First restaurant with insects on the menu opens up in Cape Town

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Insects as a food source might not be your typical idea of a scrumptious meal, but that is exactly what a new restaurant in Woodstock, Cape Town, is experimenting with – yes, insect-based dishes!

Gourmet Grubb, a company known for its “bug ice cream”, has opened a pop-up bug restaurant, the first of its kind in Cape Town. The restaurant, called The Insect Experience, offers delicacies like mopane polenta, black-fly-larvae croquettes and deep-fried dark chocolate black-fly-larvae ice cream.

The Insect Experience in Woodstock, Cape Town

The idea of eating insects might not be for everyone, but a new concept store in Cape Town tells more about this notion and why it is worth a try.

Leah Bessa, one of the founders of Gourmet Grubb, tell more about the concept of eating insects.

Deep fried ice cream

A concept pop-up store was recently opened, called The Insect Experience – how does it fit in with Gourmet Grubb? What is the relation between the two?

Gourmet Grubb is essentially our company, and is developing insect-based ingredients that are suitable for the food industry.

We have developed a dairy alternative from insects, and have used it to make a dairy-free ice cream.

The Insect Experience is a concept store that we have developed to introduce the concept of eating insects in a modern and gourmet way, to show consumers what they can taste like when they are cooked and prepared.

We use our insect-based ingredients at the concept store; however, we want it to be collaborative, so we have also included products from other insect-based companies in South Africa, such as the mopane salt from True Food and the mealworm products from Insektivore. We have also collaborated with Chef Mario on the dishes.

Gourmet Grubb ice cream

Please tell us more about The Insect Experience.

The Insect Experience is a concept store with tasting-style dishes, allowing people to try a variety of dishes, all plated beautifully and tastefully. 

Hard at work preparing meals

How did the idea of The Insect Experience come about? What was the inspiration behind the idea?

The idea was to change consumers’ perceptions around eating insects, while introducing insects to South Africans as a modern culinary experience.

We wanted to host a concept store where we could interact with people and get their feedback on the dishes and the insects, to give us more insight into how consumers really feel about eating insects, especially when it’s in a culinary setting.

We felt that consumers had this negative perception about eating insects, without really having had the opportunity to taste them, and without having any understanding about them as a food ingredient. This is what we wanted to change.

Insect pasta

So, basically, The Insect Experience is a restaurant where you can eat dishes with insects or bugs being one of the ingredients in them?

Yes, it’s a concept restaurant, built on the idea of changing consumers’ perceptions around eating insects. It’s all tasting-style dishes, allowing people to try a variety of options with different insects. 

Mopane pasta dish

Fried polenta

Why insects? Where did the idea of using them in food and making a business from it start for you guys?

With the challenges we are facing with food production and climate change, we really wanted to focus on creating a change that could have a high impact on the food system.

Insects are eaten widely around the world; however, in Western food systems, we have an aversion to them. We wanted to find a way to use these underutilised resources, which are incredibly healthy and environmentally friendly, and bring them into the Western market in a way that would work well for Western consumers.

Through my masters research (food science at Stellenbosch University), I found that the black soldier fly larvae have such incredible potential, and we wanted to move it from the academic forum to the consumers, where the impact lies. 

Black soldier fly croquettes

What insects are on the menu?

Currently, our main insect that we use is the black soldier fly larvae, but we also have mopane worms (True Foods), mealworms (Insektivore) and silkworms (Ensekta). 

Would you please tell us more about the different food dishes available and options served on the menu?

Dishes include mopane polenta, black-fly-larvae croquettes and deep-fried dark chocolate black-fly-larvae ice cream. We do have other dishes, which the chef adds as he goes along. Click here to view the full menu.

Gourmet Grubb ice cream

What normally are people’s first reactions when eating insects for the first time?

It really ranges. Many people are incredibly excited about it; some are more hesitant, but once they try it, they are all pleasantly surprised. Consumers’ reactions have been amazing, and the feedback has far exceeded anything we could have anticipated.

What would you tell people who are too scared to try eating insects, to motivate them to give it a go?

I tell them it’s delicious, and no different to anything else you eat. I motivate by telling them how healthy they are and how good they are for the environment.

Gourmet Grubb ice cream

What would you say to motivate people to visit The Insect Experience?

It’s not every day that you can go somewhere and try something completely new. The best part of The Insect Experience is that you will leave thinking it was much better than you expected.

Visit their website for more information.

  • Photos: provided
Buro: MvH
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