Overstrand Hermanus joins UNESCO Creative Cities Network as Africa’s first Unesco City of Gastronomy
Hermanus and its neighbouring villages were overjoyed to be included as the only South African destination to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network on 30 October 2019. The announcement was made in Paris and named the municipal area of the Overstrand as a Creative City of Gastronomy – only the third South African destination after Cape Town and Durban to achieve this great recognition. Hermanus now takes its place alongside such international Cities of Gastronomy like Parma in Italy, San Antonio in the USA, Phuket in Thailand and Bergen in Norway . This turns South Africa’s great ocean drive from Rooiels to Kleinmond and onward to Hermanus, Stanford and Gansbaai into a culinary coastline, awash with many small producers, farmers, wineries, breweries, farm stalls and eateries. This scenic journey is definitely an expedition of flavour to savour.
Overstrand Municipality’s Executive Mayor Dudley Coetzee responded to the good news “We are overjoyed with the achievement that rewards the work of so many individuals and businesses in mapping the culinary experience offered by the Overstrand or Cape Whale Coast as we are known.”
Discussions for the UNESCO submission were held during the 2019 Indaba and the serious conversation continued in Hermanus – the centre of the Overstrand. Darryl David, celebrated author and lecturer, spearheaded the submission. This win is a win for the fishers, the pancake bakers, winemakers, beer brewers, distillers, gourmands, farmers, coffee roasters, farm stalls, those who pick the fruit and stir the pot… It is an absolute showcase of government and private sector collaboration, where political buy-in was needed as well as the extensive demonstration of how local businesses are delivering on the culinary experience. “Our restaurants’ approach to sourcing products via sustainable food programmes such as WWF’s Abalobi App for example has played a part in making this happen” said Frieda Lloyd, Cape Whale Coast Tourism Manager.
This international recognition acknowledges the flavour spectrum on offer in Overstrand Hermanus and provides opportunities to further develop gastronomic tourism for the enterprising hospitality, farming and fishing community of the Cape Whale Coast.
The Overstrand has been designated as the first Gastronomy Creative City in Africa, joining Cape Town and Durban as the only other two cities in South Africa to be included, respectively, as designated Creative Cities in Design and Literature in 2017.
“This is a win for the whole area stretching from Rooiels to Buffeljagsbaai. It is a win for the fishermen, the pancake makers, bakers, winemakers, beer brewers, distillers, foodies, farmers, coffee roasters, farm stalls, those who pick the fruit, stir the pots and serve the clients,” says Cape Whale Coast Tourism Manager, Frieda Lloyd, who points out that the gastronomy designation covers the whole range of “farm-to-fork” activities that happen every day across the Overstrand and is not specific to Hermanus nor to restaurants.
In total, sixty-six new cities were designated as UNESCO Creative Cities last week by the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay. Since 2004, when the initiative was launched, 246 cities across the world have qualified to be part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) in one of seven categories: Crafts & Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music.
To qualify to be part of UCCN, a city must commit to “placing creativity and the creative economy at the core of their urban development plans to make cities safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable, in line with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” says UNESCO.
In the application process, candidate cities must also present a medium-term, four-year action plan describing the main initiatives that the city commits to in achieving the Network’s objectives.
The Overstrand has proposed to UNESCO that it will implement the following:
The Hermanus Overstrand Food Bank Project
Forming the cornerstone of the gastronomy designation, a Food Bank will be set up to galvanise the Overstrand community to work in a more coordinated way to address social problems. The project will involve supermarkets and restaurants and include the role that education, technology, food gardens and forest foraging play in addressing food security.
A Junior Master Chef Competition
This project will be held annually on 21 March to coincide with World Home Economics Day and will have a schools division as well as a post-school category.
Africa’s first Gastronomy Creative City
A Hap ‘n Stap Festival / Walking Up An Appetite Festival
Taking advantage of the 12 km of cliff pathways that hug Walker Bay, this festival, modelled on the famous Dutch HapStap, will create pop-up food stalls along the length of the path.
A Hermanus Eco Film Festival @ Gansbaai
Building on the Overstrand’s reputation for outstanding land-based whale watching and great white sharks, a largely nautical-themed eco film festival will be held in Gansbaai.
The Overstrand Farm to Table Festival
Intended to be Overstrand’s foremost international festival, since it cuts across several of the UNESCO creative fields, the Overstrand Farm to Table Festival will showcase the authenticity of the restaurant scene in sourcing its products from the Overberg. Building on the uniqueness of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the festival will also embed a flower festival for the gastronomic arts. The role of ceramicists and glassblowers in the Overstrand will also be highlighted.
The Overberg Hermanus Padkos Festival
This festival aims to highlight two of the three things that the Overberg is famous for – fine food and scenic drives. The aim of the festival is to democratise the word gastronomy by reaching out to the farm stalls dotted around the Overberg that make a road trip through this agricultural heartland all the more memorable. Everyone will be given the chance to be a part of the gastronomy scene by selling delicious food at farmers’ markets. This will be the festival to launch Hermanus as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy since it is inexpensive to run and will have mass appeal.
The Hermanus Pinot Noir Festival
Building on this already successful annual event, the aim is to expand the activities of the festival.
The Dionysus & Ambrosia Literary Festival
This will be a festival with international possibilities to celebrate the language of food.
The Overstrand Municipality has committed R1 million over four years towards these festivals, with the rest of the funding hopefully coming from sponsors, Wesgro and the Overberg District Municipality.
