Be on trend, stay focused on the customer – this is vital for the success of every restaurant says the Cascades hotel’s Executive Chef
With the exciting revitalisation of Sun City’s food and beverage offering now underway, Riaan Van Eyk, the Executive Chef at the five star Cascades hotel, has placed emphasis on fresh, seasonal and sustainable produce in creating the menu for the hotel’s newly opened Mediterranean restaurant, Bocado.
Simple yet tasty and true to the spirit of Mediterranean styled dining, the menu reflects the burgeoning global trend towards healthier, less complicated food.
“You can’t ignore culinary trends. The industry is in a very good space at the moment, with a lot of emphasis on healthy eating and sustainability of the produce we consume. In the future, I see even more attention being given to organic produce and encouraging healthier, more sustainable cooking starting with us as chefs and parents. We need to teach and guide children about the importance of nutritious eating so that future generations can experience food like it’s meant to be,” Van Eyk says.
Van Eyk has been in the culinary field since leaving school over 20 years ago. Born in Port Elizabeth, he attended school in Pretoria before venturing to the United Kingdom where he studied and completed his City and Guilds diploma in professional cookery at North Hertfordshire College.
While working and studying abroad, he had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Jean Christophe Novelli and Jamie Oliver who he lists as among some of the cooking greats of our time.
He describes the most embarrassing moment of his career as when he and his team had to prepare beef fillet for 65 French speaking guests.
“My sous chef sent out the beef fillets over-cooked and all 65 were returned to the kitchen. The French like their beef medium rare. Fortunately, they were happy to wait but I had to apologise to each guest for the shortcoming,” Van Eyk remembers.
“Emphasising the customer experience and ensuring their satisfaction is vital to the longevity of any restaurant. For me the most enjoyable moments in this line of work are when you have really and truly created an unforgettable experience for your guests. This is something I try to instil in my team.”
For those considering careers in the culinary field, he has this advice, “It’s a long road to get to the top and only with perseverance and dedication will one succeed. Be prepared to sacrifice weekends and family time which will pay off in the long term. Never give up and follow your dreams.”
Ever keen to share his passion for easy to prepare, delicious food, here is his recipe for Rooibos milk tart:
Rooibos Milk Tart
· 1,25 liters of milk
· 250 ml of strong rooibos (made with four rooibos tea bags, left to brew in hot water)
· 2 tbs butter
· 4 tbs flour
· 2 tbs corn flour
· 125 ml sugar
· 6 free-range eggs
· 2 cinnamon sticks
· Ground cinnamon
· 1 pre-baked pastry case
In a saucepan, bring the milk, butter, rooibos and cinnamon sticks to the boil. Turn off the heat. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and creamy, and then add the flour and corn flour. Strain the milk mixture, add to the egg mixture and pour into a saucepan. Cook over a low heat and keep stirring until it thickens (about 10 minutes). Pour the cooked mixture into a pastry case. Dust with ground cinnamon and refrigerate for two hours before serving with a drizzle of honey.
To make the pastry for the rooibos milk tart, you could buy puff pastry (blind baked in the oven for 15 minutes) or make your own sweet pastry.
· 500 g flour
· 250 g butter (cut into blocks)
· pinch of salt
· 100 ml caster sugar
· 1 free-range egg
· 190 ml water
Mix the flour and salt and rub the butter into the flour. Combine the egg and water and mix with the flour and butter. Mix into pastry and leave it in the fridge for an hour. Roll out and blind bake (cover with baking paper and fill with dry beans or rice) in a tart dish at 145°C for half an hour.