Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Katelyn and the chocolate factory

DV Chocolate - nom nom nom!

I was like a kid on Christmas morning brimming with excitement and anticipation... after all it's not every day that a chocoholic is allowed to enter a real life chocolate factory! I hear you asking who was crazy enough to let the likes of me near their precious chocolate stock? Well, DV Artisan Chocolate, that's who! And what lovely people Cornel and Peter de Villiers are!

Cornel and Peter de Villiers

While setting up the shoot I was told that unfortunately we would be asked to wear hair nets due to safety regulations - clearly they didn't know who they were dealing with here - no ugly hair net would deter me from experiencing the incredible chocolate making process! My response? Don't worry, us Top Billing girls can rock a hair net! 

Photographer Angie and I working our hair nets!

The small chocolate factory is situated in the quaint town of Hermanus where the De Villiers family are the only 'Bean to Bar' chocolate makers in the country - and one of only a few in the world. With the latest trend of products being made using old-fashioned, back-to-basic techniques, DV Artisan chocolate is situated in a perfect niche market. Peter used to be a process engineer involved in building and automating machines to make products. He says he loved how at the end of the day, you push a button and you see your work and the machine running smoothly. But boredom struck and led Peter to research the basics of growing vegetables, wine and bread baking. He explains that the penny dropped when him and Cornel were sitting at a farmer's market when they noticed the only handmade product not available for sale was chocolate.

Cornel admits that Peter's first attempt at chocolate was difficult to swallow but eventually after testing and retesting, and playing around with aspects such as bean sourcing, roasting, grinding, conching and maturing they eventually developed the super smooth, flavour-rich chocolate they are moulding today. 


Peter discovered at an early stage that every batch of cacao beans had an incredibly diverse range of flavours. The public are not actually aware of this since most of the commercial chocolates are blended to maintain a level of consistency. They wanted to keep these original flavours which are influenced by conditions such as weather, seasons, altitude and harvest time. This is one aspect which makes DV Artisan chocolate so unique - each batch is different.

Peter's chocolate factory is a sight to behold! Situated in the garage at their Hermanus home, the aroma of thick melted chocolate hangs in the air constantly and Cornel admits that they've grown used to this - I swoon at the mere thought of being cocooned 24/7 by chocolate aromas! Each machine in the factory has been designed and handmade by Peter himself - the roaster, to the grinder, concher and tempering machine are all electronically automated. When we enter, three conchers are at various stages of grinding the chocolate and it amazes me at the difference in aromas and textures that each stage shows. After tempering, the chocolate gets poured into the custom DV moulds before they are matured and packaged. Yes I said matured - not many people know that chocolate needs to be aged to develop the flavours. Each batch of beans has their own optimum maturation time so the process requires careful planning when it comes to managing the supply of the bars.

When quizzed on what his favourite flavour was, like a proud father Peter diplomatically answers, 'Whatever flavour I'm working with that week.' To come up with the range, the family sat down with all the flavours and decided on their top 5. What's next for DV Artisan Chocolates? Peter is working on developing a proper cocoa powder and cocoa butter (which isn't yet readily available in the country) and Cornel, who is a qualified chocolatier, is looking at bringing out a range of DV pralines. The De Villiers' are intent that their chocolate will only be available at small boutiques, delis and wine estates as they feel their Artisan Chocolate should stay just that, produced on a small scale with each delicious bar getting the same attention, love and care.

Visit www.dvchocolate.com for details.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Microwave condensed milk fudge

Last week I found myself in a rather problematic situation - standing in front of my grocery cupboard with the incredibly difficult decision of what snack will best suit my rainy-day snuggling and Grey's Anatomy marathon... Just when I was about to give up and accept that my fluffy pink slippers would have to be swopped for boots (as a Lindt mission to the shop around the corner was obviously in order), I spotted a tin of condensed milk! 

