Name: Adele Stiehler-van der Westhuizen
Establishment: Prue Leith Chefs Academy & Restaurant
Q. How would you describe your style of cooking? What inspires you?
A: Ingredients inspire me, my cooking is very much focused on highlighting good products. I also love South African flavours. We have a melting pot of flavours to choose from, I don’t understand why more chefs are not cooking local flavours.
Q: Describe a typical day in your restaurant?
A: As our restaurant is mainly manned by students, it has to be a very organised affair with the morning shift getting the bulk of the mise en place out the way, so that the late shift can focus on final touches and service. We only have a dinner service, with occasional lunch functions.
As Prue Leith restaurant is part of a chef school the day includes balancing different departments and events, from classes, to short courses, special events and the usual restaurant operations. I luckily have a phenomenal team that all work together to make it happen.
Q: What have been your proudest moments as a chef?
A: Cooking for Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini, last year. I think it is far more difficult cooking for “food thinkers” than critics and those who like to eat well!
Q: What has been your biggest learning curve?
A: To respect and showcase ingredients. When you buy good ingredients, the farmer and mother earth already did most of the work. It is sometimes difficult to not force all your funky chef techniques on an ingredient to show how good you are, but rather stand back and show how good the ingredient is. It was a learning curve to learn to listen to ingredients.
Q. What are your favourite ingredients? And, 1 ingredient that we will never find in your kitchen?
A: I love cheese. A lot. There is usually at least 4 different types in my home fridge – at work even more. And fresh herbs – straight from the garden to the pot. I am a true omnivore, but have to admit that I am not crazy about snails, even so, they have been in my fridge…
Q. What is your favourite dish that you enjoy cooking?
A: I love making fresh pasta. Only three ingredients with so many options. I also love making terrines and brawn and preserves and eggplant parmesan, anything with fennel and tarts and a good steak… You are actually asking a mother to choose her favourite child – not fair!
Q: Six people (dead or alive) who you would like to cook for?
A: Keith Floyd, Pablo Neruda, Mozart, Dan Barber, Michael Pollan, C. Louis Leipoldt
Q. What trends / challenges are restaurants facing in 2017?
A: Keeping wastage to a minimum is a 2017 trend that is probably one of the most difficult to follow. I hope chefs will make a serious effort though as in a country where 1 in 4 children are stunted as a result of poor nutrition and access to food, it should be a crime to waste food.
Q. The #1 thing that annoys you in restaurants?
A: (As a diner) Menu items that are not available and are not communicated before guests place their orders.
(As a chef) Well done meat orders… It is difficult to send it out without crying.
Q. Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
A: In a country with such a strong meat culture, we have to start consuming meat more responsibly – the right kind of meat, the whole beast, more variety and slightly smaller portions. I think chefs should set the example in their restaurants.