How green was my fillet?

2012-02-18 00:00

How did you come to open Green Valley, and how does it fit in with Dovehouse’s ethos?

Green Valley Restaurant was born out of discussions with friends Paul and Shereen Duncan, over several years. The ethos of the restaurant is to source locally and ethically. The focus is on fresh, wholesome organic food where possible, with free-range and fair-trade principles.

Are you from the area?

I’m from Johannesburg, and mo-ved to the Midlands in late 2010.

Where did you learn to cook?

I enrolled in a three-year apprenticeship at the five-star Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg. I specialised at the Three Ships Restaurant during that time, as well as getting a complete overview of a five-star hotel environment.

Who inspired you to embark on a cooking career?

A chef by the name of Anton Mossiman. I worked in his famous Belfry Restaurant in Knightsbridge as a kitchen porter, cleaning crockery and glassware. After watching the service every night, tasting the various offerings and seeing the chefs in action, I was hooked.

Did your mother (or father) cook something that you still enjoy?

My mom cooked roast chicken every Saturday night while we were growing up, and today it is still our most cherished family meal, though I have added my own touches.

Which aspect of cooking do you like best?

I love conceptualising a new menu, and then creating it from scratch. Being a hot kitchen chef I love the heat of the moment during service.

Which are your favourite flavours, and are there any new ones that you are currently experimenting with?

Flavours are all about seasons. It’s been great working will all the berries that have been available until recently. Here in the Midlands I can literally walk on the farm and pick brambleberries off the bush and then prepare them. I try to work with what’s coming off the farm all the time. Flavours that I am enjoying working with at the moment are limes, chilli, rooibos tea, vanilla, tamari sauce, raw honey and fresh trout.

Have you had any cooking disasters?

The only real disaster I ever had was a cheesecake for a friend’s birthday that flopped and literally turned into soup.

What was your best foodie moment?

Coming second in the World Junior Chef Championships, and then being announced as National Team Apprentice the same day.

Have you cooked for anyoneimportant?

Thabo Mbeki, Morgan Tsvangirai, Manchester United Football Team and the Rolling Stones. I was a preferred supplier to the Nelson Mandela Foundation for a few years.

Do you follow food trends ordo you like to follow tried and traditional recipes?

I like to do a bit of both — mixing traditional methods and ideas with modern approaches to create interesting combinations. At the moment I am creating recipes by incorporating raw-food techniques with traditional cooking.

What is your best South African food?

Biltong and Amarula Cream.

Do you have a signature dish?

Queen prawn and avocado tian, stacked with hand-picked garden greens, grated beetroot and carrot marinated with tamari and raw honey, topped with a charred nectarine salsa, splashed with rooibos syrup and balsamic-glazed organic figs.

What is your favourite “secret” ingredient and why?

Probably tamari sauce, dried lime leaves and rooibos syrup for their versatility in various food preparations.

What is the most underrated dish on an average menu?

Probably the soups and salads. Many restaurants focus on the primary mains when soups, broths with noodles etc., can become very adventurous and rewarding dishes. The same with salads — there is a lot of space for creativity and passion.

What is your favourite meal to cook at home?

Cooking at home is quick and simple — pasta and vegetable frittata, quick salad with olive oil and lemon and a glass of dry white; then feet up until the morning.

Can you give three cooking tips to amateur chefs that make a difference to food?

Clean as you go, only work with produce that is fresh, seasonal and organic where possible, and cook food that you enjoy working with so that it comes through in the taste.

Describe a tasty, no-fuss Sunday breakfast.

Toasted low-GI bread with butter, topped with pan-fried New Zealand spinach, oyster mushrooms and a dash of cream. Flash fried chorizo sausage slices with cherry tomatoes. Serve with a poached egg and a good drizzle of olive oil.


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