Meet Chef Vasco of AtholPlace House & Villa

According to the American cooking teacher, author, and television personality, the late Julia Childs, to be a good cook, you have to have a love of the good, a love of hard work and a love of creating. At AtholPlace House & Villa, our Head Chef Vasco embodies all of these attributes and a love for his favourite piece of kitchen equipment, his Sous Vide Machine and revisiting his memories of authentic local Xhosa cuisine. Vasco shares his culinary journey with us, and we find out how he’s stamping his signature onto the menu at AtholPlace House & Villa.

How did you get started in this notoriously demanding career? I did my studies at Westcol Chefs Academy, and I’ve been in the industry for eight years.

For lots of us, food memories are deeper than any other memory. What do you think? I agree 100%. Just thinking about my childhood and my mum brings up memories of her when cooking samp and beans; umqushu in my home language, Xhosa.

What motivates you to get into your kitchen every day? Being a chef has many stressors; things like customer expectations, team training and industry competition. A recent survey revealed that executive chefs rate their career happiness 2.9 out of 5 stars. I’m way above that score and focus on my desire and purpose to fill my dream and pursue my passion. My kitchen is filled with positive energy!

Tell us about a signature dish you have created especially for AtholPlace?  My latest creation is a butter-poached lobster with grilled artichokes, cauliflower puree, siphon beurre noisette and basil oil. Sweet but very light on the palette

Since some restrictions have been lifted, AP House & Villa has been busy with many private functions. Has this been exciting? Definitely! Because I’ve been challenged, I got to interact with guests directly and create exciting food specifically for them. So all-around, it has been an awesome time in the kitchen.

With this change in pace - what have you been coming up with? Our private function guests have been choosing a lot of seafood (prawns, salmon, seabass, monkfish), seasonal vegetables, and many fresh herbs.

Can you mention a standout event? Courvoisier gave AtholPlace House & Villa the honour of hosting one of their launches. We developed an amazing Harvest Table Menu, and the enjoyment was off the charts.

What do you eat when you are at home? Nothing beats a simple chicken curry and rice.

If you could have dinner with one famous person/celebrity/sports star, who would you invite and what would you make for them? Denzel Washington is my man! For starters, I would make a ceviche of scallops with a mussel emulsion and yoghurt. The main course would be Cape Malayan Oxtail with salt-baked carrots and saffron risotto. And to end things off, a dessert of blueberry souffle.

What are three fresh items always in your fridge? Rainbow baby carrots, fresh herbs, white button mushrooms.

What three non-perishables are in your pantry?  Risotto, Spaghetti, coconut milk.

Do you have a sweet tooth? Strangely enough, I do not have a sweet tooth at all and prefer to focus on creating new savoury dishes.

You only use fresh, local produce - tell us about some of your favourite suppliers and how they help you create magic in the kitchen. We are very lucky to have an amazing seafood supplier. A big shout out to Seven Seas Fisheries; they always have a variety of fresh local fish, which gets my creative juices flowing.

Do you have a favourite celebrity chef and why? Thomas Keller of The French Laundry embodies everything a chef should be; hardworking, passionate, educational and empowering. He’s one of my idols.