Insect-only eatery is hoping to entice diners to try their appetizing edible bugs

Big bugs or just your regular edible insects aren’t exactly the dish of choice for most people, but this diner aims to change that by incorporating insects into their culinary creations.

For food scientist Leah Bessa and her partners, bugs have a lot of potential as a food source. Their South Africa-based restaurant, Gourmet Grubb, serves ice cream made not of dairy, but of insect-based milk that they call “EntoMilk”. They source it from the Hermetia illucens, or the black soldier fly.

big bugs
Gourmet Grubb

Since June, they have installed a pop-up food concept in Cape Town that they named The Insect Experience. The food served here features insects that are presented the same way as a typical gourmet dish.

“We sort of wanted to try and create a viable protein alternative that is sustainable and ethical and could really create quite a positive change going into the future,” Leah said.

According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there are over 1,900 recorded edible insects consumed around the globe.

big bugs
Pasta with black soldier fly larvae, garnished with mealworms | Gourmet Grubb

Edible big bugs are packed with nutrients, according to Leah. For one, they possess a quality protein that has the right amino acid profile apt for human consumption. Aside from this, they are also rich in zinc, iron, fiber, and have a healthy fat profile. In short, insects are potentially a sustainable source of food.

“Insects are very underutilized or not really very well understood, so we really wanted to try and highlight their potential. And also their taste, as well, because you know people don’t really know much about them, what they taste like, how they can be used,” Leah said.

Mopane Fries | Gourmet Grubb

An example of an insect-based dish is the mopane polenta fries born from the culinary expertise of chef Mario Barnard. These fries are made with flour produced from mopane worms and are sprinkled with mopane chili salt.

“We try to make it as visually pleasing for everybody to just introduce it. It helps with your mental block,” the chef told CGTN.

While it may seem like an unusual ingredient in other parts of the world, the consumption of insects is nothing new.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, there is an estimated 2 billion people in the world who eat insects. This behavior is primarily observed in some parts of Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

big bugs for dinner

But the interest in entomophagy – or the consumption of insects by humans – is growing, especially now that the global demand for food strains resources. Now, we are seeing chefs incorporating them into their dishes.

It is mostly locals that have dropped by to have a taste of the creations at The Insect Experience, which is being dubbed as the first restaurant in South Africa to focus exclusively on insects. The original plan was to keep the pop-up open until the end of August, but Leah and her partners now aim to keep it operational through the middle of 2020, with the possibility of opening up at different locations every few months.

Most of the insects used at The Insect Experience are sourced from South African farms except for mopane worms, which are sourced from Zimbabwe.

Would you be willing to try any of these dishes?