Under the oak trees
So, how does a young girl’s dream of one day becoming a chef turn into a reality?
Charmaine Ann Lilje’s dream of becoming a chef started with a childhood job serving home-cooked meals after school. Later that year she initiated her school’s first catering club and was awarded an entrepreneurial certificate. A degree in business laid the foundation for her business management skills but it was travel that reignited her passion for food.
After her travels an inspired Charmaine returned to Cape Town and secured an unpaid job at Olympia Cafe. Soon she was running the pass, creating menus and earning a small salary.
Several months later Charmaine joined the La Colombe Restaurant team as Chef de Partie under Franck Dangereux. Within months she was 3rd in command. When Dangereux resigned Charmaine filled the Head Chef position. Shortly thereafter, with the arrival of Luke Dale-Roberts, Charmaine became Sous Chef of Africa’s number one restaurant.
Charmaine’s course shifted with the sudden death of her mother. And on 1 January 2009 Chardonnay Chefs was born. This exclusive catering company boasted a high profile client list and served with professionalism for over six years. Soon she was ready for her next challenge. And on 21 December 2014 Chardonnay Deli at High Constantia opened its doors.
Set in the beautifully restored historical premises at 87 Constantia Main Road, the building dates back to 1888. The name, Chardonnay Deli, is derived from a combination of two names: Charmaine and her close friend and former partner, Donovan Le Cok.
Chardonnay Deli’s success energised and inspired Charmaine. Drawn to picturesque Kalk Bay and to a historical building built in 1895; Chardonnay Deli at Dalebrook was born. This atmospheric, seaside space allowed Charmaine to continue sharing her passion for food, her hospitality and her flair.
Charmaine’s boundless entrepreneurial spirit meant that a third chapter was inevitable. And as a result Chardonnay Deli at Uitsig opened its doors on 15 October 2023. This third restaurant marks a full circle for Charmaine, taking her back to the place where her success was defined. Chardonnay Deli at Uitsig is a blend of Charmaine’s greatest passions – flavoursome food, inviting wines and an exquisite setting.
Each Chardonnay Deli is unique. Located in beautiful, historically rich settings, each restaurant reflects Charmaine’s rustic style, her belief in moving back to basics and her love for good, simple, uncomplicated food.