In 2023, the Overstrand Municipality will need to submit a Membership Monitoring Report to UNESCO detailing the progress and results of these projects and festivals. Creative Cities must also commit to send at least one representative, ideally together with the mayor, to the annual conference of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Next year’s conference will be held in Santos, Brazil with the 2021 conference being held in Istanbul, Turkey.
Along with Overstrand Hermanus, nine other cities were designated gastronomy Creative Cities. These are Afyonkarahisar (Turkey), Arequipa (Peru), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Bendigo (Australia), Bergamo (Italy), Hyderabad (India), Mérida (Mexico), Portoviejo (Ecuador) and Yangzhou (China).
These ten will now join the 26 cities, including Parma (Italy), Bergen (Norway), Hatay (Turkey) and Phuket (Thailand), which already have the gastronomy designation.
Sustainable development lies at the heart of Hermanus. It has rebuilt
In combining the dedication of our local farmers to the highest quality standards with the imaginative foraging of ingredients indigenous to our area we believe that Hermanus offers the finest, most varied and creative gastronomic experiences in the country. This is the basis upon which we are bidding to become South Africa’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
The bidding to become South Africa’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy
Hermanus is situated in the southern Cape of South Africa in the region of Overstrand. This picturesque region lies about 115 kilometers from Cape Town and has world-renowned vineyards yielding wines of acclaimed international repute. The pristine environment of greater Hermanus attracts large numbers of tourists, both local and international, to Hermanus where the ocean provides sustainable fishing from Kleinmond to Gansbaai, while the valleys and the farms produce food and fruit of exceptional quality and freshness. Locals and tourists alike visit the numerous food markets and festivals in the town and surrounding areas where local produce is at its finest.
Among the many other attractions in the area is the unsurpassed whale watching from the easily accessible fynbos covered cliffs. Southern Right whales migrate from the ice-cold polar region of the southern hemisphere to the coastal waters of South Africa from June to November, with the sheltered Walker Bay being ideal for mating, calving, nursing and play.
En route to Hermanus from Cape Town is the historic town of Bot River. The indigenous Khoisan people used to produce rich butter from their livestock in rich pastures along the banks of the Couga River. Merchants travelled from Cape Town to trade their wares for the butter produced here, and named the river “Botter Rivier” as early as 1672. Today the rustic old watermill in the town has been fully restored and is used to grind flour to make farm bread.
The Hermanus Wine Route is of spectacular beauty and diversity, benefitting from sunshine, the maritime climate of the Atlantic Ocean, cooling winds, good rainfall and gravelly sandstone, quartstone and Bokkeveld shale derived clay loam. These ancient soils are 450-million years old. The wine farms in the area offer scenic splendour and viticultural excellence.
On the other side of Hermanus one finds Gansbaai and the Grootbos Foundation and Grootbos Nature Reserve. The Foundation supports projects such as Green Fingers where local women develop their small scale agricultural skills and learn entrepreneurship, supplying Grootbos and creating opportunities for their families and communities.
Understanding that it is food and wine together that enhances the dining experience, Grootbos has developed its wine and culinary visions in tandem, offering contemporary, innovative menus prepared with the freshest locally sourced organic ingredients.
Walker Bay has expansive, pristine beaches and excellent fishing, the latter providing a living for many in the local community. Hermanus is also famous for its protected fynbos and abundant birdlife and the greater Overstrand area has several nature reserves in close proximity.
Fresh produce is always available in Hermanus and the town boasts an exciting variety of culinary options, with an emphasis, naturally, on seafood. Creation Wines, rated this year as one of the Top 50 Wine Estates in the World, has received both national and international acclaim for its culinary excellence. Visitors have a choice of eight pairing menus with their award-winning wines artfully matched with dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients. Examples are indigenous Cape Abalone served with Capers, Red Onion, Lemon, Spring Onion, Garlic, Kelp and Samphire which is paired with the Creation Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon or the Coconut Poached Line-fish, Banana Leaf and Apricot Masala Salsa served with the single-vineyard Creation Reserve Chardonnay.
Our region is also blessed with wonderful fruit grown in the Hemel-en-Aarde, especially berries and apples. Due to favourable weather conditions, including cool ocean breezes from the Atlantic, the fruit is sought after for their colour and flavour. We have dedicated organic farmers such as Glen Oakes Farm raising livestock according to ethical farming practices. At the Praise the Lard charcuterie all their handcrafted products are made using pasture-reared pork from Glen Oakes Farm. Local cheese producers such as Kleinrivier, Anysbos and Stone House add to our culinary riches. Local artisanal producers abound and their wares are available from popular community markets such as the Hermanus Country Market and the Stanford Market.
Essentially Hermanus is about whales, great food grown locally, award-winning wine, the protection and preservation of the environment, and the celebration of Mother Nature. All of which give rise to the many festivals which Hermanus puts on every year. Given the similarities climatically with Burgundy, the “Heaven and Earth Valley” just outside Hermanus has an annual Pinot Noir Festival which attracts both local and international lovers of Pinot Noir. Hermanus also hosts an annual Wine and Food Festival, regarded as one of South Africa’s most prestigious. Elgin, also in the Overstrand region, hosts an annual Cool Wine and Country Food Festival as does the town of Elim, offering a country market and country air!
So if you’re looking for pristine countryside, sea, vineyards, cuisine and protectors of the environment, Hermanus is where you should be!