It’s #InternationalChefsDay, a great day to be inspired by one of South Africa’s best exports, Celebrity Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen…..
This week on African Voices, the programme speaks to South African chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, who outlines how his rural roots and upbringing led to him becoming the first South African Michelin-starred chef.
Raised in the small town of Middleberg, Van der Westhuizen tells the programme that his love for cooking was nurtured on a rural farm with his mother and grandmother: “My grandparents both lived with my parents on the farm, and it was just all about food. I grew up with my mother and grandmother just feeding us all the time, the farm to table environment… I used to call it tables of love because it was just so much food.”
This led to Van der Westhuizen taking up formal training at a specialist school and travelling to Europe to pursue his passion further, eventually settling in the south of France.
Van der Westhuizen tells the programme why he was drawn to the country: “I was so intrigued by the way the French did things, how they approached food and how it’s a religion there. In a sense, it was going back to my parent’s farm, there was a holiness around it – the markets, that really reminded me of the produce that we grew.”
By 2013, and following a stint working on a superyacht, Van der Westhuizen founded his restaurant ‘Jan’ on the backstreets of Nice.
Serving South African cuisine in the south of France, Van der Westhuizen explains the culinary style he developed: “South African cuisine, people go: ‘What’s that?!’ and they’re not really sure how to interpret it… South Africa is so advanced, so evolved, and so with the rest of the world, it’s almost nice to show the other side, the modern South Africa.
Jan quickly became a sensation in southern France, and three years later, the restaurant went under consideration – and was eventually awarded a coveted Michelin Star, meaning Van der Westhuizen was the first South African chef to receive the accolade.
Reflecting on this, Van der Westhuizen tells African Voices: “To have a star of my own – in France – I would never have dreamt of it.”
However, this award has not slowed Van der Westhuizen’s success or lowered his standards as he explains to the programme: “Every plate we make at the restaurant needs to be delicious… I love to create. I love to take nothing and make something from it. I need to share that with people, and make somebody’s mind tick and say ‘Wow, that’s interesting’, or ‘That’s weird’, or ‘That’s beautiful.’”
Having showcased South African cuisine to an audience of the continent, Van der Westhuizen tells African Voices what advice he would give to upcoming chefs: “Don’t forget your roots. Remember your heritage, remember what you ate, what you drank and what you wore as a child. It’s those things that will make you interesting one day, it’s the Africa in your blood that will make you interesting one day.”
African Voices’ airs Friday 20th October at 10:30 SAST on CNN International. If you miss it, don’t fret, the show also airs at the following times:
Saturday 21st October at 16:30 SAST
Sunday 22nd October at 00:30 SAST, 04:30 SAST and 20:00 SAST
Monday 23rd October at 10:30 SAST
Tuesday 24th October at 05:30 SAST
For more info, visit; www.cnn.com/africanvoices