French and Indian feasts in Franschhoek
in fabulous fashion taking taste and money to Greyton, McGregor and Prince Albert.
For some reason, this area along the picturesque R46 has largely been overlooked.
While neighbouring Ceres has always drawn its share of visitors to the winter snow, the summer valley haze, the trout dams, cherry picking and hiking trails, Wolseley’s other neighbor, Tulbagh, has only recently started getting ye olde English treatment of broekielace coffee and curio shops. It helps that it’s also a wedding epicentre. In contrast, Wolseley and its surrounds have stayed doggedly rural and agricultural.
Until now. Until Waverley Hills and the man behind the food there, Francois du Toit. Francois (33) knows the area well because he was born and raised not too far from here, just over the Nuwekloof Pass in the Swartland. “I grew up on a wine farm called Uitsig in the Malmesbury/Paardeberg area that’s been in the family for three generations.
“Such an upbringing gives you a different view when you look at food. I used to go to my grandmother’s house and watched how she baked buttermilk rusks. She always had
¿ she mixed everything. I would eat the raw rusk dough. It was amazing. That’s where my interest in food started. My mother is also a very good cook and baked for the Malmesbury Tuisnywerheid. My sister also loves cooking, and my dad loves eating.
Francois describes why he loves this piece of countryside. “My roots have always been in the countryside and this really is the most
¿ stage in my life. It’s a convenient area for me and I’m not that far from my parents and the family.
“There is so much creativity around what we do here especially with weddings, and there are so many farmers and producers in the area who pop in and offer me this and that. I do feel this is the place where
I will settle.”
“Settle.” Francois is an interesting cat. After talking to him for a bit about where he has been and what he has done, I get the
It feels like he has been restless and has spent
¿ ¿ > way he tells it, his résumé sounds like this (with some liberal paraphrasing):
Studying? He did study cooking. Sort of,
but never quite got the piece of paper.
Food development? Did it, was successful, won awards and medals and brownie points and Noddy shoes developing products for brands like Woolies, but it was not really where he wanted to be forever.
Fancy restaurants? He could do it, has worked in a few, but wasn’t into it for the long term.
Pastry chef for a hotel chain? Meh.
Food & beverage manager for a hotel chain? Snore.
Fruit and veg supplier for retailers? Pass. Working at Manna Epicure under Miranda Engelbrecht? Hang on a minute.
“I worked with the amazing Miranda Engelbrecht at Manna Epicure in Cape Town. I think a lot of my style and way of thinking, and sometimes unusual quirky ways of combining food, come from her. She is an incredible artist and is stunning with food. From working with her I ended up as the head chef at the Royal Hotel in Riebeek-Kasteel
The false starts and varied work
Q and forms in the restaurant/hotel industry
J Q than your average chef.
Yes, he can cook, but he also knows how to run a tight ship, haggle with suppliers and hit the bliss point (a real term used by food scientists) that brands punting the massproduced obsess over.
The difference is, he hits it with real food. Food that hints at the traditional (slowroasted lamb, pampoenkoekies, roasted veg), but with inventive tweaks (slow-roasted lamb with smoked onion gravy, pampoenkoekies with thyme and butterscotch sauce, wasabi and sage-honey root vegetables). It’s familiar enough to be recognisable, but fresh and delicious so you keep coming back.
^F J B À varied. “I don’t really have a style. I cater to my market of the moment – who prefer the traditional boerekos. To keep everyone happy I bring in funky elements like the smoked yoghurt and the roast onion gravy with the lamb. I believe each and every ingredient has its own character.
“Mediterranean cooking sticks to the core value of an ingredient. And that is what
¿ too much with it, a tomato is not a tomato anymore. At the end of the day why use
B À a tomato? You have to honour and respect
¿ a proper sauce, and I try to bring in different À Q
À ; Francois is a great lover of Asian ingredients. “Soy sauce, ginger, lime, coriander, I use them a lot. I never use recipes and to have to write them down is a bit of a kopkrapper (conundrum). I literally have to make the dish to get the recipe. And I manage to get consistency because the stuff I do is straightforward and simple.
Waverley Hills, which has already developed a name for itself as a leading organic wine farm, does a healthy trade through the restaurant, with plenty of regulars coming from Ceres and Tulbagh, as well as
^ Q mountains. The area seems to be carving out its own niche.
“We fall under the Tulbagh Wine Route, but here you can hike, mountain bike and do some birding. One of our busiest times is in the winter, as the mecca for seeing snow is Ceres, on our doorstep.
“While this area is not yet on the level of Riebeek-Kasteel, I do feel we are getting there. I have found moving from Somerset West, to Cape Town, to Franschhoek, to Riebeek-Kasteel, and now here, that the radius from Cape Town, which people see
Wolseley? On the up? Off the back of the food and drive of Francois du Toit at Waverley Hills, you better believe it. As we sit back to take in the scenery and dig into Francois’ fare, the proof is in the pudding… as well as the starters, the mains and the wine at Waverley Hills.
Waverley Hills 023 231 0002 firstname.lastname@example.org, www.waverleyhills.co.za Instagram/francois_chef
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: What better venue for a day of good food, wine and surroundings than Waverley Hills wine estate outside Wolseley. If you take in a wine tasting be sure to sample the Waverley Hills Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, the SMV (Shiraz...
LEFT: Expect to meet Liezel Brandt, one of Waverley Hills’ super-efficient serving staff. ABOVE: Enjoy the wrap-around balcony for lazy summer lunches and the fireplace for cozy winter feasts.