The great day arrived, and 150 notable restaurateurs, talented service people from a wide range of restaurants, and the sponsors, partners, managers and administrators of Zim on a Plate (Zoap), Zim in a Glass, gathered at the Spice Trader venue for a sunny day’s celebration of excellence in the restaurant trade nationwide.
By Rosie Mitchell
The day had its poignancy, marking as it did the end of an era, for this is the last time you will see this double page Zoap spread — in its current incarnation.
Zoap comes to an end with last Sunday’s Double Awards Ceremony for 2012 and 2013, and this Sunday’s edition of the Zoap pages in The Standard, it’s home for the duration.
Founded by The Cheeseman, who was its sole sponsor for some years and has continued backing the competition ever since, and co-sponsored since 2011 by Mahatma Rice in the National Foods stable, African Distillers (also a co-sponsor in 2007) and Lake Harvest, Zoap in its present form is taking a break.
This is not to say that it will not rise again like a phoenix in some new incarnation, and judging by the dismay expressed at last Sunday’s ceremony by the restaurant trade about its cessation for the time being, perhaps it might resurrect sooner than expected!
For the sponsors, however, there is the need for a break, for Zoap entails much expense — from the cost of the meals for the covert reviewers, to the administration and management costs, to the annual awards themselves — for the second time held as a joint ceremony for two years’ worth of awards.
And, after a decade long run, perhaps the restaurants and public need a break as well, we would never want the whole exercise of reviewing and rating entrants year round, to grow stale or repetitive, though the restaurateurs who attended the event expressed gratitude for the existence of the competition and sadness that it was ending — this, regardless of the fact that at times some have received criticisms from reviewers by which they initially felt devastated!
However, in almost all cases, they have taken the criticism as constructive, and addressed it — which was, of course the raison d’être of Zoap in the first instance.
The idea always was, to assist the trade, to publicise and uplift it, and to help restaurants maintain the highest standards.
Sunday’s ceremony went without a hitch and was much enjoyed by all. The vast majority of award finalists and winners managed to make it to the event, though some winners — who did not yet know they were winners — needed a fair bit of persuasion to ensure their presence — and were then very happy they’d managed to get there after all!
The event began with complimentary Nederberg Cuvée Brut donated by African Distillers for the occasion, delicious spicy appetisers and the very mellow sounds of the inimitable Tony Vas on his saxophone accompanied as usual by skilled percussionist Alexio Musaope, and lots of catch-up chatter.
This event gives members of the trade a great opportunity to relax and network, being for once on the other end of the service equation!
All then moved outside and found themselves a place at a table and the awards commenced.
Competition manager Rosie Mitchell was as usual Mistress of Ceremonies and began with a short speech in which she congratulated everyone in the trade for their presence there, as it signified that they were a finalist for an award or even in some cases several awards, and had hence excelled in their field.
Almost all of the 45 Finalists for Service Personality of the Year 2012 and 2013 managed to make it to the event, these being the waiters, waitresses, managers and bar staff who had impressed members of the Zoap review team, whether on or off duty, enough to win themselves a nomination and a Service Personality of the Month Award, plus a hallowed place on the Finalist list.
Winner of three awards, Kerry Wallace, who was catering a large event concurrently, managed to squeeze in attendance, and was suitably surprised to win not just the Speciality Restaurant of the Year Award and Most Imaginative Menu Award in that category for 2012, but also, to be named the Personality of the Year for 2013, for his altogether larger than life personality and unique contribution to the trade with his Shop Cafe which strictly adheres year round to environmentally sound principles, using only local produce, in season.
Moira Jane Rice of the Blue Bird Café in Masvingo was likewise much taken by surprise to be named Personality of the Year for 2012, as well as being on the Finalist list for both years.
In addition, waitress at the Blue Bird Café Sarafina Muhwandavaka was named Service Personality of the Year for 2012.
Moira Jane won her Award for “The indelible impression she leaves on her patrons with her larger than life personality, and for creating and sustaining a top quality, memorable experience, in one of Zimbabwe’s smaller centres”.
A second Personality of the Year 2012 was the well-known and respected Llew Hughes, for his service and dedication top his trade over several decades. Sarafina also shared her award with a second Service Personality of the Year, Jays Gondokondo of The Olive in Harare, who was actually nominated twice in the same month, he so impressed two different reviewers!
There were three Service Personalities of the Year named for 2013, and indeed, as pointed out by Rosie Mitchell, it was greatly to the credit of ALL Finalists for this Award, for both years, to have been nominated, and she wished they could ALL win!
These were James Kanyama of the Troutbeck Inn, Nyanga, Sinai Bona of Tinkabell, which Restaurant also won Family Restaurant of the Year and Most Imaginative Menu for 2013, and Bernard Sithole of The Inglenook in Bulawayo’s Churchill Arms Hotel.
Other Special Awards included The Awards of Excellence, bestowed on restaurants which have consistently demonstrated excellent food, service and dining experiences.
Tony Robinson of Tony’s somewhat legendary Coffee Shop in the Bvumba really struggled to make it for the event, being in the middle of his big move, but was glad that he did, as once again, he walked away with Awards – this time, The Award of Excellence for 2012 and Most Imaginative Coffee Shop Menu 2013.
Like a number of other excellent establishments who entered ZOAP over its course, Tony sustained a Five Plate Rating throughout. A second Award of Excellence went to The White Horse Inn, also in the Bvumba, also a previous award winner, and also with a superb track record.
Other proud recipients of The Award of Excellence for 2013 were La Fontaine at Meikles Hotel and Amanzi Restaurant, both in Harare, with excellent track records over the years.
The Boma at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, once again won The Most Imaginative Dining Experience for both years, and remains unbeaten, for the full duration, what a fine achievement.
All other winners can be seen in the final ZOAP advertisement shown here – as space does not permit a mention in this article of every single illustrious winner over the two year period!
There were both familiar faces and new seen amongst the prize-winners, some winning their category for a fourth or even fifth time, such as Leonardo’s.
Bulawayo can yet again be proud, with two prize winners, Indaba Book Café and Southern Comfort Lodge, scooping Deluxe Coffee Shop and Deluxe Family Restaurant of the Year 2013 respectively, and Vic Falls scooped Deluxe Restaurant of the Year yet again; The Palm for 2012 and The Livingstone Room for 2013, both for a second time.
Other speakers at the event were Group CEO of Alpha Media Holdings, Raphael Khumalo, Gary Davidson, MD of Founding Sponsor The Cheeseman who gave the vote of thanks, and Tapiwa Karise of Lake Harvest, which donated some delicious tilapia for the function.
CEO of African Distillers, which donated various excellent Nederberg wines for the event, Cecil Gombera, attended with his colleagues and stayed right to the end, at sunset, when just a few with serious party stamina were left, having many lively discussions.
From The Standard, ZOAP’s home, Editor in Chief, Nevanji Madanhire, and Chief Sub Editor Conelia Mabasa attended. Rosie Mitchell paid tribute to The Standard and to Alpha Media and particularly thanked Conelia Mabasa who has worked hard on the ZOAP pages for several years and been a very helpful and accommodating team player throughout.
Three members of the trade, all of them multiple ZOAP Award Winners, Daniel Marini of Leonardo’s, Nick Mandeya of Adrienne’s and Lesley Orford of Alo Alo, delivered spontaneous speeches of thanks to the founder, manager and sponsors of ZOAP over the years, through which they considered themselves and the trade to have greatly benefitted over the years; ZOAP, they said, had kept them on their toes, and, so, performing as well as possible, as much of the time as possible!