What Pretoria Can Learn From LD-R’s The Test Kitchen

When most Cape Town restaurants panicked and cut menu items and trading hours, Luke Dale-Roberts embraced the challenges brought on by the lack of rainfall in the Western Cape. Johannesburg eateries can learn a lot from LD-R's The Test Kitchen and its Drought Menu.

Though Luke Dale-Roberts’ Drought Menu at The Test Kitchen in Cape Town concluded its run at the end of May 2018, there is a lot that Pretoria can learn from this restaurant’s approach to saving water. The chef installed diffusers onto taps, used water from ice buckets for cleaning floors, re-used the filter water from air-conditioners and disconnected feeding hoses in the scullery. They also switched from ceramic to paper plates, which saw 5 000 fewer dishes being washed. “Water used in cooking processes like blanching, making sauces, stock and dashi, is negligible. Laundry, washing glasses and the dishwasher is where it happens, ” says Luke.

TTK Winter Menu

The menu itself was designed to use minimal and, in some cases, no water. Instead of being dampened by water restrictions and the looming Day Zero, LD-R and his team adapted to circumstance day by day – a challenge that’s earned The Test Kitchen a spot on the Top 50 Restaurants In The World by Condé Nast Travel. At the time of writing, Cape Town was overflowing with rain, but water restrictions are still being kept in place. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body set up to assess the science of climate change, Southern Africa, along with the rest of the world, can expect an increase in the average global temperature, leading to a warmer overall climate in the years to come. This may lead to high temperatures or heavy rainfall, or less frequent in the case of extreme cold. This means that the distribution, occurrence and expected averages of our weather (for example, temperature and rain) throughout the years may change, resulting in warmer years on average, with more extreme hot days and fewer extreme cold days in the future, which is necessary in the formation of rain clouds. Climate scientists have speculated that global warming’s effect could lead to less frequent rain but extreme precipitation – heavy downpours that dump abnormally large quantities of rain. This is evident in the heavy rainfall that Cape Town experienced at the end of June 2018.

The hardship and devastation left in the wake of Cape Town’s water problems and The Test Kitchen’s ingeniousness should serve as a case study and warning to PTA-based restaurants and take-away spots, especially after the permanent implementation of level 1 water restrictions within the municipal borders of Pretoria after the city’s 2016/2017 water scare. With a great shift in rainfall patterns over Southern Africa, residents, restaurateurs and rovers should be sparing when it comes to their water usage. With an estimated 4 400 restaurants in Pretoria alone, weighing heavily on the water supply from the Vaal Dam, prevention is key to solving the cause and implementation of further restrictions. Though Gauteng’s water supply had reached full capacity in March 2018, the city needs to get through a very dry winter until the rainy season kicks off again in October.

TTK Drought Menu – Goats yoghurt panna cotta, pine and onion ash, Black garlic baba ghanoush, semi dried Roma tomato

Pretoria normally receives about 604mm of rain per year, with most occurring during summer. The chart below (lower left) shows the average rainfall values for PTA per month. It receives the lowest rainfall (0mm) in July and the highest (113mm) in January. The monthly distribution of average daily maximum temperatures (centre chart below) shows that the average midday temperatures for Pretoria range from 18.6°C in June to 28.2°C in January. The region is the coldest during July when the mercury drops to 0.8°C on average during the night. Consult the chart below (lower right) for an indication of the monthly variation of average minimum daily temperatures.

Although the City Of Pretoria is far away – in theory at least – from a water scarcity, it’s up to all of us to use water sparingly.

By Shawn Greyling