About the Old Ducky – A Tale of Two Duckies

“Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness”
(Auguste Escoffier).

A sentiment fully endorsed by his lifelong disciple, the innovative Old Ducky, Freda Appelbaum (Honour awarded 2004). Freda has won the admiration of European Royalty, International Statesmen, Hollywood actors etc. She has come out of retirement to oversee our kitchen which is staffed by her beloved senior award winning chefs. Despite the accolades and awards Freda has never sat on her laurels. Rather her laurels are simply put into the cooking pot with other herbs!


Marina Appelbaum was born into restaurants and has very happily chosen to ‘live in’ and own them. She is renowned for her long standing experience, natural talent and gracious hospitality. Her early experience as the assistant to the manager of the renowned 5 star Ritz Hotel in Mayfair, London, has proven invaluable. She learnt very early on that excellence matters.


Clearly the young ducky will oversee the restaurant while the old ducky will dominate from the kitchen wings, thereby ensuring that guests are made to feel welcome, and able to nestle happily in the environs of The Old Ducky French Café.

Freda Appelbaum

Freda Appelbaum

Marina Appelbaum

Marina Appelbaum

Visitors to Pineslopes in Fourways are about to have the unique opportunity to embark on a culinary adventure designed by two highly creative women: Marina and Freda Appelbaum (daughter-in-law and mother-in-law no-less).
Their restaurant named The Old Ducky French Cafe is due to open in early December.

The Appelbaum’s new modern French Restaurant is designed to be a warm, engaging, inviting, authentic and intimate atmosphere to meet, enjoy modern French and international cuisine whilst sipping on a selection of French and South African wines and beverages.

The inspired and exciting menu will take you on a culinary journey into a secret world of provincial, modern, tasty and mouth-watering flavours. Furthermore, it will remain open during the course of the day, 7 days a week to serve guests the latest in savory baguettes, croissants, fresh rolls, cakes and waffles.

Freda Appelbaum spent over 25 years in the much loved award winning and renowned restaurant Le Canard (The Duck). Despite her cranky knees (Freda’s – not the Duck’s) and unsurpassed expertise in classic and contemporary French and European food, Freda is drawn to creating fabulous modern 21st Century dishes. The Old Ducky French Cafe’s kitchen, while fully overseen by Freda, will be run by senior members of the same award-winning team that worked with her at Le Canard.

While oddly hyperactive and extremely demanding about standards, Marina Appelbaum is extraordinarily gracious with every guest. Clearly the old ducky will dominate from the kitchen wings and the “young” duck will manage the restaurant – thereby ensuring that guests are made to feel welcome and are able to nestle happily in the environs of The Old Ducky French Cafe.

Let me tell you a bit about Marina and Freda Appelbaum. Freda being the grand Dame of old duckys – first:

From 1987 until 2013, when Freda “retired”, those who enjoyed great food, and wine, and valued atmosphere and ambience chose to dine at Freda’s Le Canard Restaurant situated in Morningside Sandton. Le Canard was an elegant and beautiful restaurant in a Georgian style home with high ceilings, hand painted walls, a scattering of beautiful French antiques, large arrangements of lovely fresh cut flowers, polished silver, Bohemian crystal and German porcelain. Despite its relative grandeur, it had the atmosphere of a spacious French noble home: a warm, comfortable and welcoming place where one was made to feel special.

Le Canard was showered with countless national and international awards and invited to be a member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs (International). Freda also received the honour of being the first recipient in Africa and one of few women chefs in the world to be declared a Disciple of Escoffier.

Le Canard’s fine dining standards ensured a steady stream of celebrities (such as Quincy Jones, and Jane Goodall ); statesmen and stateswomen (such as Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan and Sonia Gandhi); politicians (such President Cyril Ramaphosa,  Prime Minister Jan Balkenende of the Netherlands, President Fernando Cardoso of Brazil and even Prime Minister  Mikhail Kasyanov of Russia ); billionaires (such as Bill Gates, Nancy Rockefeller and Tony O’Reilly); singers (such as Dionne Warwick and Miriam Makeba); classical musicians (such as violinist Daniel Bell and Metropolitan opera House’s Johan Botha); actors such as Lord Richard Attenborough and Sir Peter Ustinov); entertainers such as Hugh Masekela and Lord of the Dance, Michael Flately)  – Royalty such as Her Royal Highness Benedikte of Denmark and His Royal Highness Prince Bandar Bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia and many more.

Freda has always been too grounded to care about fame and celebrity. For her, any food lover was a favoured guest and despite the accolades and awards Freda never sat on her laurels. Rather, her laurels were simply put into the cooking pot with other herbs!

Marina grew into young adulthood in the kitchen of her family’s Three Sisters Restaurant in the vibrant unusually cosmopolitan world of 1980’s Hillbrow. The Three Sisters was one of Hillbrow’s (and to a significant extent also) Johannesburg’s most iconic greeting, meeting and eating venues. After her post- graduate studies, Marina decided to go to London to learn more about the international culinary world.  In London, she gained invaluable ‘hospitality’ experience working as head hostess and assistant to the manager of the renowned 5 star Ritz Hotel in Mayfair. Whereas, in Hillbrow, Marina had learnt to engage with all sorts of people, through the Ritz she learnt to engage with British royalty, aristocracy, celebrity and so on. Significantly, she gained invaluable experience from some of the world finest hospitality and restaurant specialists and learnt firsthand that “people are people irrespective of their nationality, social class, race or ethnicity.”

On her return to South Africa, Marina and her brother, following the entrenched family tradition opened their own very successful Three Sisters Restaurant in Rosebank.  The restaurant was transformed from a shell to a beautiful cutting edge late-night cafe where people came to meet, mix and eat well.

But, after the birth of her first child Marina, realized that she wouldn’t be able to sustain the 17 hour work days that The Three Sisters demanded. Using her academic background in psychology she catapulted herself into the world of life skills training and activism.

Unsurprising, given Marina’s guts, ingenuity and stamina, her work in life skills became the precursor for the Life Orientation (LO) subject now taught in all South African schools. Moreover, her 5-day HIV and AIDS Awareness Program (developed for Standard Bank) was used locally, nationally and in 13 other African countries. Notably, it led to awards such as the:  Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS 2008 Workplace Awards for Business Excellence and the AfriComNet Award for Excellence in HIV and AIDS Communication in Africa.

Marina’s decision to author a cartoon type HIV/Aids Book, designed to penetrate the stigmas attached to talking about, reading about and addressing the HIV/Aids pandemic was regarded as a breakthrough in HIV /AIDS training and activism. The book was translated into — languages and hundreds of thousands of copies have and are still being sold.

As her children grew into young adulthood Marina felt the need to dive back into the restaurant world – a world she had known so well and loved. She opened a very popular Rocomamas and the best Greek eatery in town, Nikos, both of which are in Pineslopes. Marina thoroughly loves her restaurants!

While at the Ritz though, Marina had dreamed of opening a “fabulous affordable French restaurant with ritzy food standards but a much more modern and engaging, albeit still Ritzy vibe.  Marina somehow managed to persuade Freda her “famous” Le Canard mom-in-law to come out of retirement in order that she and Freda can stun Johannesburg’s dining scene with their collective half a century’s worth of experience and wisdom, with their unmatched creativity, love of French food and inviting modern atmosphere. Johannesburg diners are in for an additional ‘Marina graced’ treat!

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