The annual Night of 1000 Stars is an event that Lowvelders clamour to be a part of. Always glitzy and glamorous, it really is an evening of fun, food and festivity, with the added bonus of being all about giving, as the event raises funds for CANSA.

The theme this year was Rio Rhythms, and as always, the locals really went to town. There were exotic dancers, fire twirlers, feathers and fabulous outfits, with bright colours everywhere you looked. A few improvisations were in order due to the rainy and cold weather, but quick thinking saw the party moved from the traditional street to under a roof, the walkway of which was lined with burning braziers, taking the chill off and giving the event a definite exotic ambience. The music was true Rio; the sultry upbeat sounds of “Vaya Con Dios” among other things, perfectly performed by Natascha C, creating a foot-stomping, hip-swaying vibe.

The main feature of the night, the food, was as spectacular as ever. The aim of each restaurant is to feed their nominated table a starter, main and dessert, and at the end of the evening the judges decide which of the restaurants came out tops, not only regarding the courses but also overall. Tables are beautifully decked out and each host takes care of their customers as if they were in their signature restaurant.

This year’s winners
Starter: Orange | Main: Zest | Dessert: Doppio Zero | Overall: Doppio Zero. We had a chat with the respective figureheads of these esteemed establishments, and found out a little of what makes this event a must-do for these well-known local eateries every year.

Orange
Lee-Ann Heine van Zweel and her staff put their hearts into everything, and it shows. They have participated in Night of 1000 Stars since its inception, cancer having impacted on the lives of almost everyone in some way, making it a cause close to Lee-Ann’s heart. Orange has a certain flair, and this comes through in the dishes they prepare, although they do see the event as an opportunity to try something a little new. The food is created to fit in with the theme, and the entire team get behind the effort to ensure creative, upmarket dishes are offered to their guests.

This year’s winning dish was a scrumptiously tasty salmon roulade. The Orange team stuck to the Rio theme to make it visually stunning, it was a bright, vibrant taste experience. Lee-Ann believes that teamwork is what puts Orange in the top three. “My team are always incredible at pulling together and making each year memorable. We truly have fun doing this, and it is near to all our hearts, which makes it that much greater to take part,” she says.

Zest
GT Lundie and Zest are no strangers to the Lowveld food scene. Zest has participated since 2007, and having suffered the loss of his dad to cancer last year, GT supports CANSA whenever possible. GT and his team adapt their dishes to suit the subject; it’s a great time to try new recipes and cuisine, especially from different countries.

Their main consisted of a feijoada, vinagrete, coxinha/pork belly with black bean stew, Brazilian vinaigrette salsa and croquette – a classic Brazilian dish with a Zest twist. They are no strangers to themed dinners. They have a monthly wine tasting where guests get to pair a variety of food and wines. GT believes the secret to their success is in the consistency of their food, and the fact that they keep abreast of current trends, locally and abroad. “After all,” he says, “they say you are only as good as your last meal.”

Doppio Zero
They are the new kid on the block, and despite never having done a Night of 1000 Stars dinner before, they got into the swing of things very quickly. Alistair Chadwick, manager at Doppio Zero, jumped at the chance to take part for a number of reasons. Apart from it being for a good cause (Doppio Zero does a fair amount of charity work as a brand), being a part of the community is imperative, as far as Alistair is concerned. The Doppio Zero policy is one of no compromise when it comes to quality, and a definite feather in their cap is that they cater for everyone.

They experimented in-house before deciding on their dishes, and their menu was decided on after careful consideration. Their winning dish was a cheesecake with marshmallow fluff and berry compote, with a focus on fresh ingredients, baked on the day of the event. “We believe in guests, not customers,” says Alistair. “The Doppio Zero policy is to reflect passion and innovation through our food.”

Photographer: BELINDA ERASMUS

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