage food.


Carl Heinz Habel

Respected South African wine expert Carl Heinz Habel has a real passion for what he does.

After studying hotel management in Cape Town, he moved to the UK, where he worked at the four-star Pomme d’Or Hotel in Jersey and was appointed Food Services Manager at the ve-star Bath Spa Hotel. On his return to South Africa, he served as Restaurant Manager at the Cape Grace hotel in the V&A Waterfront before being appointed Sommelier at Mike Bassett’s Myoga restaurant at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, and later the hotel’s Group Sommelier.

In 2010 he took up the position of Sommelier at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel and Assistant Restaurant Manager at Planet Restaurant, later becoming its General Manager. During his tenure, the restaurant was placed on the Fleur du Cap Top 10 Places to Eat list, received a Diners Club Diamond Award and an American Express Fine Dining Award.

Carl now brings his wine selection talents to passengers onboard Crystal Esprit, where he serves as Head Sommelier.