Shaking up the South African food scene at Studio H

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UNDER the helm of founder and creative director Hannerie Visser, Studio H has built a reputation as South Africa’s leading food-focused design company. The team offers innovative brand solutions, concentrating on content production, trend reports and forecasting, recipe development, as well as the designing of immersive brand experiences. In 12 years of operation, it has stirred up how we see food and brands interacting.

It also co-created the ground-breaking 100+ Flavours report in 2023. From amasi and biltong, to vetkoek and waterblommetjies, this alphabetical list of local flavour poses the question, “If we are what we eat, who are we as South Africans?”

It’s with this same exploratory and thoughtful mindset and with the fast-growing popularity of their culinary experiences and events, that Studio H has launched its latest new venture. Alongside celebrated executive chef Jenny Ward, it’s now offering “catering with a difference”, which promises to turn eventing fare on its head. Ward has a decade and half’s worth of experience in the industry, owning a restaurant, catering and setting up and running large scale kitchens.

Of the new project Visser says, “The word catering encompasses many styles and approaches and is very ‘big’. We are more creative, conceptual, and focused in our approach. Each client’s brief will be executed in a unique way, and we won’t have a menu that we play on repeat”. Ward adds, “This exciting partnership gives us the opportunity and freedom to create memorable food that is contemporary yet infused with South African heritage flavours.”

The team’s recent menus would stop even the most discerning food lover in their tracks. They’ve included the likes of braaied snoek and apricot jam samoosas as starters, followed by peri peri chicken jaffles with a tangy lemon atchar. They’ve rustled up tongue tantalising “guess the flavour soft serve ice cream” and a “food waste snack selection” – cleverly made from food that would have been thrown away. The latter included fancy fish head “fingers” with a sourdough rouille and salt and vinegar cured caviar.

Describing the unique process behind their work, Visser adds, “Studio H uses three lenses when designing a menu – namely, South African heritage, sustainability, and food trends. We place an emphasis on design, and we consider the whole eating experience – from the minute a guest enters the ‘space’ until they leave. Eating is more than a physical experience and we think about a lot more than what we put on the plate. We carefully consider how you eat, what you listen to when you eat, the colour palette, what you sit on, the crockery, cutlery, how you feel, etc.”

Studio H and Ward promise a flavoursome experience that packs a culinary punch, but it doesn’t end there. They are passionate about using what others see as waste, like damaged fruit and vegetables and offcuts, and they also support and mentor SMMEs and use women suppliers where they can.

And at the heart of all this, Visser explains their ethos. “We utilise food as a design medium and see it as something powerful that can be used to convey a message and make a strong statement. Food can effect change and we believe in using it with a purpose and for maximum impact. It should be smart and well thought out yet effortless to consume. But most of all it should be fun, make people think and drive conversation.”

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