How does a 12 year old girl’s dream of one day becoming a chef turn into a reality?

The recipe: Passion. People. And a lot of hard work.

Always independent, Charmaine Lilje moved out of home at 16 and took her first position in catering at Jack Sprats, serving homecooked meals after school. A year later, she had finished school with an entrepreneurial certificate in hand, and the legacy of having started the school’s first catering club.

A self-funded tertiary education lay the foundations for her business management skills, but it was on her travels, working double shifts for a variety of hosts and visiting international food markets, where Charmaine found the real and raw opportunity to learn about the industry, and to fuel her passion for food.

Her hunger to gain experience continued and Charmaine secured an unpaid job as a Junior Chef at Olympia Café. While cheffing and waitressing on alternating shifts to pay the bills and learn, Charmaine proved to owner Kenneth McClarty that “she has what it takes”.  Three months later, she was running the pass, coming up with menu ideas and earning a small salary.

Still Charmaine wanted to learn more, and so she joined the La Colombe Restaurant team as a Chef de Partie under Frank Dangeroux. Within months she was third in command as a Junior Sous Chef for Africa’s number one restaurant. When Frank Dangeroux resigned, Charmaine filled the Head Chef position for eight months until Luke Dale-Roberts took over. Charmaine continued to learn under him as Sous Chef until her next opportunity arose.

Her next move was to “fine dining in the bakery” at Olympia Café’s historic bakery, but with the sudden death of her mom, Charmaine began re-evaluating her life, goals and dreams. On 1 January 2009, she opened her first business – Chardonnay Chefs, an exclusive catering company. Throughout this time, Charmaine’s entrepreneurial spirit was always burning and six years later she evolved Chardonnay Chefs into Chardonnay Deli. Opened on 21 December 2014, Chardonnay Deli was her first restaurant and farmstall, set in the beautifully restored historical premises at 87 Constantia Main Road. While the building dates back to 1888, and is steeped in a rich and interesting history, the energy of this popular restaurant always remains fresh and welcoming.

When others may take time to rest on their journey, the success of Chardonnay Deli has only inspired Charmaine to create yet another beautiful space where she can share her love of good food with everyone around her.

Dalebrook Café is a continuation of the passion and energy that Charmaine puts into everything she does. She was naturally drawn to the historic site, built in 1895, and to Kalk Bay, the small town where it all first began. Her new creation pays homage to every person in her past who has played a role in her success, and to the acknowledgement that we all leave something behind in the spaces we fill. But most importantly, it is a celebration of the opportunity to share good food and beautiful spaces and to make many more people happy, every day.

Charmaine’s style is rustic, rooted to a belief that people are moving back to basics with a wish for simple, uncomplicated good food and good vibes. We hope that when you visit us, you’ll sense and feel the love for food, service and creativity that defines Dalebrook Café.

Dalebrook Café is a space born from journeys and dreams and filled with hard work and passion. We look forward to welcoming you into our restaurant, and hope that you’ll love it as much as we do.