In our family, condensed milk is the god of all things sweet, sticky and yummy. If the pantry was stocked with any kind of chocolate, sweet or biscuit you could imagine, the condensed milk would be the first to go. Always. Whether enjoyed straight out the can, with a teaspoon, or boiled in the tin to a thick gooey caramel.  Oh, but of course I'm forgetting fudge! One of the biggest debates in our family occurs when my mom whips out a tin of condensed milk after dinner and asks the same question which immediately jumped to mind while I was standing and eyeing that tin...

 Tin versus treat? Condensed milk or fudge? Can against confection. Much um’ing and ah’ing occurred before I settled on a batch of fudge – not, of course, without cleaning out the tin with my finger afterwards!

Mom's Lazy Microwave Condensed Milk Fudge
(makes 36 pieces)

125g butter, melted
2 cups castor sugar
1 tin (385g) condensed milk
1t vanilla extract

Combine butter and castor sugar in a large microwave safe bowl. 
Add condensed milk – do not stir. Microwave on high for about 10 minutes (stirring after 1 minute each time) or until a deep caramel golden brown. To test the fudge, smear a little of the mixture onto a plate or cold surface. If it sets, it's done. 
Allow to cool slightly and beat with a wooden spoon until the fudge starts to set. 
Pour into a 20cm square tin lined with baking paper and allow to set before cutting into squares.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Not your average cuppa joe

As a child I remember being told by my grandfather that I’d get worms in my tummy if I drank coffee. It never dawned on me that this was actually a big fat fib since he drank 5 cups of the strong black stuff each day… And besides, I would deal with worms any day just to get my daily caffeine fix.

Any addict worth their coffee beans, should know what Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is only (arguably) the best coffee in the world! So when I received a last-minute invitation to a very special tasting of this extremely expensive coffee, to say that I jumped at the chance would be an understatement!

But who would be so generous to share their bean treasure? David Donde, coffee evangelist and owner of TRUTH. coffeecult, that’s who. TRUTH. specialises in brewing and roasting artisinal coffees – in their own words “We roast coffee. Properly.” At TRUTH. coffee is a religion. There could not be a better place to worship the awesomeness that is Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, than at TRUTH.

I was told that the only way to taste coffee is by sipping an espresso. So, with the buzz of excitement filling the TRUTH. roastery, I savoured the taste of this exorbitantly expensive brew... I, with my sweet tooth, didn’t even feel the need to reach for my usual 2 sachets thanks to it’s velvety smoothness. Only slightly acidic and with a chocolatey after-taste, it was pure perfection in a cup. But perfection has a price: R60 a shot.

So why is it so expensive? Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is classification grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Over the last few decades, it has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world. In order to be labeled as such, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans must comply with a number of criteria set by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica: it must be grown in the Blue Mountains between the elevations of 3000 and 5500 feet. No coffee can be grown above this, as the area is forest reserve, and any coffee grown below this altitude cannot be labeled Jamaican Blue Mountain. So there is a limited amount of JBM coffee and a very high demand for it, hence the exorbitant price.

I’m sure there are many people out there who would raise more than an eyebrow at paying R60 for a cup of coffee, but think of it this way, anybody who has ever spent more than R350 on a bottle of wine, has payed about R60 for each glass… You could argue that it’s an excellent vintage from a good estate, but the same can be said for a cup of coffee. Ever heard of the quote “Life’s too short to drink bad wine”? well after that rather indulgent cuppa… I say life’s too short to drink bad coffee!


Photography by Julia Housdon

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How to poach an egg

Not many people can say that there is one thing that they are blindingly brilliant at, but honestly, all trumpet-blowing aside, I am the Princess of egg-poaching. I can only credit this to the many gruelling hours I spent on the breakfast shift of a 120 seater restaurant. When you have one hand babying 30 poached eggs in 6 separate saucepans of simmering water and the other furiously whisking a 12 egg hollandaise you learn pretty quickly how to master the art without landing up with… um egg on your face!

So here it is, step-by-step: the secret to perfect poached eggs!

Step 1: Bring a saucepan of water to a gentle simmer and add about 1T white vinegar. Crack a fresh, room temperature egg into a small bowl or ramekin.

