Meet the #SAOlympicChef @CulinaryTeamSA

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 partners City Lodge Hotel Group, ChefWorks, Turn ‘n Slice and N1 Restaurant Suppliers.

Chefs David Higgs, Garth Shnier, Heinz Brunner, Henrico Grobbelaar, Dion Vengatass, Minette Smith, Kirstin Hellemann, Trevor Boyd, Blake Anderson, Arno Ralph.

SA Culinary Team Trevor Boyd, Dion Vengatass, Blake Anderson, Arno Ralph, Henrico Grobbelaar_Front (L to R) Kirstin Hellemann, Minette Smith.


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 32 countries competing. The teams will have five-and-a-half hours to prepare their three-course menus to serve 110 people.

Arno Ralph
Arno Ralph’s love of sweet dishes and training at Warwick’s Chef School in Hermanus, make him the perfect fit as one of the pastry chefs on the South African National Culinary Team. He will be working on the petit fours and the dessert showcase piece at the IKA Culinary Olympics taking place in Germany in October 2016.

The pastry component of the IKA Culinary Olympics now makes up 40% of the total score (a 10% increase from previous years), and as such, the South African National Culinary Team is focusing on pastry more than ever before. Fortunately, the team’s pastry chefs have been mentored by the esteemed French Master Pastry Chef and expert culinary competitor, Gilles Renusson, who has been based in Michigan, USA for over 30 years.

It’s a great honour to represent your country. I feel privileged to be a part of the team. To work in a field you are passionate about is already amazing, but to be part of a team who feel just as passionately about food and perfection as you do, is just taking it to the next level! Everyone has a story and our country has so much to tell. I want to showcase this shared passion and strive for perfection in the culinary world.
Arno Ralph | Master Chocolatier for Lindt & Sprüngli SA

Blake Anderson
Blake Anderson’s particular expertise lies in new dish, recipe and menu development. This highly innovative chef is adept at using modern techniques and his approach to food ensures high quality results.

An adaptable, responsible, keen and hardworking individual, he joined the South African National Culinary Team in 2013. Blake is responsible for the three hot starters presented cold along with the aspic work for the Cold Table display, he also participates in the hot kitchen alongside his team members.

Being a part of the SA National Culinary Team is the greatest opportunity of my career. To represent my country in something I am passionate about is very special. I have the opportunity to work with and compete against some of the world’s greatest chefs…chefs that eat, breathe and sleep this industry.
Blake Anderson | Complex Executive Chef at Montecasino

Since October 2015, Blake Anderson has been the Complex Executive Chef at Montecasino. He oversees the daily operations of the Tsogo Sun flagship property’s five restaurants – including 3SIXTY and Billy G – to ensure effective operation and high standards.

Dion Vengatass
Dion studied management at the Swiss Hotel School, but his love for cooking saw him undertaking a self-study programme to become a chef. This passionate chef was inspired by a well-known American chef as well as local chef and mentor, Rudi Liebenberg under whom he currently works at The Belmond Mount Nelson.

Being part of a national culinary team is one of the greatest achievements for a chef in any country, so representing South Africa and wearing the national colours means a lot to me because I’ve always been a hardcore patriot. This is what I have worked for my entire career!” says Dion when asked what being on the South African National Culinary Team means to him.

Dion is in charge of the cold starter in the hot kitchen and the tapas items on the five course festive menu. He has a particular affinity for the starter dish (Cape Crayfish ‘Malay’ – poached crayfish, pressed carrot terrine, carrot mayonnaise and Malay curry sauce) because the subtle Indian flavours of the ingredients are reminiscent of his childhood and showcase our heritage.
Dion currently works as a Chef de Cuisine at The Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town.

Henrico Grobbelaar
Henrico Grobbelaar is one of South Africa’s most creative and celebrated young chefs with a long list of accolades, most notably winning Sunday Times Chef of the Year 2009 and San Pellegrino International Young Chef of the World 2009. His enviable resumé lists positions including Executive Chef to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland 2010 and 2010 FIFA World Cup.

He is no stranger to the South African National Culinary Team and began his Olympic culinary journey on the development team in 2005 having since worked his way through the ranks to become the 2016 team captain. Henrico currently oversees the main course in the hot kitchen and in the cold kitchen he is responsible for overseeing the platters.

