The prodigal son. The Salon 59 Trace Experience.

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A few Saturdays ago, our beloved salonnière Jackie Burger and Michelin-star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen presented the eleventh and final Salon 58 soirée for this year entitled Trace at Wellington’s Old Tannery, a settlement that was left behind to mature for several years after the company moved to newer facilities and become the clay that later formed a beautiful rustic old business village, a business community, on the banks of the Kromrivier. With 2017 drawing to a close, Jackie and her team explored the idea that we can’t create a future without knowing our past and traced the memories and experiences that have brought us collectively to where we are today.

For those of you who have perhaps been living under a rock for the past two years, the co-host grew up on a farm in Mpumalanga and started his culinary and photography training at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design & Photography and after graduating, did a stint as contributing food editor to ELLE magazine, where under Jackie’s wing he was encouraged to flourish and grow and eventually paved his journey to France. Once in the culinary capital of the world, he started his rapid rise with his first step on the ladder as Executive Chef for the Champagne house PIAFF in the South of France. It was on an early morning walk that Chef van der Westhuizen found a quaint old Vespa mechanic shop on the port side of Nice and after a major refurbishment, JAN was opened in September 2013. However, it was only to receive a Michelin star at the beginning of 2016 that our good boy became the toast once again of his native country.

Darling, we’ve never said the world inhabited by the pretty young things aren’t fickle. So when you’re the toast of the world, people seem to renew their interest sharing memories of times together, however, for those that never lost faith were front and centre throughout the day as old colleagues, confidants and conspirators conjured this magical day of food and fashion and finery. With everyone dressed according to the day’s theme: ‘bringing the bow tie back’, you would imagine no less than absolute perfection from this creative menagerie.

Jan and I both grew up in an Afrikaans farming community, pushed against boundaries as young adults and found part of ourselves in France. For me, it was fashion; for Jan, food.’

The dichotomous décor was also inspired by timeless images of Jackie and Jan Hendrik as if on their way to the opera in Paris, their journey and experiences traced through food and fashion in touch, smell, texture and the senses in an installation by Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography (a nice nod by his alma mater).

As is typical of our favourite salonnière, the balancing of food and fashion, was both overwhelming and subtle incorporating sublime creations by Stefania Morland, AKJP and Crystal Birch along with retailers Trenery, Witchery, Country Road, H&M, Kat van Duinen, Tread + Miller under the deft styling of Elaine du Plessis. For those wishing to indulge in immediate gratification, the pop-up Parisian-style market purveyed vintage finds by Plan B Vintage, notebooks and cushions by Masquerade, homeware by Jan, blooms by Blomboy, candles and skincare by Africology, artworks by Lucie de Moyencourt, artisanal bread by Schoon de Companje and Clemengold craft gin.

Incorporating the rural farmlands of his youth, Jan Hendrick balanced his menu on the four most iconic ingredients of his culinary journey, and under the production of chef’s extraordinary at Slippery Spoon, there were served at various food stations conceptualised by Curated Event Concepts. From the classic Malva pudding with aster custard, vanilla bean and honeycomb ice cream and dehydrated yoghurt, the savoury Melkkos in a Pecorino bêchamel with a soft organic egg yolk, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, truffle oil, onion seeds and gold leaf and the Mieliepap Panna Cotta with boerenkaas, biltong mousse and caramelised onion essence with fresh bread supplied by our favourite baker Fritz Schoon.

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The all-white 50-metre-long table echoed the all-white interior of Maria, my new restaurant named for my grandmother, and evoked the communal gatherings both Jackie and I love’ said Jan Hendrik as he served his version of the final dinner, or in this case dessert, of sago pudding encased in meringue, surrounded by heavy cream and finished off with a dusting of powdered hibiscus dust and paired with a Pierre Jourdan Ratafia from Haute Cabrière.

As the moon had long since risen and people were itching to break off to chat in little groups on the sidelines, Jackie reminded us that ‘sustainable style and authenticity go hand in hand as we seek to take the best from the past and reinvent it for today. I chose classic items with dramatic updates and new-millennium cachet‘ to describe the eleventh of her soirées.

Words can be easily dismissed, however, she mentioned something similar in an ELLE online interview back in 2014, around the same time that Jan was starting his own journey, that Jackie offered this piece of advice to her younger 25-year-old self: “It sounds cliché but always follow your heart and never compromise your values. It is easy to fall prey to the outer rewards of fancy titles and perceived monetary status. What really matters first and foremost is realising your talents and honing your skills; the rest will follow!

La reine est morte. Vive la reine!

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But wait, there’s more, is perhaps a catch-phrase I’m going to liberate to highlight the must have read of the new year. ‘In this edition of The Salonnière we reminisce about the past meeting the present, we revive and re-contextualise experiences and we celebrate memories of our roots. It is an invitation to reflect, enjoy and indulge in a celebration of your own trace elements.’ – Alwijn Burger, Blomboy (and The Salonnière designer)

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