Step 2: Swirl the water with a spoon to create a whirlpool and slowly drop the egg into the centre of the whirlpool. Leave for a few seconds before gently lifting the egg to make sure it isn’t stuck on the bottom of the saucepan. Allow the egg to poach, making sure the water doesn’t boil, to the desired stage.

Step 3: Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and place briefly on a clean tea towel. The egg is now ready to be served.

TIMING: Soft yolk 2-3 minutes
               Firm-set yolk 3-4 minutes

  • Don’t allow the water to boil as this might cause the delicate egg to break
  • The vinegar helps the eggs to coagulate quickly in the water and stops them falling apart
  • If you are poaching more than one egg, it is a good idea to have 2 saucepans of water on the stove: use the above method to poach the egg until soft yolk stage then gently transfer it into the other saucepan for the remaining cooking time whilst you poach another egg in the first. In professional kitchens, the eggs are poached to soft yolk stage beforehand then plunged into ice water and stored. To serve they are simply droppped into hot, salted water to heat
Happy poaching!

Photography by Richard Aaron

Monday, August 16, 2010

This is how I roll

Every now and then, whilst testing and developing many many recipes, I come across a real gem. The kind that gives me the urge to share its awesomeness with everyone (and yes, awesomeness is a word - I just invented it). I've never understood those foodies that don't share my optimism to dish out delish recipes; the one's that graciously accept a compliment for their superbly moist chocolate gateau or utterly light choux pastry but then um and ah when asked to dish the dirt on the recipe... After all, sharing is caring right?

Not if you're a sweet little old lady who is known for her outstanding bakes at the church bazaar! A friend of my grandmother's, she would willingly hand out her 'secret' recipes with a smile to those who asked... However, the product of her 'secret' recipes never seemed to emerge from other's oven's quite as perfectly as it did from hers! I can only imagine the scandal and sordidness of it all when it was discovered that the dear old dame would leave out an ingredient or two when passing on the recipe card! With that in mind, rest assured, the recipe for the most delicious Cinnamon rolls below is featured in all its original glory - no recipes were harmed in the posting of this blog!

Cinnamon rolls


Popular in Scandinavia where they are known as Kanelbullar, these buns are light, not too sweet and delicately spiced. They freeze extremely well - a quick pop in the microwave is all that stands between you, a cup of java and a freshly baked cinnamon bun for breakfast each morning.

(makes about 20)

800g flour
½t salt
2 packets yeast (10g each)
100g butter, melted
350ml milk
2 eggs

Cinnamon butter
2t ground cinnamon
100g castor sugar
100g butter, softened
1 egg, to glaze

Combine the flour, salt and yeast. Mix the butter, milk, eggs and stir into the flour mixture. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth using your hands or the dough hook in your mixer. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. Make the cinnamon butter by mixing together the cinnamon, sugar and butter. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 3 mm thick. Spread the cinnamon butter on the dough, and roll up to form a sausage, and cut into 2cm slices (cut fat 'v' shapes with the bottom of the 'v' about 2cm and the top about 5cm). Press down on each one with two fingers so the cinnamon stripes ooze outwards. Put the buns on an oiled and lined baking tray, allowing enough space in between for them to puff up as they rise and while they bake. Brush with beaten egg, and leave to rise for about 15-30 minutes and then bake for 20-25 minutes at 180ÂșC until they are golden. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Photography by Angie Lazaro

Friday, August 6, 2010


I've always tried to pinpoint the moment I realized I wanted my entire life to revolve around food; the moment it dawned on me that there was nothing in this world I would rather do than create food... I'm pretty sure it was that one Christmas day when I was about 8 years old and I unwrapped a mixing bowl with a set of measuring cups and spoons. At the time I was a little disappointed - baking utensils just didn't seem to live up to a Malibu Barbie - but after I was shown how to use them, I was hooked. From that day onwards, when I was asked "What do you want to be when you grow up?" my answer was "A chef".

During my 2 years at Top Billing, I've definitely had culinary experiences which have reignited that passion for food inside of me. One of these was a 12 course tasting menu at The Marine Hotel in Hermanus prepared by Peter Templehoff himself. It was a truly unbelievable meal and one that I thought could never be topped. Until, of course, I attended the launch of Peter's new Greenhouse restaurant at The Cellars-Hohenort. The meal that changed food for me. The best meal of my life (so far!)

