Prior to food you were involved in drama and photography. What made you give that all up for a career in food?
Food was always there but I never gave it a chance because I was set on other things at the time. Eventually I decided to enter the magic of the restaurant world. I always loved going to restaurants and I was always when I was a little girl and it dawned on me a bit late. But then I don’t think you need to know what you want to do at 18! I was 23 when I first decided that the kitchen was where I wanted to be.
How have your parents influenced your relationship with food today?
My dad has had a big impact on my relationship with food. He was very adventurous and when we were little he would take us out to eat at restaurants to eat exotic foods like escargots. They were pockets of excitement that he would create and somehow they were always linked to food.
How would you describe your culinary style?
Exciting with mountains of integrity and honesty. I don’t like to follow the rulebook – I think it’s good to push yourself. I don’t like to take myself too seriously.
What kind of experience do you hope to give your guests at Le Quartier Français?
I want people to be relaxed. I don’t want them to feel intimidated, at all. The service at Le Quartier Français is very good; it’s down to earth and very relaxed. When guests leave I want them to feel like they’ve experienced South Africa, through the food and the stories that my staff tell. A lot of my staff have personal stories connected to the food, making dining at Le Quartier Français a really immersive experience.
Describe your culinary philosophy…
It is lovely to live in a beautiful village where I live a good life but I am also very aware that in South Africa I am surrounded by poverty. That really keeps your feet on the ground. You face reality everywhere and that is why built into the core of my food philosophy is that food should never be wasted. The other thing is flavour and experimentation. I’m very adventurous when it comes to new flavours — even when there’s a new line of toothpaste at the supermarket I have to try it! I think that comes through very strongly in my cooking at Le Quartier Français.
If you could take a plane ride to anywhere in the world, just for one meal, where would you go and why?
I really want to go to Japan. I love eating out and I love eating in fine dining restaurants but I almost love it more eating in little nondescript backstreet restaurants. I’ve done a lot of cooking (and eating in Asia) and I just can’t get enough of it.