A Culinary Map of South Africa

Gramadoelas restaurant in Johannesburg, South Africa may provide the only opportunity in the world to sample the local Mopani worm. It may not be the most popular item on the menu, but it has put this restaurant, whose name means "the Back of Beyond," on the map. It's a lesson for anyone headed for a culinary career or restaurant management job--every menu needs a hook.

South Africa's Culinary Arts

Chef Eduan Naude's guestbook includes Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth, Bill Clinton, Elton John, David Bowie, Denzel Washington, and countless other ambassadors, politicians, and rock stars. Why the draw? Gramadoelas is one of the city's only restaurants serving traditional South African 'Cape-style' fare. Hillary Clinton reportedly loves the worms (masonja), and Mandela can't get enough of umnqusho, a stew of braised beef shins.

A Culinary Career Built on Authenticity

Chef Naude's culinary artistry, according to some critics, "sometimes sacrifices excellence in favor of authenticity"--but this reputation seems only to have enhanced his culinary career. The restaurant management staff has done an excellent job of attracting visitors with an appetite for adventure and authentic cultural experience. These visitors know they can get excellent comfort food elsewhere, but it won't be nearly as memorable as deep-fried crocodile tail or kudu (a South African antelope).

Culinary Arts Curator

Gramadoelas has "every bit of South African culture etched into its atmosphere." The restaurant has the look of an anthropology museum, with a clutter of African art and antiques, posters, pots, and theatrical props. The decor reflects Gramadoelas' cultural appeal--the culinary fare and the art both reflect the diversity of South African people. The Mopani worm, a specialty of the Venda ethnic group, is served alongside 'bobotie,' a traditional Dutch-Afrikaaner dish.

Lessons for a Restaurant Management Job

Gramadoelas' uncompromising authenticity has led it to become a Johannesburg institution. The restaurant's success holds an important lesson for aspiring restaurant management professionals: your job is not to design a business that appeals to everyone, but one whose unique appeal draws the right customers from all over the world.