FOOD WITH THOUGHT
Chef Carl Moller is the Executive Head Chef of Isibindi Africa Lodges. He is a true creative who combines a love of cooking with beautiful plating skills and a passion for photography.
Carl is a KwaZulu-Natal local, born in Durban and schooled in Hillcrest. He has been passionate about food from an early age, which led him to complete his training at the Chantecler Hotel in Bothas Hill. After graduating, Carl worked at various restaurants in both Durban and Johannesburg, including Durban’s well-known Café 1999. He also ran his own catering company for a while.
As a keen angler, trail runner, swimmer, diver and general outdoorsman, the opportunity to work and live in Thonga Beach Lodge’s pristine marine environment was too good to pass up. Carl joined the team in 2009 and has been wowing our guests with his culinary creations ever since.
Ethical eating and sustainable sourcing on the menu
With his focus on sustainability, Carl’s food philosophy is closely aligned with the Isibindi brand. In our lodges’ remote and ecologically-significant locations, it is vital for social, economic and environmental factors to work symbiotically and interdependently. Carl believes that incorporating these principles into his food and choice of suppliers enhances sustainability from the ground up.
Carl sources many of his ingredients from ethical suppliers - like stone ground flour, unrefined sea salt, sustainable seafood and fish that is approved by the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). He also seeks out local suppliers, sourcing community-grown vegetables and fruit as well as locally-farmed products such as cashew nuts and dried pineapple. Carl is a keen supporter of seasonal cooking, and his signature dishes vary according to the produce, fish and game available at that time of year.
Carl’s food is real and nourishing, and he wants his guests to feel immersed in a memorable experience when they eat it.
Along with his modern fusions and traditional favourites, guests can look forward to a few hyper-local dishes of Thonga heritage, such as iZimbaza namakinati (mussels in peanut sauce) served with uJeqe (steamed bread).
Food of the future comes to life today
Carl’s approach to food is in line with what he believes to be the future of food - going back to ‘how things were’ before the modern era, with real, unadulterated ingredients and by eliminating damaging food production methods. An example of his philosophy in action is how he takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary by incorporating fresh produce into his cooking - like homegrown microgreens that contain vital micronutrients that are generally lost in food processing. Here is Carl’s microgreens success story:
“A little while ago, I experimented with a few microgreen growing kits and a sprouter because I was unhappy with the tired-looking, well-travelled, single microgreen variety that was available from our suppliers.
After initial success, I decided to increase production to ten trays and a couple of kilograms of seeds. The 15 varieties included radishes, vegetables, herbs and some unusual varieties like lemon basil.
I now have 21 varieties of microgreens, and every dish that leaves the kitchen is garnished with them. At any given time, we have at least 13 trays growing.
Microgreens are not only tasty, trendy and cool; growing them in-house also reduces our carbon footprint since we have less plastic being brought in and the produce doesn’t have far to travel. Now that I have acrylic lids for the initial germination to replace cling wrap, the process uses no plastic besides the packets in which the seeds are sold. The used growing medium is repurposed by the local community for growing vegetables, and the growing medium’s packaging sacks are upcycled into beach clean-up bags for our guests to use.
In the cooler months, the herbs grow well, so I am planting what grows best seasonally. It is a constant cycle of germinating, growing, watering, harvesting and forecasting how much will be needed in the near future. It’s not easy, but it is undoubtedly a labour of love.”
The photographs of the food on this page were taken by Chef Moller himself… For now, feast your eyes on these delectable dishes until you can make your way to Thonga Beach Lodge to experience Carl’s culinary magic for yourself.