French, SA chefs cook up real storm

‘Two Worlds Meet’ se­duces din­ers

Sowetan - - Lifestyle - Len Maseko

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

/PHO­TOS/ SUPPLIED

Itume­leng Modise and Siphokazi Veti at the “TwoWorld­sMeet” din­ner in Sand­ton, Jo­han­nes­burg.

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