Situated on the banks of the Zambezi River, The Elephant Café was voted Zambia’s best new restaurant of 2016, and has been nominated for a 2017 Luxury Travel Guide Award. Head chef Annabel Hughes discusses the inspiration behind this unique bush restaurant
Where did your passion for food come from?
My passion for food was ignited when I started growing my own vegetable garden in the US in 2007 – 25 years after I qualified as a chef. When I completed the Master Naturalist course in Virginia in 2011, I began to forage for wild edibles in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where I lived. These three elements led to the ‘bush gourmet cuisine’ that I’ve been developing since I moved to Livingstone four years ago.
What is the inspiration behind your menu?
Since moving here, I have been expanding my organic garden and experimenting with wild and indigenous Zambian ingredients. While my recipes are inspired by European, South East Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, the menu changes according to the fresh food available on any given day. Much of the produce is foraged within a 20-mile radius of the restaurant.
Did you have plans to start up a restaurant such as The Elephant Café when you settled in Zambia?
I had no such plans. I was recipe testing in my rustic bush kitchen, fusing together my organic garden produce with the wild edibles that grew in the teak forests around our house. This, along with a chance meeting at the right time, led to me being asked to lead The Elephant Café.