Fear of the unknown is one thing which Chef Phil Mansergh is determined to get the public to see past, in his quest to make kelp a major, sustainable source of food – and here’s how he’s on his way to success.

Phil Mansergh grew up near Fish Hoek, spent two years in the Navy and a new mission now draws him back to the sea. The Kelpshack is part of the Soetwater Environmental Centre’s quest to spread the word on this food. The structure itself is upcycled and made with second-hand building materials.

“The Kelp Shack is a space where I educate people through a culinary event exploring the uses of kelp in food,” says Phil. Harvesting kelp is a sustainable process.

Phil explains that he paddles out on his board and selects the leaves according to the dishes that he creates. He is careful to only cuts the fronds 20 centimetres from the bladder of the plant so that those leaves can regrow and regenerate.

“Working with kelp as a food source has drawn my attention more towards the great African sea forest and the importance of what it does to our ocean environment. Kelp is known as a keystone organism, it’s an environment generator and if you take away kelp, you take away the environment,” he explains.

Phil makes various foods with kelp ranging from lasagne, ravioli, a miso-like soup, deep-fried kelp and the list goes on. Kelp is versatile and through creating recipes that have Italian or traditional food roots, he hopes that it will ease anxious customers’ nerves who could be trying kelp for the first time. 

Customers have described the kelp in their meals as clean and fresh and Phil thinks that’s the biggest compliment. Phil mentions that the experimentation with kelp is never-ending and that recently he’s been pickling, making chutneys and sweet treats. 

“From a health perspective, there’a a lot that still needs to be explored regarding the cooking of kelp. I think because it’s a largely unknown quantity, that information still has to come to the surface,” Phil says.

Whether braaid or baked in a lasagne, Phil Mansergh shows the best way to get past fears of foods you find different, is of course, to cook them.

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