The SA National Culinary Team is a platform for chefs to go above and beyond. In our jobs, we work long hours and are under pressure all the time. As a member of the team, even your down time becomes more kitchen time, allowing you to hone your skills and creativity. It takes a lot of commitment, discipline, focus and dedication to be on the team. This all culminates in two days of competition at the IKA Culinary Olympics, with 2000+ chefs in their whites battling it out for gold. This is the highest level of gastronomy excellence and I am excited to represent South Africa
Henrico Grobbelaar | Executive Chef Tsogo Sun’s Southern Sun The Cullinan

Although the crisp, white chef’s jacket always held some type of mystery and fascination, he qualified as a polymer engineer in 2001. Swimming against the tide, Henrico made the seemingly radical decision to exchange his career in engineering for one as a chef…and hasn’t looked back since.

“To be a chef, you must have a tenacious personality because this industry is a demanding one that requires a high level of commitment and effort if you want to succeed. It is a creative craft and you must be able to receive criticism well. The hours are long and the environment is hot, fast and noisy, but the rewards are huge,” says Henrico of his craft.

Rather than enrolling at a Chef’s Academy, he peeled vegetables as an apprentice chef for three years under Australian chef, Michael Bridgeman – further proof of his deep-rooted passion for the culinary world. He then joined Garth Stroebel and Paul Hartmann at what was then their brand new South African Culinary Academy, and graduated top of his class. Under chefs Stroebel and Hartmann, the world of cuisine revealed itself to be every bit as rich and exacting as he had anticipated.
Henrico Grobbelaar constantly pushes boundaries to grow his skills. His cuisine is innovative and exciting as is evidenced in his ability to elevate classic dishes to mouth-watering new heights. His rise to ‘fame’ hasn’t been meteoric. It has been steady and consistent. After more than a decade in the industry, Henrico joined Tsogo Sun’s Southern Sun The Cullinan hotel in February 2016 as the Executive Chef.

Kirstin Hellemann
Kirstin Hellemann is making her mark in the South African culinary industry, having worked at well-known hotels and won culinary competitions during her career.

After finishing school Kirstin went to England where her first experience of the culinary world was in a front of house role. She later moved on to work in the kitchen as a commis chef…from there she never looked back. After spending two and a half years in the UK she returned to South Africa to train at the South African Chefs Academy in 2010 under chefs Garth Stroebel and Paul Hartmann.

It’s a great privilege to have this opportunity to be a part of the South African National Culinary Team and compete in the largest culinary competition in the world – the IKA Culinary Olympics. It feels exciting, but comes with some nervousness, although I know once the hard work is done, it will be an experience I’ll never forget! I am enjoying all that we are learning and experiencing. It’s great to see how we grow and develop both individually, as well as a team. It will be interesting to see how our food progresses over the next few months until we compete.
Kirstin Hellemann | Chef de Partie at the Mount Nelson hotel

Kirstin’s role in the team is to oversee the main course in the hot kitchen: Springbok ‘Masakhane’ – pan-roasted loin of Springbok, rolled veal sweetbreads, red cabbage and cider purée, savoy cabbage and Boulangére potato.

Kirstin is currently working as chef de partie at the Mount Nelson hotel in Cape Town at the hotel’s Planter Restaurant.

Minette Smith

Minette Smith qualified at the Warwick Chef School in Hermanus and spent four years working alongside award-winning chef, David Higgs (who also happens to be one of the South African Culinary Team advisors). With a resumé that includes working in establishments such as The 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, The Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair London, Rust & Vrede, Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel, Restaurant Mosaic and being the Head Pastry Chef at the Saxon for two years, her vast experience makes her a perfect candidate for the South African National Culinary Team.

Minette’s competition accolades are as impressive as her resumé – she represented South Africa in Italy in the Junior World Cup for Pastry Chefs in Rimini 2011 (where South Africa finished in seventh place). When she represented South Africa in the Global Pastry Chefs Challenge in Namibia in 2013, Minette finished in third place.

I feel incredibly proud to be a part of the National Culinary Team,” says this talented chef who is filled with gratitude at being able to represent South Africa at the IKA Culinary Olympics.

Minette Smith | HTA School of Culinary Art

In terms of her role on the National Culinary Team she is involved in the creation, plating and display of the desserts in both the hot and cold kitchen categories.

The hot kitchen dessert on this year’s menu is a textured splash of raspberry, rose, coconut and white chocolate comprising coconut sand, coconut sorbet, coconut sponge, rose jelly, rose meringue, raspberry mousse, and raspberry jelly. Minette took inspiration for her dessert from the city of Bloemfontein which hosts an annual rose competition and the fact that South Africa is one of the best producers of raspberries in the world (most of which are exported).

