He may have been born in London but Chef Matt Manning is such a beloved fixture of the local restaurant scene that he’s, by now, considered an honorary South African. Amongst a plethora of noteworthy ventures, Chef Matt is the patron chef of the vastly popular Grub & Vine on Bree Street; the innovative spirit behind the Restaurant Rescue Project, which helped restaurants remain afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic; and, most recently, a new father, having welcomed his and partner Roxanne’s son Roman James Manning to the world on 1st July 2020.
Let’s meet talented and accomplished chef, entrepreneur, dad, and local hero Chef Matt Manning.
From Hell’s Kitchen to Mount Olympus of Gastronomy
Chef Matt honed his craft to a razor edge in London’s finest Michelin-starred restaurants, surviving Gordon Ramsey’s incandescent temper, amongst other celebrity chefs and their stratospheric expectations, before relocating to Cape Town in sunny South Africa. No sooner had he arrived on our fair shores than he ran the gauntlet of the country’s Mount Olympus of fine dining, La Colombe at Silvermist Estate in Constantia, which is routinely voted amongst the world’s best restaurants.
But it takes more than the prestige and challenge of a lauded kitchen to satisfy the restlessness of spirit that comes with being a born entrepreneur. And that’s exactly what Chef Matt Manning is. So, he bid farewell to La Colombe to pursue a solo career as a private chef, staging a constellation of interactive pop-up dining experiences across South Africa. Before long, Chef Matt became well known for his dining experiences, garnering the affection and accolades of casual diners, foodies, and food critics.
Grub & Vine is born
Eventually, even a rolling stone must succumb to the gravitational pull of the Earth and so, at the end of 2018, Chef Matt put down roots and opened up his very own eatery—Grub & Vine—on the carotid artery of Cape Town’s culinary scene: Bree Street.
Naturally, Grub & Vine followed in the footsteps of Chef Matt’s previous endeavours, attracting hoards of positive reviews with its colourful and fresh seasonal menus and proudly South African wine lists. Here, refined bistro-style fare is the order of the day with a casually sexy and unpretentious ambience that is as perfect for first dates as it is for birthday celebrations with friends.
Up the stairs from Grub & Vine, however, is a different affair. At The Chef’s Studio, guests can roll up their sleeves and join Chef Matt in the kitchen, spending interactive evenings cooking and eating under his patient instruction. The Chef’s Studio also routinely plays host to bespoke events, from fully catered dinner parties and corporate functions to masterclasses and guest chef evenings.
That is before COVID-19 hit the country like a Manhattan-sized asteroid.
Fine dining goes online
Just like every other establishment in South Africa, Grub & Vine and Chef’s Studio were forced to close their doors to the public during the nationwide lockdown. But while Chef Matt has been able to reopen the Grub & Vine for lunch (12:00 to 15:00) and dinner (16:00 to 21:00), Wednesday to Saturday, the Chef’s Studio—being a more intimate space and hands-on experience—has been forced to remain in hibernation.
Ever the entrepreneurial spirit, Chef Matt soon devised a brilliant way to combine the elegant cuisine of Grub & Vine and the unique dining experience of The Chef’s Studio with his “Virtual Dining” offering. For only R625 per person, the experience includes a delectable five-course menu (available for delivery or pick-up from the restaurant), three courses of which are already prepared and two of which you get to prepare yourself following a video tutorial given by Chef Matt.
A guiding light with the Restaurant Rescue Project
Having somehow survived the months-long COVID-19 lockdown, South Africa’s restaurant industry was only just staggering back to its feet again when the pandemic delivered another sucker punch to its guts in the form of a 9 pm (now 10 pm) curfew and a reinstating of its ban on liquor sales.
“After being able to reopen our doors, we thought we’d seen a turning point for our little bistro,” said Chef Matt. “We were wrong. This announcement could very well be the final nail in the coffin for many of the restaurants and wineries we know and love.”
Not one to remain down for long, Chef Matt paired up with his good friend Alex Dale, the founder of Radford Dale Wines, and together they cooked up the Restaurant Rescue Project, an initiative that pairs restaurants with independent wineries in a sort of “adopt-a-restaurant” scheme. These wineries then deliver a free case of wines to customers who buy vouchers to eat at the restaurant, either now or later.
The project is already making a huge impact with many of the Cape’s iconic and beloved restaurants being able to remain afloat. And it’s all thanks to the impetus that the promise of free wine has in generating the support of customers!
A fresh horizon for every day
Since his earliest days serving in London’s Michelin-starred restaurants, Chef Matt Manning has proven to be an unstoppable force, allowing neither the prestige of a position at La Colombe nor a viral apocalypse to trip up his ambitions to chase fresh horizons. And while Chef Matt may have come to us from foreign soils, he has proven himself to be as much a son of South Africa as his newborn baby boy.