Where did your journey to becoming a Chef at an award-winning lodge begin - tell us how you got started? My late mother was a domestic worker, and she worked extremely long hours. This meant that my sisters and I had to fend for ourselves. In addition, we had to prepare our own food - which led to some unusual (and sometimes inedible) pairings! Together with keeping things running at home and trying things out in the kitchen, I also had a passion for art. Unfortunately, my high school was an academically based school which meant the opportunity to explore art was limited. My tertiary education was focused on Consumer Studies, where I hoped I would tap into my artistic interests, but that didn't work out. So, I made a change and got into the food industry to turn food into edible art. Since then, the plates have been my canvas, and food has become my "paintbrushes" to demonstrate my version of "edible art".
Food is about memories, feelings and emotions - what do you think? Yes definitely. My take is that life is basically about memories, feelings and emotions. Food is part of life. I also reflect on food - as a way to measure how far I have come on my journey.
The best food is often comfort food - what is your favourite comfort food? McDonald's Big Mac Cheeseburger and 6piece McNuggets. After some long shifts, I enjoy myself in front of the PlayStation with junk food. If I have time - put some effort into a braai or a homemade pizza with lamb shank, beef mince and lots of cheese.
Do guests ever request comfort food - if so, what types? Yes, they do. Something as simple as plain rice with a vegetable sauté infused with a touch of garlic and ginger. Or an array of seafood consisting of mussels in a velouté, pan-seared fish, prawns, calamari and rice.
Tell us about a signature dish you have created, especially for Morukuru Family. My Ravioli/Tortellini with a parmesan infused bechamel and herb cream cheese with any vegetable addition. I love creating butter emulsified courgette twirls, and sauteed broccoli tenders finished with a vegetable espuma. This dish is elevated by immaculate plating.
Spice it up! Are you good at creating spicy rubs, curries - something with a bit of heat? Tell us some of your secrets? Yes, indeed, but I can't really tell you my secrets! As a chef, I can say that I have to evaluate the tolerance of spices for each guest. Some people can eat fresh chillies for breakfast, like fruit, and for others, just a hint of heat brings tears to their eyes. So it is a delicate balancing act.What local ingredients do you like to work with? I'm blessed to have access to only the freshest seasonal ingredients. At the moment, kohlrabi and nasturtiums are getting plenty of air-time. Many different cultures influence the food we eat - which global flavours are your favourite to work with? Being South African, I have been exposed to various cultures because of how diverse our country is - experiencing other countries' food is accessible here. However, I must say my favourites are Mexican and Asian cuisines.
What are some of your favourite seasonal ingredients for Summer? I love the saying "Summer is a state of mind" At Morukuru Family, we focus on the freshest, seasonal, local produce - whatever the season, but right now, I'm loving naarjties, watermelon, radishes and heirloom tomatoes.
Best piece of advice you would give a home cooking enthusiast? Check your seasoning as it amplifies flavour to great heights, but not too much as you don't want it to be too salty. Nowadays, home cooks are really upping their game - mainly because of food orientated reality shows and social media. Everyone can become a foodie!
Tell us about your dream four-course meal to prepare? And who would you like to prepare it for? I can definitely say it would be elaborate dishes. Using fresh earthy produce, homemade cheese, fresh catch from the sea, a tender cut of meat and a dessert that will have you licking your fingers. And I would love to cook for my late mother as she never had the opportunity to taste my food since I have been on my culinary journey.
Of all the dishes you have created for Morukuru De Hoop- tell us which one has proven the most popular? Pan-seared pork fillet with garlic butter and thyme, confit pork belly, onion tarts, corn puree, and mustard velouté.
What do you like to do in your downtime? Watch anime, play PlayStation, work out, read, hike and reflect. A balanced combo of tech, nature and non-screen time.
Which chefs do you admire most? My first chef. Chef Gracious Phakamani from Balducci restaurant was a dishwasher who worked his way up to the top of the ladder in that kitchen. He is by far the best motivation to believe the sky is the limit.
Favourite cookbook? First edition Alinea by Grant Achatz.