BOERE­WORS AND BAGUETTES

Jan to share se­crets of how his French cook­ing con­tains the flavours of home

Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By LEONIE WAG­NER

Catch Miche­lin star Jan Hen­drik on the telly

Je t’aime and mos­bol­letjies are not words you’ll usu­ally hear in the same sen­tence in France. But they of­ten ring out in chef Jan Hen­drik van der Westhuizen’s restau­rant.

The only South African to be awarded a Miche­lin star is im­press­ing in­ter­na­tional food­ies at his restau­rant, called JAN, in the uber-wealthy town of Nice on the French Riviera.

Those who have vis­ited his eatery in­clude ac­tors Robert de Niro and Ju­lia Stiles. But Van der Westhuizen says his most trea­sured cus­tomer has been his granny.

Now South Africans will get a peek into his glam­orous life in a new cook­ing show that starts on DStv next week.

Van der Westhuizen, who mar­ried his part­ner Grant Ba­con ear­lier this year at the Baby­lon­storen farm near Paarl, said his new show, also called Jan, would take view­ers on a culi­nary jour­ney through his cre­ative process and how he com­bines French and South African cook­ing. He will be in South Africa next week for the launch of the show.

Speak­ing to the Sun­day Times this week, the chef said there was a mis­con­cep­tion that he spent his days wan­der­ing around with a bas­ket, buy­ing fresh pro­duce.

“It’s tough deal­ing with cus­tomers who have such a high ex­pec­ta­tion. It’s early morn­ings, late nights and lots of cof­fee in be­tween. It’s re­ward­ing but it’s tough,” he said.

Van der Westhuizen’s love af­fair with France be­gan when he was 12. His mother re­turned with pic­tures from her trip to the city of love and when he learnt French words like bon­jour he promised him­self he would one day ex­plore that coun­try.

He made the move to France in 2009, and opened his 24-seater restau­rant in Septem­ber 2013. Since then it’s be­come a place where Hol­ly­wood stars, sports per­son­al­i­ties and VIPs are will­ing to queue for a ta­ble.

It seemed like an “in­sur­mount­able fool’s er­rand” when he raised the idea of a restau­rant with co-owner and busi­ness part­ner Pas­cal Szafran­ski. Now it’s a des­ti­na­tion for homesick South Africans and for other na­tion­al­i­ties to broaden their range of tastes.

Van der Westhuizen said that the restau­rant had been a “child­hood dream”; but he had never fore­seen a Miche­lin star.

“It was in­cred­i­ble re­ceiv­ing a Miche­lin star. In the culi­nary world it’s like an Os­car,” he said.

He re­ceived the ac­co­lade last year and re­tained it this year.

In the Miche­lin rat­ing sys­tem, chefs are judged by anony­mous re­view­ers. One Miche­lin star in­di­cates a “very good restau­rant”; two stars in­di­cate a place “worth a de­tour”; three stars mean “ex­cep­tional cui­sine, worth a spe­cial jour­ney”.

Stars can also be lost. Celebrity chef Gordon Ram­say lost two in 2014.

Van der Westhuizen has no as­pi­ra­tion to earn more stars.

“I am very con­tent with one star, it’s hon­estly more work to keep the star . . . it’s hard work and a lot of pres­sure, it ends up con­sum­ing ev­ery as­pect of your life,” he said.

In the kitchen, the chef is pas­sion­ate about serv­ing South African dishes. Whether it’s his use of buchu or his abil­ity to draw in­spi­ra­tion from peo­ple’s hair­styles which he later trans­forms into desserts, he in­tro­duces guests from all over the world to the flavours South Africa has to of­fer.

“It is es­sen­tial that I share my her­itage with the world,” he said. “For some that’s the only way they will travel to South Africa.

“It’s com­pli­cated to con­nect ev­ery dish to South Africa but that makes it more spe­cial be­cause we don’t just cook stuff that’s pretty and de­li­cious.”

Van der Westhuizen said his es­tab­lish­ment was more of a “foodie” des­ti­na­tion than a celebrity spot.

Among the South Africans who have popped in for a bite are Olympic gold medal­list Ryk Neeth­ling and rugby play­ers Duane Ver­meulen and Juan­dré Kruger, who both play for the French club Toulon.

Jan pre­mieres on Tues­day at 7.30pm on VIA (DStv Chan­nel 147) with re­peats on Sun­days at 8.30pm.

Pic­ture: Anelia Loub­ser

Jan Hen­drik van der Westhuizen styles a dessert served at his restau­rant, JAN, in Nice on the Riviera.

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