Once, chef Brett Ladds was given a cigar by Fidel Castro, he talked weightlifting with Swazi King Mswati III and his cooking made Quincy Jones sing. For many years he also served Nelson Mandela cups of rooibos tea and made him his favourite meals.
Ladds was the executive chef of the SA government and manager of the presidential guesthouse at Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria from 1994 to 1999 where he served both Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. During this time, he managed the presidential guesthouse, cooked daily for the president and his guests and catered for 54 state banquets. It was a naïve and star-struck 21-year-old Ladds who started working at the guesthouse in the months before the first democratic election. During this time he was always in the background when struggle stalwarts like Steve Tshwete, Joe Modise and Dullah Omar met Mandela to discuss the future of the country.
This heart-warming book tells of a young man’s coming of age at a turning point in our history. His stories about meeting kings and queens, presidents, rock stars and even the pope are laced with his unique, self-deprecating sense of humour. Of Queen Elizabeth, he says it felt like speaking to his gran. ‘I asked myself, how does all that power fit into this lovely, caring lady?’ Of Robert Mugabe: ‘He never moaned about a thing.’
Then there are the Russian diplomats and their drinking habits and the Saudi-Arabian sheikh who had eight television sets installed in his room and bought 20 blankets at R5 000 each for his stay.
And Madiba’s favourite champagne? Pêche Royale…
It’s a book to make you laugh and cry.