Yes, I am so excited!!! Finally, the wait is over for curious foodies around the country! After much anticipation, the line-up of judges for the recently reimagined American Express Dining Awards programme – has finally been revealed. Judging has been taking place in eateries of all shapes and sizes since July and is now closed, but the names of the judges have been kept secret so as not to compromise the judging process.

The iconic American Express Dining Awards programme has been the premier showcase of South Africa’s culinary scene for 21 years and now features an expanded range of categories similar to those used in the World Restaurant Awards.

“The aim of the new format is to recognise establishments in a number of different categories that didn’t even exist 20 years ago,” says Chris Wood, Head of American Express South Africa. “The restaurant industry has changed radically since we first launched the programme and we want to recognise that innovation. And we’ve naturally chosen top foodies and media personalities to do the judging.”

Steve Steinfeld, food and wine journalist, food critic, and founder of and content creator for the hugely popular Instagram-based restaurant showcase, The Joburg Foodie, will lead the line-up as Head Judge. He is ably supported by Clive Aaron, who was inspired to train as a chef by the iconic River Café TV series, and Greg Maloka, who played a leading role in the launch of the breakout youth radio station, YFM, in the 1990s and who is today at the helm at Kaya FM.

Some of the 2020 American Express Dining Awards Winners could also win in the newly-introduced categories below:

1. American Express Restaurant of the Year: For the restaurant that receives the highest rating in all categories from the panel of judges;
2. American Express Members’ Choice: For the best restaurant as reviewed by American Express Cardmembers;
3. Best Newcomer: For the best new restaurant to debut on the American Express Dining Awards list;
4. Best-Kept Secret: For the restaurant that isn’t on everyone’s radar, but deserves to be;
5. Pioneer Chef: For the visionary chef who has introduced creative and ground-breaking innovations;
6. Young Talent: For an ambitious new talent; a young chef under the age of 30 who is running his or her own restaurant, a sommelier with a unique approach, or a waiter with a special talent for delivering excellent service;
7. Pure SA: For a restaurant that boldly celebrates inclusivity and community; one in which both the food and the ambience is uniquely South African;
8. Service: For service excellence from the time diners make their booking until the time they leave the restaurant;
9. Wine: For the most comprehensive wine selection and the most knowledgeable and professional sommelier service; and
10. Style: For an establishment with a unique style and flair.

The programme’s new format demonstrates Amex’s alignment with the lifestyle interests of its customers and especially its established presence in the culinary space.

Along with the names of the judges, the names of the candidates shortlisted have also been announced. These include eateries that are experimenting with the very latest trends which are completely redefining the established concept of fine dining.

American Express has wished all shortlisted candidates everything of the very best ahead of the announcement of the winners.

The shortlisted candidates, in alphabetical order, are:
1. 95 Keerom Cape Town City
2. 96 Winery Road Helderberg
3. Abingdon Midlands
4. Aubergine Cape Town City
5. Azure Oudekraal
6. Babel at Babelonstoren Franschhoek
7. Bellagio Illovo
8. Bellgables Muldersdrift
9. Bistro Sixteen82 Constantia
10. Bombay Brasserie Cape Town City
11. Bud Marsh Magaliesburg
12. Buitenverwachting Constantia
13. Café de Sol Botanico Bryanston
14. Camphors at Vergelegen Somerset West
15. Cavalli Estate Stellenbosch
16. Culinary Table Restaurant Lanseria
17. De Oude Kraal Bloemfontein
18. DW eleven-13 Dunkeld
19. Eike Stellenbosch
20. Epicure Sandton
21. Foliage Franschhoek
22. Forti Grill & Bar Pretoria
23. Fyn Cape Town City
24. Gåte Stellenbosch
25. GOLD Restaurant Cape Town City
26. Greenhouse Constantia
27. Grei at The Saxon Sandhurst
28. Hacklewood Port Elizabeth Walmer
29. Hartford House Mooi River
30. Ile Maurice Umhlanga Rocks
31. Indochine Stellenbosch
32. Jardine Stellenbosch
33. Jordan Stellenbosch
34. Kurland Restaurant Plettenberg Bay
35. La Colombe Constantia
36. La Cuccina di Ciro Parktown North
37. La Tête Cape Town City
38. Le Coin Francais Franschhoek
39. Le Petite Colombe Franschhoek
40. Makaron Stellenbosch
41. Marble Rosebank
42. Marigold Franschhoek
43. Mimosa Lodge Montagu
44. Mrs Simpson’s Dullstroom
45. NCW Melville
46. Nobu Cape Town Waterfront
47. Overture Stellenbosch
48. Priva Gastrolounge Pretoria
49. PRON Linden
50. Protégé Franschhoek
51. Qunu Sandhurst
52. Red Chamber Hyde Park
53. Restaurant 7 Stellenbosch
54. Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient Pretoria, Crocodile River Valley
55. Rust en Vrede Stellenbosch
56. Saint Sandton
57. Salsify Camps Bay
58. Serendipity Wilderness
59. Silver Orange Hartbeespoort
60. Spice Westbrook Durban
61. Springfontein Eats Standford
62. Terroir Stellenbosch
63. The Chefs’ Table Umhlanga Rocks
64. The Foodbarn Noordhoek
65. The Pot Luck Club Woodstock
66. The Restaurant at Waterkloof Somerset West
67. The Shortmarket Club Cape Town City
68. The Test Kitchen Woodstock
69. The Werf Restaurant Boschendal Groot Drakenstein
70. Transkaroo Great Brak
71. Yamato Illovo
72. Zinzi Plettenberg Bay

The American Express Dining Awards 2020 winners for the Gauteng region will be announced on 14 October, while those for the Western Cape region will be announced on 21 October 2019.

In South Africa, Nedbank Ltd is the licensed issuer of American Express-branded cards and also signs up merchants to accept American Express Card transactions.

Find out more about the awards and Amex on their website, here…

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