NEW order! 

NEW order! 

I’ve learnt that I can teach, and that I have patience. I’ve learnt that working with a person that is your polar opposite can inspire you, and push you. I’ve learnt that traveling to locations for work is not always glamorous. I’ve learnt that developing a menu and training it, comes with an roller coaster of emotional baggage! I’ve also learnt that you are only as strong as your team, and when you prove that you actually know what you are doing, you don’t have to prove that you “belong” (I think that makes sense) 


I’ve also learnt to not judge a face, but take time to understand their brain and their emotions. It’s so disfunctional sometimes. You shout, scream, fight, argue, and you come back the next day and do it all over again. 

I’ve understood that not everyone is fast, and that they don’t all get it the first time around. I’ve tried to lower my voice, and talk instead of shouting like a complete lunatic. I’ve vented and tried to understand the entire story without getting hot headed (doesn’t work sometimes) because as humans, we always believe that we are right. 


It’s really a task. I’m away from home. I miss my creature comforts. I miss the convenience of sleeping in on a Sunday or just a random trip to Woolies. I miss my family and friends, and most of all for some strange reason, my pillow. In saying all of that, the past seven weeks, have been an intense, overwhelming, sometimes draining, always tiring, hurdle after hurdle of complete chaos and energy and personalities and insane talent.  

Here the thing. Take 40 people, from all over the world. Some with experience, others not so much. Put them in a kitchen. Train them. Copy, paste, repeat, for 18 hours a day. 


Here’s the magic. Watch them come together. Watch them fight, watch them have moments of meltdown, watch them create, watch them inspire. Watch them get it right. Watch their faces when you say hello, watch their reaction when you tell them “well done”

Kitchen staff will forever be pirates. We are a “dysfunctional” batch of people, put into a space, with knives, fire and hot oil. We graft. Hard. We find energy somewhere to keep going, plate after plate, after plate. 

The magic happens when we come together. Nothing takes the feeling away of a “good service” or that sauce that comes out right, or even that soufflé that doesn’t flop! 


Dubai. You have been tough. Hard. Hectic. Draining. Tiring. But thank you, for all the magic you’ve added to my life and for introducing me to a team that I don’t want to leave. 

Natasha, thank you for allowing me to have my way on most things and for meeting me half way a lot of the time. Thank you for your guidance and understanding and for the freedom to be myself in the kitchen. 

Just excuse the little shout outs to my kitchen team but they all deserve one

Elze. Oh goodness! Where do I start!!!! Thank you for coming on board. Thank you for your reassuring hugs and for allowing this menu to be so fucking amazing. I’m so proud that I was able to work with you, it was such a learning curve for me, and I will be forever thankful! 

Tanith. Thank you for everything. For allowing me to vent, for accommodating me in a space that would be yours to run, for allowing me to make changes, for holding my hand, for your guidance. Thank you for you constant support and for your AMAZING balance that you bring to my complete craziness sometimes. 

Johan. Thank you for your dedication to this menu and for making sure that all my needs and wants where made a reality. Thank you for allowing me to change products and suppliers and for not hesitating in making sure that everything on this menu is really phenomenal. 

Liberty, Danilo, Chris, Raymar, Kabelo, Virginia, Noks and Rowell. Thank you for your hard work, for your hearts, for your concern, for your smiles, for your ideas, for you commitment. For all your random stories and little comments, for your constant talking and support. You are really the soldiers that have gone to war with me. 

Sangiwe, Bianca, Jamie, Manuel, Francis, Ronel and Juliet. I’m sure you are so over table bread, plating lobster pasta, ricotta hot cakes, breakfast vol-au-Vent and making hamburgers, but thank you for your hard work and your smiling faces. 

Zandi, Pamela, Raquel, Con, Jay, Nelly, Lexter and Mukai. I’ve watched you all gain more and more confidence in what you do and how you run your sections. Thank you for the laughs, the countless Texas salads and calamari starters. 