The Victorian-style Greenhouse has been designed with lots of glass and white timber and has a chic cottage feel. It has a simple understated, elegant feel - very classical, but in a modern way. The glass ceiling and large windows cleverly bring the beautiful gardens inside. The fine dining restaurant is an intimate one with only 45 seats and is absolutely magical in the evening - dining under the stars.

Peter (who also studied at The Institute of Culinary Arts) is the Executive chef for The Collection by Liz McGrath which includes The Cellars-Hohenort in Constantia, The Marine in Hermanus and The Plettenberg in Plettenberg Bay - a job most certainly not for the faint-hearted! According to Peter, he had a bit of time off during the World Cup and like most chefs, simply couldn't sit still. He decided to create a special menu for the very special Greenhouse restaurant and this sees the introduction of his new conceptual cuisine. The tasting menu is designed so that each dish is a discovery and surprise. The descriptions on the menu leave you guessing until the dish arrives at the table (using interactive service by impeccable waitrons).

Take a look at the menu... it certainly does leave a lot to the imagination!

carpaccio of tuna, scallops & abalone
pickled daikon radish, wasabi bavarois, crispy seaweed
Klein Constantia, Brut MCC 2006

This was served on a cold glass slab with the carpaccio plated in alternating vertical stripes topped with quenelles of wasabi mousse, caviar and of course the daikon and seaweed. Peter is a perfectionist when it comes to presentation and this dish was no exception but the highlight was the mini copper pots the waiters brought to the table. One elegant sprinkling of the 'powdered dressing' (which was a reddish powder) and our table was covered in a thick blanket of clouds. After wading through the puffs of vapour and finding our plates and cutlery, the flavours were extremely well balanced and the Brut elevated the seafood to another level.

smoked ostrich tartar, avocado, horseradish espuma
Constantia Uitsig, Chardonnay 2009

...presented in an ostrich egg - yes, an ostrich egg! My version was minus the avocado (as I'm allergic FYI) which according to my dining partner was a vital component of the dish, but the horseradish espuma was a nice spicy accompaniment to the ostrich - an idea I intend on stealing unashamedly :)

langoustine and crayfish, sea sand, langoustine puree, langoustine bisque
Eagles Nest Viognier 2008

I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the most delicious food I have ever placed in my mouth! And that even includes any form of chocolate! The dish was served in a wide-rimmed soup plate. A shellfish sand (100% edible) was dusted on the rim which had a perfectly steamed mussel snuggled in the sand - to look just like the beach! How cute?! With a flourish the waiters appeared and poured steaming langoustine bisque into the centre of the bowl, over the langoustine and crayfish tails, which revealed a frothy white foam - just like ocean waves lapping at the sandy shore! Peter is an absolute genius!

roast duck, wild mushrooms, stuffed sprouts, bitter chocolate soil, Jerusalem artichoke bark, scent of forest floor
The Yardstick Pinot Noir 2009
by Adam Mason & Peter Templehoff*

The entire dining room had been waiting for this course and you could cut the anticipation with a knife - which is exactly why Peter made his way around the room calmly chatting away to guests - obviously enjoying the fact that he was teasing us! When I politely pointed out to our waiter that he'd forgotten our cutlery he sniggered and then told us that there was no mistake. We weren't getting any cutlery. Now I was confused and terribly excited! Just when we thought we were being served some food, a hot towel appeared on each table. We were given instructions to wipe our hands with the towel which was scented with forest aromas - mushrooms, dampness, pine... Then we were finally served the food... a plate of autumn leaves! Or so it appeared... We looked at our waiter for help who suggested we 'use your hands to forage for food'. Each leaf revealed a wild mushroom, truffle shaving, foie gras nugget or chocolate soil. We were surrounded by the flavours and armoas of a forest. Amazing. And so much fun!

