Cook­ing up a storm on TV culi­nary show

A food se­ries is ex­plor­ing the de­li­cious world of Jan Hen­drik van der Westhuizen, writes An­drew Robert­son

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - PEOPLE -

HE WAS not your or­di­nary farm-raised boy who grew up driv­ing trac­tors. Not con­form­ing, he cooked him­self down the culi­nary road, later be­com­ing the first South African to re­ceive a Miche­lin-star.

In a first for South African tele­vi­sion, a food se­ries which re­cently pre­miered, ex­plores the work and de­li­cious world of Jan-Hen­drik van der Westhuizen.

This week, Week­end

Ar­gus was in­vited to an ex­clu­sive screen­ing of Van der Westhuizen’s new tele­vi­sion se­ries en­ti­tled JAN – which is also the name of his restau­rant. The show has a dis­tinct taste from the rest.

Un­like other cook­ing shows, JAN gives view­ers an in­ti­mate look into the life of a creative artist, and also the pro­cesses that in­spire him to cre­ate his award-win­ning culi­nary cre­ations.

Van der Westhuizen cred­its how his child­hood on a dairy farm in Mpumalanga pre­pared him for open­ing his restau­rant in the cap­i­tal of the culi­nary world.

In the pi­lot episode, he anec­dotes the mo­ment he re­ceived the high­est ac­co­lade in the restau­rant busi­ness three years later. The pro­gramme be­gins in his restau­rant on the French Riviera, where Hol­ly­wood stars, in­ter­na­tional sports­peo­ple and other VIP guests queue for a table.

“The ma­jor­ity of South Africans can’t get on a plane and come to my restau­rant. They read about me and what I do and the fact that we are proudly South African, but never get the chance to see what we re­ally do. That was the link for me to do a show,” he said.

Guest ap­pear­ances in first episode: Duane Ver­meulen (team: Toulon) also a

Spring­bok player, Juan­dré Kruger (team: Rac­ing Métro 92) also a Spring­bok player, Ju­lia Stiles (ac­tress) known for her char­ac­ter Ni­co­lette “Nicky” Par­sons in the Ja­son Bourne fran­chise, Kevin Grob­ler

(head chef at JAN) from Bloemfontein, Free State, and Rut­ger Eysvo­gel (chef at JAN) from Sal­danha, Western Cape.

“Through­out the rest of the show, and that’s the beauty of it, I am leav­ing the French Riviera and I am go­ing to a small vil­lage in Italy where I am meet­ing real peo­ple… Not many big celebri­ties com­ing up in this se­ries but there is def­i­nitely an ex­cit­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween South Africa, Jan and the world.”

How­ever, achiev­ing such recog­ni­tion in the culi­nary world was not as easy as mak­ing pie. On sev­eral occasions, Van der Westhuizen al­most closed JAN.

“I wanted to give up hun­dreds of times. There were evenings that, I as said in the first episode, I use to drink Mam­poer just to get some courage and I was think­ing why am I do­ing this to my­self... Peo­ple don’t like what I cook and some­thing so amaz­ing hap­pens that my coun­try gets a Miche­lin star. That gave me the courage to say ‘you know we are do­ing some­thing well’, it’s like a pat on the back,” he said.

In the show, Van der Westhuizen also re­flects how he had to “prove” him­self to his fa­ther.

“That has changed so much. I think he has re­alised that when I first got a TV in­ter­view, my fa­ther turned into the Kar­dashian of Mid­dle­burg.

“He went bal­lis­tic. He went ev­ery­where sell­ing tick­ets and he was lov­ing it.”

Van der Westhuizen said he gets his cre­ativ­ity for his dishes from be­ing “cu­ri­ous”.

This month he opened his sec­ond restau­rant, named MARIA.

“It’s named af­ter my mother and of course Jan van Riebeeck’s wife Maria. I am re­ally proud of my her­itage, and my grand­mother came over two weeks ago to open the restau­rant. She’s never been on a plane and over­seas be­fore. She loved it and was in tears. It’s a place where we do French Bo­erekos, up to the ceil­ings we stack food, it’s a feast. It’s a cel­e­bra­tion of food,” he said.

“I be­lieve in time and place. I tend to put a lot of pres­sure on my­self to do too many things at once and prob­a­bly in the fu­ture there might, there might not, be a JAN com­ing up in South Africa. I do pop ups now and then, but it’s in the pipe­line,” he said.

The pro­gramme be­gan on Tues­day on the Afrikaans lifestyle chan­nel VIA (DStv chan­nel 147) and will be avail­able on Show­max.

New episodes of JAN will air ev­ery Tues­day at 7.30pm, with re­peats on Sun­days at 8.30pm. The pro­gramme con­sists of nine episodes of 50 min­utes each in Afrikaans, French and Ital­ian, with English sub­ti­tles.

Jan-Hen­drik van der Westhuizen says it is im­por­tant to have courage and be­lieve in what you do. He says he had to prove him­self, even to his fa­ther.

Juan­dré Kruger will be a guest on the first show.

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