GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - Linda Sparg speaks to Thomas Potgieter, the chef at Jakkalsvlei Wine Farm, outside Mossel Bay.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I studied hotel management at the Hotel School in Johannesburg and later completed a BTech in food service management.
I was fortunate to be awarded a bursary to complete my in-service training at The Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
After managing a few restaurants in Pretoria, I was appointed as catering manager at the SA Reserve Bank, where I was responsible for all the catering services of the bank: the staff canteen with more than 700 staff meals daily, the executive dining rooms and the bank conference centre.
When I retired, being extremely bored at home, I was offered the opportunity at Jakkalsvlei to live out my passion for food.
What is the best aspect of your current job?
To be free to experiment with various dishes. Before we extended our menu, we offered blackboard specials over weekends. I have carte blanche with respect to menu items and ingredients, which is a privilege for a chef.
I also love pairing wine with food and at Jakkalsvlei I have a wide range of wines with which to experiment.
Also, there is an opportunity to uplift staff. We employ locals in the kitchen. It is amazing how they adapt and learn cooking skills. It is so encouraging to see how people can grow and become skilled staff.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
I remember my biggest embarrassment as a student, during practical examinations at the hotel school. When I turned out my Charlotte Russe dessert, I noticed it had not set completely. I prayed that the examiners would get to my desk as soon as possible, but they were just in time to witness the final collapse.
Who has been your greatest influence?
At hotel school, Prosper Montagnè inspired me with his real classic French cuisine and he is the author of many inspirational books, of which Larousse Gastronomique is the ultimate cookery bible.
With age, one tends to move from the classic cooking era to more relaxed, informal trends. Lately Marco Pierre White is an inspiration as well as Jamie Oliver. The easy, no-fuss manner in which he introduces food preparation is remarkable.
What are your favourite foods to eat and prepare?
Duck is my favourite meat and trout my favourite fish. I love eggs in any form, and not just for breakfast.
I enjoy preparing food, so do not really have a preference for specific dishes. Fine dining is definitely the style of food preparation I prefer. Meat dishes top my list. Pastry and baking are definitely not my speciality.
I enjoy detailed, fancy food presentation, but natural food. I do not like heavily marinated dishes. If I eat steak, I prefer it plain.
I really enjoy nouvelle cuisine: lighter, delicate dishes with an emphasis on presentation. I must admit that on occasion a plate of real Boerekos is a great treat.
With food becoming more expensive constantly, what is your advice on what to cook?
Prepare more chicken and pork dishes, as well as forequarter beef cuts, which are less expensive, but full of flavour.
Pasta and pulses are affordable and filling, making them ideal ingredients to use in meat dishes. This will result in preparing less meat per portion.
I also support the meatless Monday philosophy. Preparing one vegetarian meal per week can also contribute to saving money.
What are the trends you are seeing in South Africa and internationally?
Vegetarianism and veganism are on the increase. I enjoy experimenting to accommodate these trends. Healthy eating is becoming more widespread.
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