While travelling to London visiting an old friend whom Dion cooked with many years ago during his junior stages in the kitchen, she decided to take Dion to the Borough Market. “we bought tons and ate like pigs but what stood out the most was the insane prosciutto that was sliced paper thin and simply melted once it touched you tongue, we had it with burrata which was literally made in front of us and asparagus which was cooked on this open charcoal grill. Those flavours still cannot be erased from my memory and its the simplicity of having a few great products which simply speak for itself”
A Journey with Chef D
Dion fell in love with laksa the first time during the early stages of working with me at the Saxon Hotel as a junior CDP, we had a crocodile and prawn laksa where we skewered the crocodile with lemon grass.
Through the years Dion mastered the complexity, bringing together all the flavours. Enter Marcus a talented young chef who has an undying love for Asian flavours, having travelled to Asia as youngster on numerous occasions he always has a great understanding with the complex flavours. So when he made a laksa Dion of course got excited, “I hope you know I’m the king of laksa, so please blow my mind.” An hour or so late he did just that, blew my mind and socks off, It was at that moment that I could not leave it of the chefs table menu for that night, so we took the base and worked it into a pretty looking dish but of course giving homage and respect to the all glory full laksa.”
Charred cauliflower puree, confit liver ravioli, pickled cauliflower leaves, duck pancetta
Inspired by the beautiful free range duck we have been getting and the insane flavour we get out of curing them smoking and hanging, to transform into duck pancetta ”it cannot me compared to any duck ham I have ever tasted due to the superb quality of duck we have been receiving. It was inevitable that cauliflower would be its lifelong partner for this dish after tasting the wild flavour of the breast it needed that creamy earthy flavour that the cauliflower brings to the relationship”
Chakalaka basted Swiss chard and grilled, morogo puree, braised pulled shank brinjal parcel, steamed brinjal rubbed with morogo puree and baked
Although we have always enjoyed springbok on menu in some shape or form, this popular chefs table dish is a combination of South African flavours and ingredients that comes from Dion’s inspiration eating from venders out side of huge factories in Jozi (pap, smilies (sheep head), morogo and chakalaka)”I still go and catch a lunch every chance I get when I’m in Jozi “
At the chefs table we celebrate heritage a lot, small elements from chakalaka to corn find it’s way on our menu often.In this dish with Smoked chicken confit ravioli we added the sweet corn in three parts as a puree with green chilli, charred sweet corn and puffed, then we added a little chakalaka oil to finish and for texture crispy chicken skin.
#fromthepass – Peppered duck, green guava and stone fruit salad with sprouts and sesame ginger dressing
The basic recipe
INGREDIENTS 5kg pork belly
100g black peppercorns whole
40g Juniper berries
100g garlic whole
30 bay leaves
20g thyme fresh
30g sage fresh
1kg salt coarse
1kg sugar granulated white
Toast peppercorns and juniper berries
Combine the toasted peppercorns and juniper berries with the herbs and garlic.
Pulse in a blender until coarse and combine with the salt and sugar.
Rub the cure mixture all over the pork belly.
Place in a tray and cover with a cheese cloth.
Allow to cure for 10 days. Gently remove the cure do not wash just rub off.
Damp the belly with a kitchen towel until relatively dry.
Place on a wire rack and allow to sit in the fridge for 24hrs until it dries out completely.
Portion the belly into 2 smaller pieces, tightly wrap the belly individually in cheese cloth.
Truss with butchers string. Hang for 6-8 weeks
At the same time we received the cheeks we also received some beautiful pork belly. Eight weeks later we are in heaven, what beauties, both the smoked rolled as well as the flat pancetta will be great additions to the chef’s table experience.
But why experiment with pancetta? After all it is readily available almost anywhere. I think part is curiosity, part education, part understanding true quality. True quality in this art form can only be achieved with time. Often the products found on the shelf has not been made with the same care and the same time. The journey truly taught us that the difference is huge. We take for granted, the importance of time on true quality. Everything we want must happen quickly. This slow food will not succumb to the trap of time.
As we are doing both a rolled (arrotolata) as well as a flat (stesa) it gives us space to explore a multitude of potential recipes or just plain with bruschetta.
