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

 

 

Serendipity 

Serendipity 

Let me pre-warn you, this is not a blog post about food, recipes or anything that will make your mouth water, this is just a little start to 2017 and how you always need to trust the timing of every path that you are on, of every person put infront of you, of every phonecall, conversation, chance encounter and most importantly, going with your gut instinct is actually better than overthinking things. 


Here’s the thing. Everyone knows, life throws you these curveballs and knocks your off your feet, and makes your wonder what the hell it is you are doing!? The curveballs come in two forms. One being negative the other positive, and obviously both come with major life lessons and you allow yourself the time to think about these things, reflect in it all, gather yourself, ask the questions that need to be asked, then you make decisions and you figure it all out. 

You either sit in a heap on the floor and cry your eyes out (which is allowed) or you gather yourself and move on. The positive curveball allows you to almost question wether all that’s right in your life now, is actually real? You ask yourself, “but what did I to do to deserve this?” Or “surely this is all a dream?” 

We have this ability to always question “the right” in our lives and not just take it and run for the hills. We are unable to acknowledge when things fall into place, and land in our laps. But here’s the thing, do you not think that there’s already been a complete build up to this? Everything happens for a reason, that’s ones of those “nag” sayings, that my mother always echoes, or that gets told to me when I am having a moment with my entire life. But it’s SO true. 

Last year, I walked out of a job, an actual “I’m done, I can’t, I’m over it”. That’s the short of the long…between empty promises and a completely draining work energy, I was just finished. I had lost weight, wasn’t eating or sleeping, and questioned my love for food, my passion to feed and my entire being as a chef. Also, that old thing about working in an industry that’s already so male dominated and being taken for a joke if you are a women, can also make you feel completely messed. 

After two weeks of feeling sorry for myself, ok, wait, not so much “feeling sorry for myself” more of a “I’ve never not had a job, what the actual fuck am I going to do now?”, type of mindset, I quickly had to figure out where my next salary was coming from. I had an amazing support structure in my previous boss, both him and his amazing girlfriend, gave me sound advise and kept me distracted, my family, supported me and became my back bone, with constant conversations and phone calls, and my sister and her boyfriend even flew out to come to me to help me keep some sort of sanity. (Leaving this job, or at least the build up to it, actually affected me more than anything has in the past few months, I was in a really bad space) Also, my friends rallied around me and I felt safe and secure in their support and love. 

Moving onto how there is ALWAYS a silver lining on that fucked storm cloud. 

Once I made my mind up that I would be ok, and survive, I reset my thinking to just be like “I’m fucking amazing” it all just took a turn in my favor.

I got to film on a local TV show, Top Billing, with one of my best friends, and we got to share that amazing journey together. Read Riyaadh’s story over at Supersetta , besides being an inspiration to me, he is the most amazing person and is honestly such a genuine soul. I love surrounding myself with people that support my journey so that I can be the cheerleader in theirs. 

I did a cook off for the team of an amazing restaurant franchise called tashas and landed my absolute dream job as their executive development chef. Anyone who knows me, and my life as a chef, knows that I am extremely passionate about development. I love taking ingredients and producing something spectacular, new and different. That’s mainly our jobs as chefs, but with this, there’s no pressure of being in a kitchen with 40 other staff members and being pressed for time. Don’t get me wrong, it comes with its own amount of stress and deadlines, but it’s more fulfilling to my soul. 

I went home to visit my family and did amazing private chef work in Cape Town over the December period and got to meet amazing people from all over the world. That is always a good thing, right? Right. 

I also found my amazing person, who I have known for sometime, but who I now see differently. 

I am in such a good place, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. More than anything, my heart is happy. Like ecstatically, stupid “how do I manage to breathe” happy. I’m following this journey, taking it a day at a time, allowing myself to be swept up in all of it and embracing it hard. It’s so unlike me, I need lists and plans and confirmations, but, I think that because I’m finally in such a good space, I’m just like “oh well….wake up, breathe, drink coffee, repeat. 

Be blessed and stay tuned. ❤️

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. 
 

What is your passion? 

What is your passion? 

 

After a slightly crazy few days last week, I take away the overwhelming feeling that through the years of being a chef, through all the crazy working hours, many functions, countless colleagues and many amazing chefs, I can still get that tingling feeling. I love what I do. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Being a chef, this is my entire being. 

There comes a point, in anyone’s life, where you ask yourself if what you are doing is what you love? There is this word that we use : passion. 

Am I doing what I love? What is my passion?

 

I think, if you can love what you do, you put yourself at a complete high everyday. With me, I can still get so happy when I make something and it tastes good, it still blows me away, when what I have “tasted in my mind” actually tastes amazing in my mouth! 

Reading a recipe and following steps are one thing, but if you spend time in the kitchen you come to a realization on what works together, and what doesn’t, what flavors compliment and which ones don’t. We take away from eating experiences learnt with moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We also tend to remember those moments when all our senses where heightened when we had “the best steak” or “the best meal EVER”, how euphoric it made you feel. 

When people ask me, I say that eating is sexy. It’s all the senses, working together, to make you excited about what you are going to taste, smell, see, hear, feel. 