She explains it further by saying: “I wanted to represent South Africa the best way I could through this dish and decided to combine elements of our country and let the plate tell the story.

Her passion in life is culinary arts but she has a particular affinity for pastry and confectionary arts. From a young age, she knew that her career would one day be in an environment where she could peruse her love for the culinary arts, where she could be creative, invent and truly inspire.

She has been fortunate to work in some of the best kitchens in the world, along with some of the best teams and world-renowned chefs.

Taking inspiration from her belief in developing and equipping people and teams on all levels, Minette has been privileged to teach commis chefs and bakers, who had no culinary background, but went on to grow and take on positions within kitchen environments.

She also believes the culinary journey is an endless journey on which chefs learn as well as teach; live, experience, innovate and excel. Minette feels truly privileged to be a Pastry Chef.

Minette currently works at HTA School of Culinary Art in Randburg, Johannesburg, where she is the head of the pastry and confectionery training division. She teaches theory as well as practical – and is currently running three different pastry programmes at the school, along with a variety of pastry skill programmes in the evenings for professionals and non-professionals.

Trevor Boyd_2
The SA National Culinary Team are delighted to announce the appointment of Trevor Boyd to the South African National Culinary Team which will compete against over 30 countries in the 2016 Culinary Olympics taking place from 22 to 25 October in Erfurt, Germany. Trevor’s appointment to the team follows the resignation of Jerome Norton who has taken up a once-in-a-lifetime position at a global hotel group in Canada.

This talented chef with 25 years’ experience under his toque, was as a member of the South African National Culinary Team from 2000 to 2009 (he participated in the 2004 and 2008 IKA Culinary Olympics). On his inclusion in the team once again Trevor Boyd enthused: “The pinnacle of international food competition is to be in the hot kitchen at the IKA Culinary Olympics – this is what really drove me to be a part of the South African National Culinary Team once again. Competing at IKA is a rush like no other for a chef!”

Team manager, Heinz Brunner had this to say about the newest member of the South African National Culinary Team: “The Team unanimously agreed that Trevor would be an ideal replacement for Jerome Norton who has taken up an incredible job opportunity in Canada. Myself and the other team advisors (Garth Shnier, David Higgs and Martin Kobald) have no doubt that he will take some pressure off his team members especially in the hot kitchen.”

Trevor is currently the Executive Chef at the Michelangelo Hotel on Nelson Mandela Square – represented SA when the previous national culinary teams travelled to Chicago in 2003 and Singapore in 2007. In his previous Olympic tenures – the team won a Gold Medal in 2008 in the Restaurant of Nations category – this experienced and highly creative chef was a pillar of strength to the team and will no doubt once more provide some invaluable guidance to the younger, newer members of the team. He is a perfect fit and will not require a lot of practice to integrate due to his previous culinary Olympic experience.

I love to cook and serve food that can be understood and recognized. Food that tastes great. I like putting a modern spin on South African food and love incorporating worldly trends and techniques in the food that I produce.
Trevor Boyd | Executive Chef at the Michelangelo Hotel

Trevor career as a chef spans 25 years. His love for cooking began to develop at a young age after many hours spent with his mother in the kitchen during his childhood. He knew he wanted to pursue a career as a chef, so decided to be a chef during his compulsory national service in the South African Defence Force – a decision that would later on benefit him later on. In 1993 he graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a National Diploma in Catering Management. During his illustrious career he has worked under industry legends such as Garth Stroebel and was the executive chef at Tsogo Sun’s InterContinental OR Tambo Airport hotel. Various other establishments such as the Mount Nelson hotel, Carnival City and the Mount Grace hotel benefitted from his passion for the culinary arts.

He was a sport enthusiast at school but was never able to represent his country in any of the sports he participate in, so he sets his sights on becoming a member of the South African National Culinary Team as a way of realising his Olympic dream. Trevor is once again looking forward to getting stuck in and “cooking in the trenches with his team mates” as he puts it. His role in the team includes being responsible for the vegetarian dishes on the cold table display and assisting wherever necessary in the hot kitchen.

The team’s itinerary leading up to the Olympics in October includes preparing a by-invitation-only dinner for 110 on 20 June at 3Sixty at Montecasino in Fourways. On 18 July the team will be preparing another by-invitation-only dinner for 110 at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town; and finally the team practice concentrating on the Cold Table will take place on 19 and 20 September.

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 partners City Lodge Hotel Group, ChefWorks, Turn ‘n’ Slice and N1 Restaurant Suppliers.

Visit www.saca.co.za.

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