Cricket fans have the Proteas. Rugby fans have the Springboks. And South African food-lovers have a team of men and women in chef’s whites who will be flying the South African flag when they compete against over 40 nations in the IKA Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany, in October this year.
“The IKA Culinary Olympics is the oldest and most prestigious global culinary competition; an event that, like the sporting Olympics, takes place only once every four years. The South African National Culinary Team is honoured to participate once again. We have been hard at work for four years, fine-tuning and practicing our Olympic menu to prepare ourselves for one of the toughest challenges on the culinary calendar,” explains the manager of South African National Culinary Team, Heinz Brunner of Crown Outsourcing Consultants.
The chefs of the South African National Culinary Team are:
• Henrico Grobbelaar of Southern Sun The Cullinan
• Dion Vengatass of Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel
• Blake Anderson of 3SIXTY and Billy G, Montecasino
• Jerome Norton of Four Seasons, The Westcliff Hotel
• Kirstin Hellemann of Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel
• Minette Smith of HTA School of Culinary Art
• Arno Ralph of Lindt & Sprungli
SA Advisors to the team include Chef Garth Shnier, Executive Chef of Sandton Sun, Sandton Convention Centre and InterContinental Johannesburg Sandton and member of the World Association of Chefs Societies Culinary Guidelines Committee (advisor on competition rules, guidelines and cold kitchen).
Chef David Higgs, Chef Patron of Marble Restaurant (hot kitchen advisor); and Martin Kobald, owner of ChefMLK School of Cooking (international trends and judging).
In the spirit of the wording on the team emblem “Masakhane” – which means let’s build each other – the South African National Culinary Team is inviting the nation to follow their journey to the IKA Culinary Olympics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under their newly-launched hashtag #SAOlympicChef.
“A strong show of support and interest on social media by our fellow South Africans and foodies will give our team a tremendous boost towards bringing home the gold. Messages of encouragement should include the hashtag #SAOlympicChef,” adds Brunner. The South African National Culinary Team brought back a gold medal in the Hot Kitchen section in 2008 – the first gold to be won by South Africa in 16 years. In the same year, the South African National Culinary Team was awarded the official South African team status by the Department of Arts and Culture’s Bureau of Heraldry.
The 2016 Culinary Olympics will take place from 22 to 25 October in Erfurt, Germany, with about 40 countries competing. The teams will have five-and-a-half hours to prepare their three-course menus to serve 110 people.
The South African National Culinary Team’s Olympic menu features:
Starter: Cape Crayfish ‘Malay’ – poached crayfish, pressed carrot terrine, carrot mayonnaise and Malay curry sauce.
Main Course: Springbok ‘Masakhane’ – pan-roasted loin of springbok, rolled veal sweetbreads, red cabbage and cider purée, savoy cabbage and Boulangére potato.
Dessert: Textured Splash of Raspberry, Rose, Coconut & White Chocolate – coconut sand, coconut sorbet, coconut sponge, rose jelly, rose meringue, raspberry mousse, and raspberry jelly.
In mid-March, the South African National Culinary Team prepared their menu for a group of celebrities, media, bloggers and foodies, who continue to share news about the team and their various activities on their different social media platforms. The team’s itinerary leading up to the Olympics in October includes displaying the cold table at Food & Hospitality Africa expo at Gallagher Convention Centre on 3 May; on 20 June the team will be preparing a by-invitation-only dinner for 110; on 18 July, the Team will be preparing another by-invitation-only dinner for 110 at the Mount Nelson Hotel; and finally the team practice concentrating on the Cold Table will take place on 19 and 20 September respectively.
“We are going to the Olympics as proud ambassadors of South Africa and representatives of a great heritage of culinary excellence in this country,” says Brunner. “We will put in all the necessary hours to do our country proud – and we’re delighted at the growing support we are getting from people within the culinary industry and from the general public. It’s inspiring!”
The South African National Culinary Team will be participating in the IKA Culinary Olympics under the auspices of the South African Chefs Association. Their participation has been made possible through the generous sponsorship of headline sponsor LSC/Imperial, along with accommodation partner the City Lodge Hotel Group and partners ChefWorks, Turn ‘n Slice and N1 Restaurant Suppliers.
The official press statement can be downloaded here.