Bruce Robertson, one of SA’s finest chefs, passed away on Monday morning after being diagnosed with leukemia less than a week before. His sudden death has left a gaping hole in the South African food community and there are many who will miss him greatly.
Few people know will know this but Bruce was an Art Director in the advertising industry before embarking on a career in food. He began working in the kitchens of world renowned chefs like Marcus Weiring and Gordon Ramsay (there are those who might say he was the SA version of Ramsay with his sometimes fiery temper!).
In South Africa he made a name for himself as the Executive Chef of One.Waterfront at The Cape Grace. From there he opened the The Showroom – a restaurant that reaped numerous awards (EatOut Top 10 in both 2006 and 2007). He was also synonymous with The Showroom Café, Bunnny Chow, The Boathouse and his most recent venture - Flagship (which we heard was sold out for months!).
Those who knew him say he was one of a kind. His close friend and well-known supplier to many of SA’s best restaurants, Sue Baker, says he was a parcel of dynamite with an enormous amount of endless energy.
“He had a way with everyone, captured one's heart and made them feel so special. I first met him in 2000 at the Cape Grace and we just clicked. He ordered and I delivered! We became friends quickly and soon he was tasting wine with us at our home and then he became part of the family! His flair for cooking was amazing. From Cape Grace to The Showroom, to the Showroom Cafe, Bunny Chow and then The Boathouse and finally “His” Flagship. He cooked often for functions at our home and gave me the most wonderful surprise dinner for my 60th at The Boathouse. He lived life to the full and one just had to keep up with him! We will always remember him through his beautiful daughter Jemima whom he loved unconditionally.”
Many chefs took their first steps into the culinary world with Bruce as their guide. Hylton Espey was one of them. “He was a hard guy to work for but he taught me to be strong under pressure, make sure every plate was perfect and always put in 110%. I will never forget after a Cape Winemakers Guild dinner, we plated up each of the dishes after the function and all sat in Bruce's tiny office tasting the wines with the dishes as he went through the reasons behind the pairings. That is one of my favourite career memories. He never lost his temper on the pass but when you heard, "I'd really like that now please", you knew you were shaving it pretty close!”
Celebrity judge of MasterChef SA fame, Pete Goffe-Wood, told EatOut that “He made over-the-top seem like it wasn’t enough” and that, "his genius sometimes bordered on folly, but he had the sheer force of will and charismatic personality to carry it off.”
Fans, colleagues, friends and loved ones all took to social media to express their heartfelt sadness.
Chef Bruce's memorial service will take place at 2pm on Friday 7th of November at False Bay Rugby Club.
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