Meet Gerald…head chef at award winning restaurant The Tasting Room in Franschhoek – part of the of the stunning boutique property Le Quartier Francais which we absolutely adore! Bringing the restaurant to life and leaving all of us in the office with rumbling tummies, we wanted to share this wonderful interview with you all.
Gerald, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us…
What do you love most about being head chef at the Tasting Room?
The free glass of wine after service – hahahaha – seriously: It’s taxing being the head-chef of The Tasting Room, I see the people I work with more than I see my wife, but the good thing about it is that I am constantly learning, pushing forward, trying new things all the time and really putting in an effort to perfect my craft, and so too is the team which surrounds me. As far as equipment is concerned, I believe we are very lucky, it is one of the best kitchens I have ever worked in, and working alongside Margot Janse is also a privilege, she is a very talented chef with a great amount of knowledge and skill, truly inspiring.
If you could sum up the style of the food at the Tasting Room in three words, what would they be?
African, Contemporary, playful (whimsical).
What is your favourite thing on the menu right now?
Difficult to pick one, but would probably go for the beef dish, since it’s the newest. It’s beef brisket which is cured overnight, then cooked at 68C for 45 hours, rested and portioned. We serve it with a fermented red cabbage gel, powder and crisp, parsley gel, white & black garlic.
What is it like to work alongside Margot Janse – who we believe has just celebrated 20 years at The Tasting Room
She’s not just an amazing chef, she is a wonderful person as well, willing and ready to listen and help when you need it. When it comes to creating new dishes, she asks questions which a person does not normally think of, which inevitably makes the dish better. She understands quality, works with precision, and demands it from everyone in the kitchen as well, and above all, she loves food, cooking and eating it, which is obviously very important in our trade. I have learned a great deal from her in one year, and feel that there still is so much more.
5. Are there any South African local delicacies that you recommend every visitor should try?
Lots; Biltong (cured and dried meat), abalone, Hertzogies (a small traditional tart with apricot and coconut), koeksister (fried dough in syrup), bobotie (a traditional meat, spice and custard dish with Indonesian origins) Malay style cuisine (especially the pickled fish), braai (which is like a BBQ, but a hundred times better), vetkoek and curried mince and of course South African wines; there is also a growing craft beer scene, some brewers are creating wonderful beers, and beer lovers need to try them.
The Tasting Room is of course attached to the stunning boutique hotel, Le Quartier Français – do you have enough time to get to know the guests?
I spend most of my time in the kitchen, but we have a spectacular kitchen, and if guests request to see it, we gladly show them around and that us when I will have a chat with, which is always good fun.
What is your favourite thing about Le Quartier Français as a hotel?
The whole hotel is colorful and vibrant, yet elegant, that includes the staff as well, always friendly and smiling, the people are what make the hotel so special; it’s a great place to be.
We know the property is very involved with helping the local community, could you tell us a bit more about ‘Mrs Ndaba Friday’ and your legendary muffins?
It all started with a muffin on Fridays, but now has evolved to feeding kinds lunches daily at a number of schools. We prepare the food in the kitchen and then deliver it, it now includes fruit, juice, and a warm protein based meal
We also love Le Quartier Français’ little sister ‘Delicious’ which has opened up next door (room names are ‘Itsy Bitsy’ ‘Teeny Weeny’ and ‘Bigger than a bikini’!) What is the main difference between the two properties?
They are sister properties, but as you know sometimes sisters can be completely different! Delicious is a fun quirky overnight hotel, with the perk of breakfast at Le Quartier (which is situated right next door). Le Quartier on the other hand is luxury at its finest and, although still carrying loads of personality, is more refined and offers a real 5 star experience.
Finally – apart from visiting the Tasting Room of course, what is your top ‘to do’ for those visiting Franschhoek?
The wine farms are certainly the main priority, there is the Wine Tram which will make it easy to visit a few farms in one day, but there are a few special farms who are not part of the tram, for example My Wyn, it’s a small farm, husband and wife run and they do everything by hand, pressing, bottling and labeling, and they make some special wines as well, using only grapes from the Franschhoek valley. Also, there are loads of restaurants to visit, Foliage, Le Motte, Grand Provance, Ryan’s Kitchen and a whole host of others along the main road. There are also a few walking trails around, which are spectacular, especially the ones over the pass, it really is an amazing view from up there, and a great spot for a picnic or just taking a bottle of wine or bubbly along and enjoy the sunset.