*Yes, he even makes his own wine...

inverted creme brulee
Shochu Margarita Jelly Shot NV

A green tea mousse topped with a lime granita in a small water glass, and next to it a small corked jar filled with the Shochu shot along with a mini straw. We devoured the delicious combination of green tea and lime and the extremely boozy cocktail. Yummy! Except that, according to our waiter, we weren't done yet. Flip the water glass over and hiding in the concave of the glass was a perfect little creme brulee! oooo how I love surprises! Did I mention that Peter is a genius?!

camembert cheesecake, roast pineapple ice cream, pineapple compote, pine nut biscotti wafer
Vin de Hohenort 2007

Ok, be honest, pineapple and cheese? gross! But oh was I wrong. A miniature cheese board arrived at the table with what looked like a wheel of camembert - only it wasn't. It was a velvety, rich, delicious cheesecake with a subtle hint of camembert. The ice cream was intensely flavoured and very smooth - perfectly offset with the crisp biscotti wafer. The Vin de Hohenort definitely rounded off this dessert. It brought all the flavours together beautifully.

passionfruit bubble, chocolate-cardamom brulee
Buitenverwachting 1769 Natural Sweet 2007

Lucky for me, when Peter asked, I knew exactly what a tonka bean was! Last year our senior photographer attended a launch on my behalf and stole me a Tonka bean... (Thanks Angie!) His name is Katonka Tonk and he sits in a jar on my desk... Although after this dessert, he is most definitely going into a yummy frozen parfait! The passionfruit bubble looked like a perfect egg yolk, topped with gold leaf, and when placed in the mouth, exploded to reveal a sweet tangy passionfruit liquid. And with the bitter chocolate brulee, it was a sublime combination!

macaroons and truffles

Even the petit fours were breath-taking: white chocolate olive truffles and strawberry macaroons speared onto the tips of a miniature wire tree. The perfect ending to a meal that could not get any more perfect!

As I mentioned earlier, this is the 8-course tasting menu, which is R850 with wines and R550 without (although I really do suggest you opt for the wines as the pairings really do make a huge difference!) but they also offer an extremely exciting a la carte menu... Apparently it features a Fire & Ice Souffle (frozen and flambeed) on the menu which is to die for!

Now go and make a dinner reservation! Do it! NOW!
The Greenhouse at Cellars-Hohenort

Photographs supplied


Monday, July 19, 2010

Beetroot and Pressure Cookers

My grandmother's antique wooden jewellery box is lying open on the floor in front of me as my little sister and I sit and play dress-up with her pearls. I twist the shimmering string of beads around my neck until they look just right - how my granny wears them. My sister is trying to figure out an old, embroidered brooch - her dainty fingers fumbling on the tiny silver clasp. The clouds of mouth-watering aromas that waft from the kitchen and fall around us go completely unnoticed as we sit and dream about being elegant ladies in long gowns, with make-up and satin gloves.

As I grew older though, those billowing clouds became more noticeable and intriguing while the jewellery box was long forgotten. I would stand and watch my grandmother as she stirred, chopped, fried, roasted, boiled, pickled, stewed, steamed and (occasionally) burnt her way to the heart-warming and delicious meals that have embedded themselves in my memories.

My grandfather was an avid gardener, with a beautiful vegetable garden any chef would yearn for, so the vegetables my grandmother cooked were freshly harvested - usually by my sister and I. We would venture outside in our red gumboots, hats and sunblock (strict instructions from my mother) and yank bright orange carrots, turnips and beetroot from the moist, rich earth. Soil still clinging to the vegetables (and our hands and feet) we would proudly display our efforts to my grandmother who never seemed to notice that we trampled mud all over her carpet. This, I am sure, is where my love of fresh vegetables came from.

I remember a year when the beetroot had flourished and in an effort to spare us all from eating beetroot every day for a week, my grandmother decided to try her hand at pickling. She spent the good part of the day slashing the cheery purple vegetables into chunks. With the pressure cooker doing the rest of the labour, my grandmother got to work scrubbing the bright pink ink from her wrinkly fingers. There was a hiss from the kitchen and the pressure cooker abruptly exploded, flinging vinegary purple liquid on the ceiling, the walls, the floor and all over my poor grandmother. Needless to say, her fingers were the least of her worries!

