Nadia Barnard is the new principal at the thriving Capsicum Culinary Studio campus in Rosebank, Johannesburg. This trained chef – who swopped the kitchen for the academic classroom and who lives in Centurion – answers some questions and shares her secret on how to make the perfect churros which she learnt from a Spanish chef during one of her numerous travels abroad.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am a trained chef with experience in the pastry kitchen. I transitioned from the training kitchen to the academic classroom and have also worked as a business developer, spreading the word of the wonderful world of hospitality and chef careers. Never one to back away from a challenge, I took on the role as Capsicum campus principal (branch manager) for a monster of a campus filled with enthused lecturers and students, not to mention the conferencing facilities and on-site restaurant.
Why do you think so many Capsicum alumni have been successful?
It is because they are prepared for the working world with the necessary skills required by the chef industry. Success of the Capsicum Culinary Studio graduates is determined by the grit, passion and flair they exhibit and the opportunities they are exposed to with a multitude of practical placement partners.
What advice do you give to students?
Work harder than you ever thought you could. Produce everything to your best ability and take pride in your work. Find a mentor and learn as much from them as you can, both professionally and personally.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to make a career in the hospitality industry?
It’s a very demanding industry to work in, but also one of the most rewarding. Being in the business of “service” has its challenges but no two days will ever be the same. And this industry offers opportunities to work in the most magnificent places in the world; from a safari landscape, to the majestic mountains and vineyards to bustling city properties.
How do you rate the South African hospitality industry?
The hospitality industry is still the fastest growing industry in South Africa despite the current economic state of the country. According to PWC’s Hospitality Outlook: 2019-2023 report, growth in domestic tourism and adventure tourism will benefit mid-market hotels appealing to millennials. This will widen the market and allow opportunities for growth in the job market as well as opportunities to young, qualified, individuals who wish to venture into this growing industry.
What are three latest food trends?
The meat-free movement.
Cabbage is the “new” cauliflower. The Banting lifestyle created quite a stir in the “no carb” business with the cauliflower becoming a substitute for pasta and rice and even used as pizza bases. Cabbage is receiving some great PR at the moment and will take its rightful place as the “in” superfood as healthy eaters are hungry for starch or meat swaps, and they’re experimenting with cabbage leaf enchiladas, cabbage chips and cabbage lasagne.
Non-dairy milk options. The plethora of non-dairy milk options is infiltrating the market as consumers are demanding more “health conscious” options, whether it be for health or ethical issues. The demand for plant-based milk options has escalated among young consumers and they are citing a variety of reasons – ethics pertaining to traditional dairy options, lactose intolerance and healthy lifestyle choices. Whatever the reason for the demand we are now exposed to soy milk, coconut milk, oat milk and even milk from some nuts such as almond milk.
What chef do you admire most and why?
Chef Wandile Mabaso, a South African born, classically trained chef with a flair for French food who is taking the food scene in Johannesburg by storm. I admire his style and his commitment to use quality produce over the limelight and the fickleness of being a “celebrity chef” (often those individuals turn into “cele-bratty” chefs).
What food programme do you watch on television and why?
Nadiya’s Family Favourites on BBC Lifestyle. I just love her demeanour and her approach to home cooking.
What three ingredients would we always find in your kitchen?
Yoghurt, olive oil and fresh herbs.
Five fun quick-fire questions:
Sweet or savoury? Savoury
Brad Pitt or George Clooney? Neither
Red wine or white wine? Red wine but my chosen tipple is gin
Paris, London, Rome or New York? I lived in Paris as a student so the city will always have a place in my heart.
Reading on the beach, wandering around an art museum or scuba diving? Wandering around an art museum followed by browsing through food stores or admiring shoes.
Share a recipe with us and why did you choose it?
Food and travel inspire me. Travelling in Barcelona took me from one street vendor to another, sampling a variety of golden clouds of deliciousness – the famous Spanish churro with thick and decadent chocolate sauce. Learning the tricks and tips to the perfect churros from a Spanish chef also helped.
CHURROS WITH CHOCOLATE DIPPING SAUCE
50g butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 litre sunflower oil – for deep-frying
A few chunks of bread
For the sauce
200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100ml double cream
100ml whole milk
3 tablespoons golden syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract, if you have some
For the cinnamon sugar
100g caster sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Boil the kettle, then measure 300ml boiling water into a jug and add the melted butter and vanilla extract. Sift the flour and baking powder into a big mixing bowl with a big pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, then pour in the contents of the jug and very quickly beat into the flour with a wooden spoon until lump-free. Rest for 10-15 minutes while you make the sauce.
Put all the sauce ingredients into a pan and gently melt together, stirring occasionally until you have a smooth shiny sauce. Keep warm on a low heat.
Fill a large deep saucepan one-third full of oil. Cooking with hot oil can be dangerous – before you start, read up on how to deep-fry safely to avoid accidents in the kitchen. Heat until a cube of bread browns in 45 seconds to 1 min. Cover a tray with kitchen paper and mix the caster sugar and cinnamon together.
Fit a star nozzle to a piping bag – 1.5-2cm wide is a good size. Fill with the rested dough, then pipe 2-3 strips directly into the pan, snipping off each dough strip with a pair of kitchen scissors. Fry until golden brown and crisp. Be very careful here – if air bubbles form in the churros they can explode, especially if the oil overheats or you use old flour.
Once the churros are crisp and golden brown, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on the kitchen paper-lined tray. Carry on cooking the rest of the dough in batches, sprinkling the cooked churros with some cinnamon sugar as you go. When you’ve cooked all the churros, toss with any remaining cinnamon sugar and serve with the chocolate sauce, for dipping.