I find it incredibly fulfilling when I can sit at a table with people, who are eating my food, and watch them. I can see the joy, the little smirk, the licking of the lips, the anticipation of the first, second, third, mouthful. The complete sense of fulfillment when they are done, that look at the empty plate as they lean back in their seat. 

If you can find a job, that includes your passion, but also pays the bills, then you will be in the lucky few that are, in essence, fulfilled, happy and content. 

My mom always says, “Never settle” – I take that with my daily, in love, life, and in this case, my job. Find what you love, hold onto it, let it drive you, motivate you and give you happiness, everyday! 

World Cognac Day Celebration Lunch with Bisquit

World Cognac Day Celebration Lunch with Bisquit

Picture a room, lined with book shelves, warmed by a glowing fire. You smell musk, deep oak, and worn leather. You take in the plush arm chairs, the thick Persian rug. Somewhere you hear the clink of glasses, hushed conversation, and the lingering scent of smoked cigars. You might even hear laughter, or that heavy sigh as the day ends.

This to me, is the ideal setting to sit down and sip on a Cognac. What surprises me most, is that, besides the opulent setting of the Munro Boutique Hotel, I sat at a table, with a few other people and ate lunch!

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I was invited to a Cognac pairing, hosted by Bisquit Cognac, with Distell and arranged by the amazing team at Hello Conversation Communications Agency, all in celebration of World Cognac Day. I made my way on a gloomy and cold Johannesburg afternoon, to be greeted by Denis Lahouratate, Maitre de Chai for Bisquit, Simphiwe Pato, Brand Manager for Bisquit and all the amazing guests that were due to join me for an afternoon, of not only Cognac education, but one that was going to be filled with good conversation, amazing food and ridiculously delicious drinks!

Denis Lahouratate, Maitre de Chai for Bisquit
Denis Lahouratate, Maitre de Chai for Bisquit
We started our afternoon with a tasting of the Limited Edition Bisquit X.O Rose Gold Cognac. You could see the twinkle in Denis eye’s as he started talking about this delicious, smooth, delicately sumptuous, handcrafted Cognac. Like a man, that sits with pride when he starts talking about a first love, Denis could not stop gushing, and needless to say, once I had the first taste, I could understand why.

With the vision of creating the smoothest Cognac ever released, Denis personally selected eaux-de-vie from six casks to blend for this creation, producing a Cognac that stands for the epitome of the style of the house:  a smooth blend with a “generous bouquet of aromas”. Rose Gold XO is a silky sumptuous Cognac with a beautiful balance of flavours and a wondefully lingering and everlasting finish.

What a treat it was to taste this Cognac. With only two bottles, currently in South Africa, we were of the first few that had the privilege of tasting this absolutely decadent beauty.

Limited Edition Bisquit X.O Rose Gold Cognac

We then moved onto our lunch. I started with the Lobster Vol-Au-Vent with orange Cognac Sauce, which was paired with the V.S Classique. This Cognac has a fruity aroma, with hints of vanilla, cinnamon and oak.

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Main course was the Karoo Lamb fillet with thyme jus, Artichoke, organic vegetables and Hazelnut Puree, which was paired with the V.S.O.P. This Cognac is drawn from the esteemed eaux-de-vie of Petite at Grande Champange, which enhances the longer distillation. Also so smooth and decadent.

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The dessert was a White Chocolate Mousse Cannelloni with Strawberry Minestrone, and although you would think that chocolate and Cognac might not go together, it paired so well. The last pairing was the XO, which is the mature, grown up, adult of the range, Its a deep amber color, and has hints of woody and smoky notes, with tabacco and cocoa, sugar fruit and prune.

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For a first time Cognac experience, I was utterly blown away by firstly, the humility of Denis, also, his passion and love for Cognac making, his knowledge and experience of being in the wine and spirits industry for more than 30 years, is prominent when he could explain and make us understand the most complex questions.

I left with a full tummy, half closed eyelids and a new appreciation for the entire process of this handcrafted distillation technique that is the signature of the House Bisquit.

You can read more about these amazing Cognacs at the Bisquit Website : http://www.bisquit.co.za

Photographs by : Chris Townsend

Location : The Munro Boutique Hotel

Thought process. 

Thought process. 

 

Hello! Remember me? 

I haven’t posted recipes in such a long time, or even anything really.  I had a friend tell me the other day that she gets sad when she doesn’t see posts appear daily, she’s also probably one of the few people that I know that are actually attempting the recipes I put up. 

When I started this (all of two months ago) I was doing it as a creative outlet, for myself, as my main passion is being a chef. I’m not a stay at home mom (gold medals to you) or a “foodie” – this is actually my life. I’m not looking for blind inspiration (my term : when everything looks like everything else) – I create my own, I do try to make atleast 3 NEW recipes a day, then adapt, change what I don’t like and only then do I post something. 

I try to post a recipe that I am really excited about or that has wowed me, or even something as simple as kale pesto, because it’s a staple in our fridge. 

So, Lee-sah, I’m sorry that I haven’t posted in a long time, and I’ll get my ass in gear and post more…promise! Also, thank you for making me realize that if my little blog is able to just reach out to you and your family, then it makes it all worth while! 

❤️🍴