My Chef line. Blessing, Roy, Thembani, Valentine, Christopher, Moses, Ozzy and Raymond. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for your patience and thank you for your dedication to making sure the lemon butter sauce is just right, and that the ten thousand Lobster catalan that we’ve served comes out perfectly. 

Ali and Nishaal, sorry for the headaches and thank you for making sure our stock arrives so that we can cook. 

Kairat and Charles. You guys are really such a big part of what happens behind the scenes. Thank you for being patient, for understanding, and for dealing with ALL of our attitudes. 


My little babies in Pastry. Bae, Joseph and Nelly. Thank you for learning everything so quickly from Elze, and recreating her vision everyday. 

Lastly, Mateus. Thank goodness that you finally arrived! Thank you for bearing with our (mine) temperaments and for understanding all the chaos. You’ve already added value and your ideas and direction have already brought about change. 

Ok. Back to work. NEW ORDER!!!!! 

(Also, I don’t have photos with my entire team, but stay tuned for that on my Instagram) 

Bucket list

Bucket list

Do you have one? I do. I remember thinking, what the hell is a bucket list? And then my dad said to me, its stuff to do before you “kick the bucket”. English. So strange sometimes. So basically things to get done before you die. 

Let’s say, places to visit, things to eat, goals to achieve. My list mostly consists of things to eat, secondary to that, it’s places to visit so that I can eat said things. Somewhere along the list, there are a few random names. Those names might not mean much to most, I’m a chef, my list includes a handful of these rockstars that are in the industry. A lot of them, maninstream now, thanks to Netflix, social media, MasterChef Australia, but when I started in this industry, unless you knew their names, you didn’t REALLY now them.
On top of that list. Marco Pierre White 


White Heat, was gifted to me by a family member, about 15 years ago. I remember looking at this chef on the cover. This rough looking, gaunt, badass. His photo almost looked like a mugshot. I read the little blurb at the back and thought, OK!, this could be interesting. 


In that moment, not once did I think that this man would be the “driving force” behind my career as a chef. I say that, knowing that my family pushed me to succeed. My dad drove me to work at 4 in the morning when I needed an extra 20 minutes to sleep. My mom finally gave up her kitchen to me and was happy to just wash up while I did countless recipe tests. They were and still are my biggest support system, but a “driving force”, like maybe that little voice in my head. That push, internally, when I was about to give up. His quotes and pieces of advise are on constant replay in my train of thought. 

Do it with love. Keep it simple. Learn. Be humble. Stay focused. Allow your emotions to be your inspiration. 

I’m never going to be that chef that takes 3 elements, puts it on a plate and tells you to enjoy your meal. I cook with butter, I season with salt, I use wine, I slow cook, I smell, I taste, I listen. I also over cater and theres always left overs. I cooked from my heart and let my mind follow after. I want you to sit at a table and see that glazed look of satisfaction when you take your first bite. I want to leave you with a memory, a moment, a feeling. 

Marco does that. He cooks from the heart. Honest, classical, natural, simple. Key factors: good ingredients, simple flavors, elevated to bring out the best in a simple piece of fish or steak. Yet, don’t think that this makes it simple. 

Ever had a really bad bolognaise? Overcooked pasta, horrible sauce, no seasoning? Has that memory stuck with you?  That’s one of the most basic meat sauces in an Italian kitchen, yet, if it’s made shitty, it’s a complete mess, but making it with good meat, fresh herbs, sun ripe tomatoes, good wine, it gets elevated to something that’s worth remembering. 


Simple doesn’t always mean it’s easy. Simple can sometimes be really difficult to execute. 

Ok, going off track here. So, where was I? 

Marco. In a nutshell, all I wanted to be. Everything I looked up to, everything I admired in a chef and a person. He was at the top of his game when I was in diapers. When I finally read the book and discovered who he was, I was like a star struck dummy. I wanted more, read more, learned more. Anything about him, that I could know, I knew. 

