UN­SUNG HERO

Food & Home - - Contents -

Liv­ing the best of his nine lives,

The Oyster Box’s res­i­dent cat, Sk­abenga, is glid­ing through life by the tips of his whiskers

FROM RAGS TO RICHES

I think I must be the luck­i­est cat in KwaZulu-Na­tal, maybe even the world. I had a dif­fi­cult start in life:

I was a stray kit­ten, or­phaned and alone. With no bas­ket to call my own, I was des­tined for a life of scratch­ing through bin bags. But some­thing in­side me said that fate and fe­line for­tune favour the brave, so I wan­dered into the foyer of the 5-star ho­tel and in­tro­duced my­self to the staff. I was too young to know that this was not nor­mal kitty con­duct. That was over a decade ago and, I must say, I truly fell on my feet. The lovely ladies at the front desk gave me a saucer of milk and a much­needed cud­dle. They also gave me the name Sk­abenga – an adap­ta­tion of the Zulu word ‘sgebengu’, which means ‘hooli­gan’ or ‘vagabond’. I think it suits my style. AT­TUNED TO PURR-FECTION

I take my role as cat concierge ex­tremely se­ri­ously: I make sure to in­tro­duce my­self to new guests as they ar­rive – The Oyster Box may be grand, but we pride our­selves on a warm wel­come. I also tour the en­tire prop­erty sev­eral times a day with the ex­press aim of check­ing and re-check­ing each and ev­ery out-of-the-sun spot – it is im­por­tant to en­sure that we are of­fer­ing su­pe­rior and sooth­ing shade at all times. Fur­ther­more, cush­ions and couches must be snug­gled metic­u­lously, so as to main­tain max­i­mum kitty com­fort. My Face­book page (@Sk­aben­gaAtOys­terBox) has more than 3 000 lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional fol­low­ers, so, keep­ing them in­formed of my com­ings and go­ings is an­other pri­or­ity. GOURMAND OF NOTE Each morn­ing, I check in at the kitchen. Our multi-award-win­ning ex­ec­u­tive chef, Kevin Joseph, knows I am par­tic­u­larly par­tial to a prawn cock­tail, so he makes sure to set aside sam­ples. I am very happy to help out with hu­man food qual­ity con­trol but, for sev­eral years, my fe­line fo­cus (one might even say my pet project) has been the de­sign­ing of menus specif­i­cally aimed at the posh palates of the dogs and cats who of­ten ac­com­pany their hu­man com­pan­ions to The Oyster Box. Our bill of fare in­cludes dog-friendly ‘Woof Waf­fles’ (served with boere­wors and gravy) and my favourite, ‘The Purring Fe­line’, which com­prises strips of steamed chicken breast with a bowl of cream on the side. Hav­ing pre­vi­ously had an is­sue with obe­sity, I work closely with the team at Hill’s Pet Nu­tri­tion to pro­mote well­ness within each of The Oyster Box’s an­i­mal-friendly epi­curean of­fer­ings. THE CEN­TRE OF AT­TEN­TION

My el­e­gant food phi­los­o­phy seeks to com­bine healthy eat­ing with mod­er­ate reg­u­lar ex­er­cise and stress man­age­ment, but I do oc­ca­sion­ally splash out and cel­e­brate in style. Each year, the ho­tel throws me a birth­day party at which over 100 of my clos­est hu­man friends cel­e­brate with kitty-shaped canapés and Cham­pagne ga­lore. This year, my fab­u­lous friend, the ho­tel’s food and bev­er­age op­er­a­tions man­ager, Michael Smith, treated me and my fans to a vast and lux­u­ri­ous choco­late cake topped with a sugar sculp­ture of my good self. I am aware of my im­mense good for­tune – thus, in lieu of birth­day presents, I al­ways re­quest that do­na­tions be made in my name to lo­cal an­i­mal char­i­ties.

SANTA PAWS

Christ­mas is an­other time for tasty treats. This year, The Oyster Box has three dis­tinct Yule­tide of­fer­ings on Christ­mas Day and I plan to make an ap­pear­ance at each one. Frankly, my fans and fol­low­ers ex­pect it, and I would hate to dis­ap­point them. First, I will join the din­ers at the Pearl Room for a prestarter of salmon-and-dill pesto en croûte, and then I will take a turn through The Grill Room for a bite of or­ganic grass-fed sir­loin. Ob­vi­ously, I will save space for a nib­ble of de­li­cious roast turkey with wal­nut-and-sage stuff­ing on The Ocean Ter­race.

I hope to spend Boxing Day re­lax­ing on my favourite red vel­vet cush­ion in the ho­tel’s gift shop. Per­haps I will also tot­ter through to the kitchen for a chipo­lata or two…

2 LIGHT­HOUSE ROAD, UMH­LANGA, KWAZULU-NA­TAL; 031-514-5000; OYSTERBOXHOTEL.COM

ABOVE: FROM LEFT TO RIGHT – THE OYSTER BOX FOOD AND BEV­ER­AGE OP­ER­A­TIONS MAN­AGER, MICHAEL SMITH; RESER­VA­TIONS AND REV­ENUE MAN­AGER, AN­GELA VENNIKER; RES­I­DENT CAT, SK­ABENGA; AND EX­EC­U­TIVE CHEF, KEVIN JOSEPH, AT SK­ABENGA’S BIRTH­DAY PARTY IN OC­TO­BER THIS YEAR

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