As I grew older, my passion for baking began to blossom; however, my grandmother never seemed to share the same enthusiasm as I did over sponge cakes and iced biscuits. Most of my visits were spent sprawled in front of her bookcase, consumed by her ancient cookbooks, where I would spend hours choosing the perfect recipe then spend the next few hours begging her to help me make fluffy, white meringues that had to look exactly like the picture. After recovering from the disappointment of removing a rather flat, dull, sticky-looking tray of meringues from the oven, I soon discovered that cooking was definitely my grandmother's strength!

My grandmother's cooking and my grandfather's love for food and gardening taught me that food is an adventure and an experience. I treasure every moment, every mouthful and every memory I have of my grandmother's kitchen.

*this post was inspired by my fellow foodie friend's blog: www.carelesscreative.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lady in red

This sexy little rouged number is a red velvet cupcake topped with a 
luscious marshmallowly frosting...

It is said that the first red velvet cake got its colour from the reaction between the acidic vinegar and alkaline cocoa – it revealed the red anthocyanin in the cocoa which, back then, was ‘Dutch processed’. Nowadays it requires quite a large dollop of colouring to give the cake an impressive inky red appearance. Whether it got its luscious hue by accident or from a bottle, it’s definitely a favourite and in my opinion, will paint any town red!

Red velvet cupcakes with marshmallow frosting
This recipe can also be used to make a large 23cm cake
(makes 24)

2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1t bicarbonate of soda
1T cocoa
pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 ½ cups oil
1t vinegar
1T red food colouring
1t vanilla extract

Marshmallow frosting
4 egg whites
pinch salt
1 cup castor sugar

Line 2 muffin trays with cupcake cases. Sift dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the cupcake cases, filling them 2/3 full. Bake for 18–20 minutes.

Make the frosting by whisking the egg whites with salt in a heatproof bowl until soft peak stage. Add castor sugar and whisk over simmering water until the meringue is hot to the touch. Remove from the heat and beat on high with a hand mixer until cool. Colour with red  food colouring, if desired and use immediately.

Photograph Angie Lazaro

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

All things cheffy

Part of the reason I love my job so much is that I get to meet so many interesting people. Although it’s daunting to interview ‘celebrity chefs’ whom I’ve admired and who inspired me during my time as a timid commis chef it really reawakens the passion inside me to know that they too were once… ‘normal’. Over the past month and a half I have met and interviewed Nobu, Liam Tomlin and was lucky enough to attend an extremely early press conference with Gordon Ramsay – which, I might add, I would’ve rather traded for an extra hour of sleep in my cozy bed on an extremely wet and blustery day in Cape Town!

But enough about Mr Ramsay, this post is about the man who’s cookbook, Season to Taste, got me through and kept me passionate about food during three nightmarish years at chef school. The book who’s glossy pages are worn, tatty and splattered with the reductions and foams (as well as a few suspicious-looking dots that I suspect are drool… ) of the recipes that grace its beautiful contents. The occasion for my interview was the opening of the brand new Chef’s warehouse and cookery school that Liam Tomlin has opened in Cape Town – a much-needed haven for foodies and chefs.

The warehouse is most definitely for the die-hard’s and this was clear when I walked through the large wooden doors which are not without their cheffy touch – a pair of wooden spoon handles welcomes you inside. 

I was extremely lucky to have my friend and photographer Richard Aaron around to take a few snaps – although ‘snaps’ clearly does not do his photography justice :)

Liam has made sure that the warehouse is stocked with hard-to-find essentials sourced locally and abroad from unusual baking tins and tart cases...

 ... appliances, crockery and glassware...

...exotic spices and ingredients...

...interesting chopping boards (which would make a beautiful gift for a foodie friend!)...

and a large collection of cookbooks...

But what really got my heart a-flutter was the most beautiful butcher’s block I have ever seen – not being dramatic at all I promise! Liam has the work benches custom made to your wishes – any design can be applied to the wooden surface (think measuring conversion charts or meat cooking times) and the drawers and surface can be altered to suit your work style and storage needs.

