Sunday Times

LE BRAAI

Any­one for braaivleis in Paris? Un­likely as it may sound, Le Braai is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in the French cap­i­tal these days, thanks to burly and bearded South African Kobus Botha, who is tak­ing the hype in his stride

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Fired up in France

Hav­ing moved to Paris 10 years ago, the for­mer film pro­ducer has been at his pop­u­lar Kobus Braai busi­ness for al­most five years, and is best known for his feisty out­door feasts held for 1,000 and more sit-down guests. What be­gan as two braai res­tau­rants, first in the Midi and then in Paris, set him on his path when he was in­vited to cater for large func­tions, some of which be­came mass events. That his ro­bust South African take on le bar­be­cue is go­ing down well is ev­i­dent from count­less pho­tos on Face­book and In­sta­gram (@Kobus­braai) and the good press and TV the Braai King re­ceives in his adopted coun­try.

The list of note­wor­thy French oc­ca­sions the Oudt­shoorn-bor­nand-bred boerseun has braaied at is not only im­pres­sive, but down­right in­cred­i­ble, the big­gest be­ing the In­terRhone Val­ley Wine Tast­ing that takes place ev­ery sec­ond year. There Kobus caters for 5,000 to 6,000 wine lovers from around the globe for four days.

Other ac­co­lades in­clude cook­ing for na­tional sport­ing bod­ies, which nor­mally would be the do­main of French chefs par ex­cel­lence. When France won the 2020 Olympic bid, Kobus Braai was tasked with putting to­gether the out­door bar­be­cue — a fash­ion in out­door cater­ing since he’s ar­rived on the scene. The cho­sen venue was the back gar­den of the Mont­martre Mu­seum, where Kobus hap­pily served braaivleis to 200 de­lighted guests till late that night, all the while keep­ing the braai fires stoked high in hon­our of the eter­nal Olympic flame.

More re­cently, when the French made the fi­nal of the 2018 Soc­cer World Cup, co-spon­sor Nike got hold of Kobus the night be­fore the game, ask­ing him to set up a cel­e­bra­tory din­ner for 250 VIPs — on con­di­tion that the French won the next day, which they did.

In a re­cent stint with revered Miche­lin-starred chef Jan Hen­drik van der Westhuizen, the two friends and com­pa­tri­ots pro­moted the best of SA on the rooftop of ven­er­a­ble Parisian depart­ment store the BHV, where they served the press and se­lect clien­tele South African treats.

They also col­lab­o­rated on the sec­ond of Kobus’s three braai books (all writ­ten in French). For this project Jan Hen­drik was Kobus’s first choice as pho­tog­ra­pher. The English ver­sion was launched re­cently in SA. As a braai book, it stays down to earth and gen­uine, pay­ing homage to the best cuts of meat and the fresh­est of fish, which Kobus has no prob­lem sourc­ing from his top­notch sup­pli­ers all over France.

“There is so much good food to be found every­where in France, all you need is salt, pep­per and wood. But then, with­out proper tech­nique and tim­ing you won’t get to make a good braai,” he says.

With Kobus hav­ing taken braai to gourmet lev­els in France, one can ex­pect the in­clu­sion of some fancy el­e­ments such as grilled ar­ti­chokes (with a rasp­berry vinai­grette), creamed shal­lots and the sen­si­ble French braai in­ven­tion pa­pil­lotes – chopped veg­gies in wax pa­per parcels done on the grid. “They’re the best,” says Kobus. “I make them all the time. That way you don’t lose any flavour.”

Also in­cluded are easy Mo­roc­can “skin­less” co­rian­der sausages — a much quicker op­tion than mak­ing one’s own boere­wors, though the recipe for the lat­ter is one of Kobus’s Proudly South African spe­cial­i­ties. An­other dead-easy recipe is for quails stuffed with grapes, coal­roasted on thyme sprigs for flavour. Duck breast Kam­pana style is Kobus’s manly take on the meat that the French so love.

With no braai be­ing com­plete with­out some bread, there’s an easy white bread recipe used through­out for buns, flat­bread and the tra­di­tional “bread on a stick” (stok­brood in Afrikaans).

Hav­ing taken time off to at­tend the Cape Town, Joburg and Dur­ban launches of the book in Au­gust, Kobus and his 14-year-old son man­aged to fit in road trips to the Ka­roo and other haunts as well. The best part was be­ing re­united with the fam­ily — his sis­ter El­marie, co-pro­ducer of Boer Soek ’n Vrou on kykNET, and Kobus’s 84-year-old mom, Neelsie, whose fine hand in the kitchen in­spired a life­long in­ter­est in good food.

Back in France there is a busy pro­gramme ahead, start­ing with a doc­u­men­tary se­ries last month, fol­lowed by two more about his braai art. Hav­ing worked in both movies and food, Kobus is un­fazed.

“I love what I do,” he says. “I am at my best when I can light a fire in Paris and start cook­ing for a thou­sand peo­ple. You can say it’s my con­tri­bu­tion to more hap­pi­ness on Earth.”

Le Braai – Braai with a bit of je ne sais quoi (Pen­guin Ran­dom House) R250.

Visit kobus­braai.fr or fol­low Kobus on In­sta­gram @kobus­braai

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 ??  ?? A mass braai event in Avi­gnon.
A mass braai event in Avi­gnon.
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