Gourmet (South Africa) - - CHEF’S PROFILE - Ex­ec­u­tive chef, The Werf Restau­rant, Boschen­dal, Stel­len­bosch

Since the open­ing of The Werf food gar­den, Boschen­dal’s veg­etable al­lot­ment now fea­tures close on two hectares, which reg­u­larly pro­vides plant-to-plate in­gre­di­ents to the two restau­rants, a deli and the pop­u­lar pic­nics. Christiaan, who care­fully cu­rates the dishes, shares his knowl­edge of work­ing with the sea­sons.

‘I have learnt to re­spect how much time and space it takes to grow veg­eta­bles. Win­ter in the Cape is def­i­nitely a time of hi­ber­na­tion – a sleepy, slow time for veg­etable grow­ing. Spring, sum­mer and au­tumn tie in beau­ti­fully with our busy times in the restau­rant. The gar­den drives my cre­ativ­ity. I work very closely with our food-gar­den man­ager Me­gan Mccarthy with re­gards to what I would like to see planted for use in the kitchen. We have reg­u­lar dis­cus­sions be­fore the hunt is on to find seeds and the plant­ing be­gins. “Farm to fork” is a sim­i­lar con­cept to “nose to tail”. Work­ing with a veg­etable gar­den and its crop is much the same – all the pro­duce from the gar­den has to be used. Al­though we can’t al­ways get what we want, we do get what we need. The gar­den re­flects on all my plates in one form or another. There’s a starter we fea­ture from time to time con­sist­ing of roasted baby gar­den car­rots, with fresh horse­rad­ish and ac­com­pa­nied by finely chopped and cured smoked-pa­prika sausage, made in our butch­ery, with a hint of goat’s cheese. I have learnt to be­come quite fluid in the plan­ning of our dishes. Of­ten there is only enough of one crop to last a day. Then it’s back to the draw­ing board for the next of­fer­ing. My favourite in­gre­di­ent is Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes in the au­tumn, root veg­eta­bles such as beets in win­ter, broad beans in the spring, and toma­toes in the late sum­mer. I love spring­time. There are mangetout, peas in the pod, as­para­gus and broad beans all avail­able at the same time. It is a brief win­dow of op­por­tu­nity, but well ap­pre­ci­ated. I’m ex­cited at the prospect of cook­ing with un­usual in­gre­di­ents and heir­looms. The gar­den cur­rently has in­ter­est­ing va­ri­eties of corn, tree toma­toes, turmeric root and tomatillo com­ing through. I pre­serve lemons by the bucket load. They get pick­led in win­ter and go so well with the spring pro­duce that fol­lows, such as as­para­gus, broad beans and peas.’


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