Yesterday, I met him. 

For the past 14 years, this chef has set the bar for me. His precision, flavors, drive, passion, have moulded my precision, flavors, drive and passion. He cooked. A simple veloute made with shellfish stock. Pasta, lobster, loads of fresh basil, salt. That was it. I sat in a corner, savoring the moment. 


I got up to meet him and felt an entire wave of emotion hit me, then I just started crying. He hugged me, wipe a tear away, told me that it will be ok. He was so worried. I could hardly talk. He must of looked at me and thought “What a strange little girl” I looked at him in that moment and everything made sense. 

The countless hours of dedication, the burn marks, the cuts, the sore back, the bad shoulder, the sore feet, the stress. They burnt sauce, the fixed sauce, the 500 turned carrots, the 30kgs of mash, the 25L of split mayonnaise, the shouting, the heat. The tension, the chefs angers, the laughing after service, the countless flops, yet the satisfaction of one that just stays perfect. The complaints, the compliments, the fussy eater, the jealous co worker, the sabotage, the intimidation, the hours and hours and hours of sacrifice, the years missed, the days missed, the summers on the beach missed. In those few moments of meeting him, it all made sense. It all came back in flashes, and it was so completely overwhelming that I couldn’t contain the emotion. 

He invited me to be his guest today. Before the event, I sat in awe, while just watching him, talk, drink his coffee, smoke his cigarette. Thinking, he has no idea how much he has impacted my life and my journey in this industry. I sat with him for a few moments and thanked him, but I could not really put it into words. 

Sometimes a simple “thank you” is also just enough. 

Bucket list : less one 
 

My heart on a plate

My heart on a plate

Ok, so here’s the thing. Development, like  I have mentioned before, is my absolute best thing. I love taking a raw ingredient and making it something amazing (or not) and being able to see peoples reaction to what I put down in front of them.

My biggest project in my new job, so far, was developing a menu inspired by the tastes of the Mediterranean. Think, oregano, lemon, mint, olive oil. Up the anti, to make sure it’s contemporary without being too modern, that it’s packed with flavor and that half the team I work with are actually Cyprian…eeeeeeek! Also, the entire process. I have a menu team/committee, that does research on the theme or feel we are going for, they give me the research and then I do MORE research. I then come up with dishes, not 3 or 6, but like 80….again, eeeeeeeeeeek!!!!! Then we sit, and run through the dishes I have in mind, we talk about plating, I try to paint the picture, so that they can see my vision. I have photo references of certain things, or print outs of recipes. Ok. We figure out what works, tweek some ideas, cut some dishes. Right. So we have 40 know. (Still Eek!)

Now for the fun.

I cook.

Each dish, with each component, with each garnish, with each flavor, with each issue, with each struggle, with each thing. Ha!

Then, I present. To our little panel. Tasha then tastes, and dissects, and critiques, and adds her flare. Then again, we sit, make changes, cut items, add items, get recipes, do more research, look at photos, sit with recipe books…and AGAIN, I cook and we go through this process until we are all happy.

The final tasting, I cooked about 38 dishes. Over the period of 5 hours. About 8 people tasted.

When I know something is good, I find myself really excited when I put that plate down. Sometimes though, I have doubt and I think, what the actual hell did i just make? Other times, I’m just like “Ok, no, back to the drawing board”

When I am doing these tastings, I don’t sleep, I hardly eat and I run off pure adrenaline, until I collapse into a chair, next to Tasha, she then hugs me and kisses my forehead. “Well done” she says, and I get emotional and almost start crying. Almost like a parent telling you how proud they might be. Because goodness grief, I basically just put myself on that table and made myself vulnerable to everyone that just tasted my food. Props go out to my menu team, Alex and Melpo, because sometimes, guidance, patience and understanding is also needed in a menu process!

