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
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.