French, SA chefs cook up real storm
‘Two Worlds Meet’ seduces diners
France and South African might be worlds apart but when an idea is conceived to fuse the food cultures of the two nations for a surprise dining adventure, something special can be expected.
Well, something did start cooking the very moment Bisquit Cognac cellar master Denis Lahouratate flew into the country recently to serve up a fusion of South African and French cuisine with Soweto chef Les da Chef, aka Lesego Semenya, with the accompaniment of cognac.
The two collaborated in a “TwoWorldsMeet” theme to underscore the coming together of the two cultures. Typically, the Frenchman brought the renowned joie de vivre to the party while kasi-boy Les da Chef injected grit and soul.
The venue for the two-nations dinner was Ferguson’s on 5th Restaurant in Sandton.
Bisquit, a brand dating back 200 years, is owned by South African liquor giant Distell which paid R390-million to acquire it in 2009.
To prepare for the dinner and familiarise himself with the French brandy, Les da Chef took sips of each cognac – from VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) to XO (Extra Old) – in the dark to assimilate nuances of the spirit without distraction.
The VS (R400) is distilled in oak barrels for at least three years; the VSOP (R800) is aged at least for four years; and XO (R2 200) is aged for six years, but some of it may be as old as 30 years or more.
He then recommended meals to go with each expression for the dinner.
“I believe people eat with emotion and if you explain the rationale behind something, they are more open to trying it. So I started putting dishes and ideas together that would pair with the different cognacs,” the chef said.
In the end, he was pleasantly surprised at just how versatile brandy is with food, “and specifically the type of food we South Africans love”.
With Bisquit Cognac cocktails, he chose a variety of starters: smoked chicken liver pâté with biltong dust on a dombolo croute; wild mushroom with morogo chips; and toasted pumpkin seeds on potato rostis. These were contrived to match the lime, ginger and lemon in the cocktails.
But everyone’s favourite turned out to be the maincourse dish pairing Bisquit Cognac VSOP with rooibos, honey and oak smoked beef cheeks with mashed potato.
It’s interesting how the popular township relish skop (cow’s head), is gradually rearing its delectable head in mainstream cuisine. Small wonder because beef cheeks are the most succulent part of skop’s largely bony make-up.
But Lahouratate saved the best for last, introducing Bisquit’s newest addition – Interlude Second Expression (R15 500) – to a gushing audience disarmingly seduced by the price and the spirit’s ultrarefinement.
Mohale Mashigo, Les da Chef and Lerato Tshabalala
Itumeleng Modise and Siphokazi Veti at the “TwoWorldsMeet” dinner in Sandton, Johannesburg.