Born in South Africa, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen grew up on a farm in Mpumalanga. The kitchen was where his family would gather, and to Jan, it was a place of warmth, happiness and love. Shoulder to shoulder with his mother and grandmothers in the farm kitchen is where the Jan’s understanding of the world was forged. Now a an acclaimed chef, award winning author and passionate photographer, Jan tells us about his journey thus far…
In the words of the chef:
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD
“Every story has a beginning. Mine started at the tables of my mother and grandmother, where the notion of true South African hospitality seeped into my consciousness to become the foundation on which I would later build my restaurant JAN. It is here that I learned the humble art of serving and creating a warm, welcoming space where people would feel special and escape the humdrum of everyday life to enjoy the singular pleasures of good company and delicious food.”
“As all creative South African souls do I then made my way to Cape Town. One culinary arts qualification and a Masters in Pastry later I applied for a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Design with a focus in photography at Stellenbosch. Spending a lot of time in the surrounding winelands, I discovered a love for wine and spent a few years plying my trade in the wine industry. In the meantime I continued to foster my love for the visual arts by hosting a few solo painting and photography exhibitions in Cape Town.”
ONE STEP AT A TIME
“My unique skill set lead to a stint as a contributing food editor at ELLE South Africa, after which I packed my bags to join the ranks at the test kitchens of the head office of ELLE International in Paris. This career move afforded me the opportunity to co-found COORD Event Direction and launch Champagne PIAFF in Epernay.”
THE WAY FORWARD
“The story of how I came to own a French restaurant is one filled with many obstacles, hard work, determination and more than a little bit of luck. I believe that each of us will experience a few occasions in our lives where the stars are perfectly aligned to make our dreams come true. Destiny will shove you into the right place at the right time, but in that moment it remains your responsibility to take the plunge – to close your eyes, leave the safety of your comfort zone and prove how badly you want it even though you doubt yourself every step of the way.”
Describe your culinary philosophy:
Seasonal, curious, heritage, fresh.
What is your greatest inspiration?
There are so many things in life that can add to our creativity and influence what we do, but there are also so many things in life that are not there anymore that I find mostly inspirational. Evoking memories/ moments with certain ingredients and sharing a smell that we all remember from early mornings on the farm. I miss my childhood, my parents and my grandparents. And I cook to bring back these connections I had with them. Putting myself first and then sharing it with those who would like to go on this experience with me back to South Africa.
What FOUR things would you take to a desert island?
A good knife, seeds to plant vegetables, a paint brush and a canvas.
If you could take a plane ride to any restaurant in the world, just for one meal, where would you go?
Delios, Apricale, Italy
- 1 Michelin Star at JAN | The Michelin Guide France 2016-2019
12 Rue Lascaris
15 Rue Lascaris
Tel: +33 4 97 19 32 23