You see. As chefs, we put ourselves on a plate. We want to create a memory for you. We want you to walk away with a feeling, a sensation. That sensation is one that stays with you. The memory lasts. Remember the first time you ate something that blew your mind? Can you associate the smell, the taste, the texture. Can you take yourself back to how you felt? Was it happiness? Were you content? Did it forever change the way you looked at that certain food? On the flip, can you remember tasting some that you didn’t like, and how that made you feel?

Food forever remains such a THING. We are always going to need it, we are always going to crave it. This makes my job easier, because it will always be in demand. BUT, we want it fresh, flavorsome, inventive. We want to be able to recall that first bite, that first taste, that first goose bump moment. We want to try to recreate it, to capture it in a bubble, to make it last.

That is the heart of it. That’s what gets me pumped and excited and enthusiastic. That’s what makes me love what I do

 

 

Yes Chef!!

Yes Chef!!

I tend to not write about my daily life happenings and ramble about things that probably have no relevance to most, but today I thought that I would do some soul searching and put feelings to “page” and try to figure out in my brain, and mostly my heart, what it is about being in this industry that makes me stay. 

  
I could make it all fairy tales and happy endings by saying that it’s all about passion and that it feeds my “soul” or I could also say, it’s the rebel in me, that led me to this, chefs are a special breed of character and are normally the “outcasts”. We work in confined spaces and kitchens that are boiling, with people of all different colors and creeds, all chasing after the same goal, getting food out. I could say it’s the military precision of service or the poetry in motion, that plays out like a ballet, yet, at the end of the day, it’s all about this; it’s the shouting and screaming, the laughter and sometimes the crying, the raw emotion on someone’s face when they mess up an order, the adrenaline and the constant buzz, it’s the realization of what a dish would look like on a plate, the components coming together like a orchestra playing a master piece, the tastes and textures of a meal, the complete “high” that comes from sending 300 plates of food. It’s the satisfaction of seeing a full restaurant, knowing that you are about to get hammered, but you have your systems in place, you have your team behind you. It’s the dynamic of being able to think, on your toes, make decisions without batting an eyelid, and coorindiante the entire line, while trying to remain cool and calm and collected, because table 43 is a group of “gluten free, vegans, but eat meat on a Monday, that don’t want garlic or tomatoes or salt or life” on their plates. (Even though we love you guys)  
  
It is HARD work, we hear it all the time, how chefs burn out, how it takes a knock on your mental stability, how you can’t keep a grasp on reality, because most days, you are at work for 18 hours and you have no sense of what else is going on in the world. Try having a normal relationship, your partner better love you, like really REALLY love you. You tend to only have a sense of normality with the people you work with, hence why most of us date other chefs, or FOH managers. We tend to work hard, and play harder, so our vices sit in drugs or alcohol, but luckily, a lot of chefs these days, have a healthier idea of what works for their mind and bodies. 

Try working a 18 hour shift, that’s beyond draining and exhausting, then fit in a work out, then a date night, then a discussion about the lack of groceries in the fridge, then the reason why the laundry isn’t done…..and sleep!!!!! Then deal with family that ask you why you are single and make comments like “the clock is ticking”…the only clock that is ticking is the timer in my kitchen. 

The reality of all of this comes to play, when you leaving work at midnight, after brining the pork belly, roasting the lamb, checking all the fridges and making the creme brûlée, launching a new menu, making sure the staff are coping and managing, testing the ice cream, and making sure that the medium steak is medium, focusing on orders, making sure that there is stock, then also running to the shops because “maybe we might run out of mushrooms”, we become mothers to our staff, making sure that they have eaten and that they drink enough water, we become teachers, advisors and instructors, we become focused on shit that we never knew possible, like obsessing over a dessert construction that causes a constant battle of “how do we make this work?” to “how do we make this pretty?” !!!!!!!!!!   

