Chef Darren Badenhorst - Q & A

Chef Darren Badenhorst talks about life, the kitchen and beautiful Grande Provence.

15 Oct 2013
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Grande Provence is an exquisite wine farm in Franschhoek. It is home to award winning wines, a tasting room, a top gallery and elegant restaurant.

Executive chef Darren Badenhorst is the man at the helm of the highly regarded, The Restaurant. He opened the doors to his busy and highly skilled kitchen and let me in for an exciting couple of hours during a service. Look at this gallery of a few of the dishes on his menu. (2013 Winter menu)

Where did your love of cooking begin?

I honestly can’t pinpoint an exact moment. It was more of a passion that grew the more I was exposed to great food and began to understand and appreciate the potential not only a meal, but a dining experience can hold.

What is the highlight of your career so far?

Working with great chefs is always a highlight, one such highlight was when Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate hosted Michelin star chef, Michel Louws, from our sister property Huka Lodge in New Zealand.

What drives your passion for food?

Change and experimentation whilst staying true to the ingredient at hand.

Tell us about your style. How has it evolved since you started?

French fine dining with an Asian influence.

French cuisine is always the building blocks in culinary institutions, I however have a love for Asian food, ingredients and the way natural seasoning and seasoning and textures are used to enhance food. 

 What is the most exotic thing you have ever cooked with or tasted?

A dog fish…long story.

What inspires you?

Change and the opportunity to create things from scratch.

Every day presents new challenges, new ingredients with change of seasons, and a large variety of different personalities that make up a kitchen brigade.

Creating a dish from an idea and watching it evolve as you evolve as a chef and as a person is very rewarding. There is never a dull moment in the kitchen!

How has working in the Grande Provence Wine Estate kitchen shaped you as a chef?

It was a dream come true for me. I remember years ago looking through various properties and thinking to myself, if I could work there I would be content as a chef.

It has been and continues to be an amazing journey. My staff are great and the opportunities I’ve gained by working here is incredible.

One such opportunity is the privilege of having our Michelin star chef, Michel Louws of our sister property, Huka Lodge, only a phone call away.

Explain the concept around your dish, ‘The chicken and the egg’.

I like to involve a bit of mystery in my dishes - this is one such dish.

The concept is from the saying, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"  The dish is plated in the form of a birds nest, and in fact, is both the chicken and the egg where it looks exactly like an egg but is made of truffled chicken and has an egg yolk in the centre.

What in your opinion is the most underrated ingredient?

Beetroot. It is so versatile.

What do you cook at home?

Slow braises that fill the house with those aromas, for hours.

What is your view on sustainable seafood?

I am huge supporter.

I grew up on the coast and spent most days in the ocean off Durban so I have a firm respect for the ocean and the sustainability of its inhabitants.

How does the Grande Provence wine affect the design of your menu?

We have such amazing wines here with deep characteristics and complex notes that it really does make the pairing very easy.

I have been drinking Grande Provence wines for years so I know the finer notes and play to those strengths.

What do you think about social media as a promotional tool?

It has a huge part in the exposure of restaurants these days. It is so readily available and accessible so if used correctly, it is important.

How do you view food bloggers?

They have their place… I’m all for people giving opinions and “reviewing” restaurants they have eaten at. As long they understand the repercussions of what they say and they appreciate the amount of hard work and hours that have gone into a meal they consume in ‘20 minutes’.

If you could have anyone cook for you – who would it be?

Grant Achatz - a leader in molecular gastronomy and progressive cooking, read more about him.

Who would you like to sit down for dinner with – anyone in the world?

Muhammed Ali, Nelson Mandela,  Einstien, Hitler, Will Farrel and Bruce Lee.

What would be your top foodie destination?


Your top recipe book of the moment?

Grant Achatz at Alinea.

Your best foodie memory?

Walking the streets in Greece as a youngster with my family and sampling the street food.

Simple, but the experience of being in a foreign country as a child and having food you haven’t tasted before is always an amazing thing.     

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