Francois Briel is the Food and Beverage Manager for The Homestead. He is going to help us to make sure that you enjoy exquisite food and drink and pure, state-of-the-art fun on your luxury safari holiday in South Africa at The Homestead!
After he joined, he took our Head Chef Kamarl John out on the town to introduce him to the food culture of South Africa.
“It is very diverse. You’ve got the Cape Malay culture, you’ve got the traditional Afrikaans cooking, then you’ve got the more contemporary stuff, then you’ve got chefs who are taking very traditional South African cuisine and modernising it to a restaurant standard.”
This gregarious man clearly loves what he does. Like all the staff at The Homestead, he is dedicated to creating gloriously life-affirming moments of wining and dining for our guests, during their luxury safari holiday in South Africa, that will sparkle in their memories all their lives.
He reminisced “I am from Cape Town, born and raised; went to school in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town, and then after school took a gap year; travelled in South Africa. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was Head Boy in High School, so people kind of expect things from you, but I had no direction. So, my mother took me to an industrial psychologist. My first suggested career was actor. Second was a newsreader. Third was a radio DJ. Fourth was hospitality management. I thought, what is that? Then, I read up on it and a week later I was enrolled in the Cape Peninsular University of Technology, and started my course.”
He fell in love with working in the Food and Beverage sector, and his career soared. He worked in a number of world-class and world-renowned establishments in South Africa, and also overseas.
He worked in the Maldives, on a tiny, beautiful island, where he enjoyed every moment of his time. International tourists flock to the Maldives from all over the world; however, the tourists are mainly from the U.K. and Russia and Spain and South Korea. “Everyone who gets married in South Korea goes to the Maldives for their honeymoon,” he joked.
After that time of living in an island paradise, he wanted to experience a big city again, so he went to Eastern Europe, to the Republic of Georgia. He worked in Tbilisi, the capital city.
“It is a city of contrasts,” he said, “The cars are electric or hybrid, and they are very green and technologically advanced with brilliant banking apps and such things. In contrast, they do not have supermarkets as such. The Agrohubs sell whole rabbits and suckling pigs rather than cuts of meat. There are huge live sturgeon swimming in tanks. If you buy a fish, even a trout, they put a live fish in a bucket of water and put live wires in it and shock it to death. That is the accepted norm.
However, all the stray dogs are tagged by the government and fed and cared for by the people of the city. No one is allowed to touch them.
The food is rich in carbohydrates. It is the oldest wine producing country in the world, and they get very offended if you ask them why they were overtaken by the French,” he said with a smile in his voice. He continued seriously “My strength is team building. I like to build a team around me that is loyal to me, because I am loyal to them. I see myself as the father of my department. It is a family. I am very protective of my team. I engage with them and use humour in training them. That role was challenging for me because they speak Russian and Georgian in Tbilisi but do not speak English, and my strength is communication. I found the language barrier very frustrating.
When the worldwide pandemic hit, I came back to South Africa. I did some consulting work. I read about The Homestead on LinkedIn; about the electric vehicles and the grass on the roof and using the local ironstone for the walls and it sounded too good to be true, like a PR exercise. So, I asked my contact if it was true or just a hoax and he said you need to meet these people and so I said ‘Well, I would love to be considered,’ and the process started. I told my contact don’t tell anyone we know each other because I wanted to get it on my own merit.”
Eventually an interview was set up with the founder Wayne Scholes and, as Francois says, “The rest is history. I met him on a Teams meeting. He was in Utah, I was in Johannesburg, consulting for a South African Hospitality Group, and we had a meeting.”
The meeting was supposed to be for an hour but it lasted for two hours as they discussed all things hospitality; food and wine and philosophy of service and passion for the industry. “We just clicked. It was amazing. I still kind of think it is not real because it is too good to be true! I have worked in hospitality for so long, and you get used to people going ‘this is what I expect and I don’t care how you do it but you need to do it on a shoestring budget — there’s no money.’ This is completely the opposite, being told ‘we are not spending unnecessarily but we believe in investing in the right equipment and the right people’ and that is inspiring. It is really revolutionary in this industry and in South Africa.”
Francois was inspired by the vision and the belief of our founder that at The Homestead, every member of staff has the opportunity to create “a world made measurably better by every interaction we have, and every choice we make.”
“I signed my contract without seeing the place. I’ve never been in a safari lodge or a game reserve before, although I’ve worked in every other kind of place. I am seeing it with fresh eyes. The Homestead is not a traditional lodge, so I am approaching it like it is something completely unheard of and has never been done before.”
From the world-class Head Chef Kamarl in the kitchen to the designer staff uniforms to the exquisitely designed glassware, tableware and cutlery, The Homestead aims to take sustainable, ethically sourced luxury safari holidays in South Africa to a whole new — and previously unheard of — higher dimension.
Francois said “When I actually saw the build, I was speechless. You know, you come over that little hill, and there is all this grass growing, and you see the ironstone coming over the hill, and then this mammoth project emerges from nowhere. It is amazing. The ruins are so special.
We walked the whole property on the first day I was there and Wayne was on-site doing a site inspection, and at the end of the site visit we said ‘let’s go to the ruins.’ And it was around sunset and you just stand there and you listen to the birds and animals and when you stand there you just know you are standing in this significant part of our history in this historic place and it is amazing.”
He is incredibly excited about the food and beverage side of his new role. Every day he and Head Chef Kamarl discuss their plans, and the equipment that needs to be bought.
He affirms “For me it is not about spending for no reason but it is about buying the equipment that I’ve always wanted to use and I’ve never been able to, for instance the ripple maker I am going to buy. This is a piece of equipment that basically laser prints images onto a cup of coffee on the milk froth or the foam head of a glass of beer. I can take a picture and upload it on my phone to the app which sends it to the ripple maker, this sends it to the cup of frothy coffee or the foam head of the beer and within 30 seconds, the picture will be printed on the coffee or beer! So, if a guest sees their first ever rhino on a big five safari on the private game reserve of Nambiti, and they take a photograph of it, we can print that picture on their beer or coffee when they are relaxing by the pool or in the bar later that evening. If a guest comes back to The Homestead for a second time, we can use a photograph of them from their first luxury safari holiday with us, and say ‘Welcome Back!’”
It is these little personal touches that will make every guest’s adventure on their big five safari in the Nambiti Private Game Reserve in South Africa so special.
And what is more, it is pure, uber-luxurious state-of-the-art fun, and that is what we want our guests to experience on their super-luxury safari holiday in South Africa at The Homestead!