This constant “idea” that the “normal” guest has on their mind that the kitchen is all pretty and looks something out of a TV set, is beyond me…(thanks Food Network) No one looks that pretty when the cook, (thanks Nigella) and no one pulls a 48 hour roast out of the oven, because, “oh, I made this one earlier”

We graft hard, days are filled with sweat, burns, cuts, coffee, cigarettes, copious amounts of water, photographic memory and everything in between, sometimes we don’t eat, (not your fault…just saying) we are on our feet the entire day and land up having constant neck, back, feet and leg problems, we have cuts on our hands that we don’t know about (squeeze a lemon) we have the strength of a super hero some days and then others are filled with trying to energize ourselves so that we can make it through the first 4 hours. We also need to deal with the amazing FOH, that don’t always wake up on the right side of the bed, managers that are annoying, owners and budgets and deadlines and meeting and suppliers, out of lamb or fuck up with an order and now we don’t have an entire dish on the menu. 

Rambling? 

What I know for sure. This is my entire being, I would not be in any other industry, I would not cope in a office, I would cry if I worked in a cubicle. This is in my DNA, it’s my driving force, it gives me purpose, it feeds my soul, it makes me happy.  It’s a basic form of showing love, we feed someone to make sure they are  happy, able to survive, to fill them, we feed a baby to nourish them, to provide comfort, to make them contnet. The love for what we do translates to plate, we take pride in it, in how we present something, in how we “magically” combine flavors to provide you with a euphoric state, a state of utter enjoyment and fulfillment.  

It’s simple. Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. 
 

Glamorous Foodie Nights Out

Glamorous Foodie Nights Out

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Let’s observe this photo. OK. Done? This is the beautiful Charmaine Mampe Ramalope aka The Glam Foodie. I have the biggest girl crush on her, also, this blog post is probably going to be such a gushing session, so please just excuse me. There is nothing more attractive, than a woman that is completely “put together”. Flawlessly gorgeous, exuding confidence, but remaining humble, and just an all round sweet heart. Yes, she is that glam! 

I attended her first #GlamFoodie Wine and Dine evening about two weeks ago, at Aarya Restaurant in Johannesburg. Aarya is Chef Deena Naidoos baby (MasterChef SA Season 1 Winner) , which is situated in the heart of the bustling Monte Casino, and part of the Tsogo Sun Group. Glen Carlou Wines, also played a part in the evening and we were all given a slight education on the farm from the wine maker, Arco.23

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The menu of five courses, was paired with varieties of blends from Glen Carlou, and each perfectly balanced with the delicious food that came out of the kitchen. We started the evening with a trio of canapes, paired with the Unwooded Chardonnay, with its crisp fruit intensity, it was a pleasant surprise. Our starter was Scallops with a creamed risotto, drizzled with a thick prawn bisque (I need the prawn bisque in my life all the time), which went down well with the Classic Chardonnay. The next two courses of Quail and Lamb Rack, paired well with the Merlot and Gravel Quarry Cabernet (The Cabernet is PHENOMENAL) The food was delicious, the Quail, served on a Wild Mushroom Parcel was heavenly, and the Lamb Racks Shank and Spinach Thimble, was filled with flavor and was mouthwatering.

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Moving onto dessert, which was paired, as you might of guessed with a dessert wine. I generally don’t do dessert wines, I find them to be overtly sweet and, for me, they some how take away from the tastes of the dish. To my surprise, The Welder Natural Sweet Chenin Blanc, was deliciously smooth on the tongue, and not grossly sweet, served with A Creme Brulee, Panna Cotta and Creamed Lemon Curd.

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We walked away from the evening, full of amazing food, good wines, a little more knowledge about Glen Carlou, and a new appreciation for Deena and his team. I really do take my hat off to him. I know how hard it is to run a kitchen, and how easy it is to mess it all up, but his passion and intensity for what he does, shines through and is wonderfully translated to his food and the amazing buzz in his kitchen.

Charmaine is the perfect hostess, constantly around and filtering herself to all the tables. You can see that these Wine and Dine evenings, are going to be supported and will grown as the word spreads.

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Follow The Glam Foodie SA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with the next Wine and Dine evenings, that will be happening in and around Johannesburg.

