Once, chef Brett Ladds was given a cigar by Fidel Castro, he talked
weightlifting with Swazi king Mswati III and his cooking made
Quincy Jones sing. For many years he also served Nelson Mandela
many cups of rooibos tea and made him his favourite meals.
Ladds was the executive chef of the SA government and
manager of the presidential guesthouse at Bryntirion Estate in
Pretoria from 1994-1999 where he served both Mandela and
Thabo Mbeki. It was a naive and star-struck 21-year-old Ladds who
started working at the guesthouse in the months before the first
democratic election. During this time he was always in the
background when struggle stalwarts like Steve Tshwete, Joe
Modise and Dullah Omar met Mandela to discuss the future of the
This heart-warming book tells of a young man’s coming of age at
a turning point in our history. His stories about meeting kings and
queens, presidents, rock stars and even the pope are laced with
his unique, self-deprecating sense of humour. Of Queen Elizabeth
he says it felt like speaking to his gran. “I asked myself, how does
all that power fit into this lovely, caring lady?” Of Robert Mugabe:
“He never moaned about a thing.”
Then there are the Russian diplomats and their drinking habits
and the Saudi-Arabian sheik who had 8 television sets installed in
his room and bought 20 blankets at R5000 each for his stay.
It’s a book to make you laugh and cry. And Madiba’s favourite
champagne? PÍche Royale . . .
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