Gorgeous isn’t it? *sigh!* Now I just need to find a rich husband…

Ok, I’m getting distracted – apart from the warehouse, Liam also holds cooking classes in the cookery school – his own 20 course “Basic Techniques & Methods of cooking” as well as specialized courses run by well-known outside chefs such as Peter Templehoff, Neil Jewell, Margot Janse and Luke Dale Roberts amongst others, right next door to the warehouse – so much cheffiness under just one roof!

I jumped at the chance to sit down and chat with Liam about his many years of experience, some of which included a stint as Top Billing Magazine’s Food Editor, which of course hits very close to home!

KW: When did you start cooking, and how did your journey begin?
LT: I was never one of those people who knew from a young age that they wanted to be a chef. I actually got into it by accident – a lot of my friends were doing chef apprenticeships in Dublin, where I grew up, and I gave it a go and did it as a job for a couple of years but the penny only dropped when I went to Switzerland. I realized that cheffing was a serious profession and that you had the opportunity to travel and also that there were a whole lot of ingredients I’d never heard of. Then I started planning my career for the first time and I ended up going to Australia supposedly for a year but it ended up being 15.

KW: What great influences have you had along the way in your cooking career?
LT: Australia was a good experience for me as I’d had European culinary training and Australia has such multi-cultural and diverse food scene. It influenced my cooking style since I started using Japanese and Asian ingredients I’d never even heard of in my European training. My cooking style to this day is still a modern interpretation of classical cuisine but still with a slight Asian influence. Each successful chef usually has 3 or 4 chefs whom they’ve worked with who influence or change their philosophy on food and one of those chefs for me was Dietmar Sawyer whom I worked with for the first 7 years in Australia.

KW: What is the most rewarding part about being a successful chef?
LT: The world has become a smaller place and one of the best things about being a successful chef is the opportunity to travel and meet great chefs from around the world. I love the chef comraderie of travelling as I get to go to all the interesting markets and hole-in-the-wall places that the other chefs show me.

KW: How would you describe your style of cooking?
LT: My style is very different now from what it used to be since I don’t have other chefs working with me and giving their input. The Chefs Warehouse is a different environment – its a lot more relaxed and fun so my food is a lot more simple.

KW: What made you decide to open The Chef’s Warehouse in Cape Town?
LT: We were going to open a Guesthouse and during winter we were going to run chefs courses to tide us over income-wise but the neighbours objected to it so the project was put on hold. The building we are in now became available and it was too big for just a cookery school so we decided to make use of the space by selling cooking equipment, ingredients and books. In this way we are not relying on one market – if any of these elements don’t work, we always have the other to supplement.

KW: What can customers expect when they walk in the door?
LT: At the cooking school we teach people the basics – how to season food properly, choosing and buying ingredients, how to present food beautifully and tricks of the trade. Chefs Warehouse, the retail arm of Chefs Warehouse & Cookery School, is open to both the trade and general public and carries a wide range of quality products sourced locally and abroad, and includes kitchen equipment, appliances, books for cooks, crockery, cutlery and glassware, knives and utensils, chefs-wear, bar tools, lifestyle furniture and essential ingredients. The “Basic Techniques & Methods of Cookery” - a set curriculum of 20 classes is presented by myself. This course will cover the essential principles of cooking and will be held every second Saturday of the month.

KW: Do you think South Africa offers visitors a unique food experience? and how can we improve?
LT: If you look at the St Pellegrino awards – 3 of our restaurants did really well and that just shows that SA is going in the right direction. We’re up on top with the worlds’ best. The produce here is wonderful – we have winelands, our restaurant design is as good as anything else in the world. The only thing that I believe can be improved is the service  - USA Europe it is a profession to be a waiter.

KW: What do you see as the next big food trend here in SA?
LT: As far as restaurants are concerned, with the recession a lot of restaurants around the world are looking at what they offer and give customers better value. Restaurant industries around the world are suffering and therefore need to reinvent themselves and their food using cheap ingredients and lesser known cuts of meat.

For more info and to book for their amazing courses visit chefswarehouse.co.za

Photography by Richard Aaron