Be sure to book and secure your seat, as these are bound to be amazing.

Photos used with permission of The Glam Foodie SA

Photos taken by Collin Makhubela

Frittata

Frittata

Coming up with fresh, new and exciting ideas can sometimes get the best of me. It’s almost like talking to a bricked wall, or getting writers block, or anything really that can stump your brain into a complete “STOP”.

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Yesterday I had a day like that, I seriously could not figure out what to make for lunch (First world problems, right?) – but I miraculously pulled my crap together and updated an Italian classic. The Frittata is really an amazing “sitting in the sun” all round effortless dish, that can be thrown together in a heart beat. It’s light, fairly healthy and you can add anything to it to suit your palate. Serve it warm or at room temperature, with a huge side salad and a crisp glass of Chardonnay! It is the ideal brunch, lunch, any time of day meal.

All Green Frittata

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

100g of fresh peas

2 handfuls of baby spinach

4 baby marrow (12-15cm in length) – grated

1 handful of asparagus spears

1 handful of fresh herbs, chopped – I used basil, mint, oregano and parsley (The more the better I feel!)

5 eggs – beaten

4 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan

Salt and Pepper

Non stick spray

A baking dish (I used a 19.5×19.5×4.5cm)

Ingredients for a side salad of your choice – I used red cabbage, mange tout and cucumber

Method

Set your oven to 200C

Prepare your baking dish with non stick spray

Salt your grated baby marrow, and leave to sit for 10 minutes. This helps draw out the water.

In a large bowl, add all the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Place the baby marrow onto a clean dish towel, and squeeze out as much liquid as you can, add this to the other ingredients and give it an extra mix. Season well with salt and pepper!

Bake for 15-20 minutes, checking it half way. The frittata is normally done in a pan on the stove top, but I prefer to bake mine.

It should be firm to the touch and baked all the way through.

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As said before, it’s a really easy base recipe. You can add peppers, tomatoes, onion, even crumbed feta cheese. I find that this one, it slightly more fresh and light compare to one laden with loads of vegetables.
❤️🍴

Quick and Easy Zucchini Fritters

Quick and Easy Zucchini Fritters

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What is it about Zucchini that we all seem to gravitate to? Whether is be the delicious Zucchini “fries” from one of my favorite restaurants, Stella Luna, or whether they are wrapped around mozzarella and baked in a tomato sauce, or made into fritters or “pasta” it’s one of my all time most yummy and delicious choices for a side or a main in a meal!

Let us also remember that it is really low in calories, and contains potassium, folate and Vitamin A – so its healthy for you too! BONUS! (Well depending on what you add to it…..baking it with mozzarella makes it slightly healthier than using pasta)

Here’s a quick recipe adapted from two others and mashed together, to bring you an almost frittata, crispy, fritter type cake. Perfect for lunch, brunch or a quick snack (make them, keep them in the fridge and eat them cold).

Zucchini Fritters

  • Servings: 6 Large Fritters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

4 Zucchini, grated (We seldom find very large zucchinis here, so use a guide of 12-15cm in length)

Salt and Pepper

2 eggs, slightly whisked

1 cup of baby spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped

1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves, also washed and roughly chopped

1/2 cup of Almond meal

2 TBSP of chopped coriander

2 TBSP of psyllium husk

1 TBSP of coconut oil, melted

Place the zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes. The salt helps draw out moisture. In a clean dish towel, squeeze out the zucchini and get it as dry as possible.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients, besides the coconut oil, and add the zucchini. Mix well.

Add the coconut oil to a pan, and bring to a medium heat on the stove top.

Add large spoonfuls of the fritter mixture to the heated oil, and fry until golden brown on each side – flipping carefully.

Serve these with fresh Neapolitan sauce or slices of avocado and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, or a fresh rocket and cucumber salad. Keep what you serve them with simple as these fritters don’t need much to make them shine!