There is a specific feeling I get when driving into the Franschhoek winelands. It is a mixture of dreamy happiness and tummy-rumbling excitement because there is always something lusciously food or drink related at the end of my journey.
This time it was Cathy Marston and I who were visiting to taste the wares of Jaco and Jacques, the wine and food duo at the ridiculously beautiful Grande Provence. Click here to see Cathy's wine review...
Jacques de Jager is a young chef who has reached a pinnacle of success by heading up the kitchen at this well-known establishment. It remains firmly in the top 10 this year and the style of classic French cuisine with a modern twist is stylishly executed with a flourish of beautiful flavours.
He is a lively,fun character and explains quite simply with an infectious spark of enthusiasm that he 'cooks the food that he likes to eat'. He uses only the freshest of local ingredients which adorn the constantly changing menu with the exception of the famed signature dish, the Sweetcorn Veloute. It's eye-poppingly delicious.
We sat down for a chat:
Q: Where did your love of cooking begin – can you pinpoint an incident or moment when you knew this would be your future?
I was cooking for the family at the age of 9 for fun, but I decided in matric that it was what I wanted to do, and I haven’t looked back since.
Q: What is your style of cooking?
My style is firmly rooted in traditional French style, but other Western European influences do show from time to time.
Q: What is the most exotic thing you have ever cooked with or tasted?
I ate “rocky mountain oysters” in the States. (These are a north American delicacy and usually testicles!)
Q: What is the worst meal you’ve ever cooked? What happened?
Usually the one when I get together with my friends for a braai. Most of my friends are chefs, so we usually drink too much beer and forget that we didn't put anything on the Weber.
Q: What in your opinion is the most underrated ingredient?
An onion. It’s the base of good things.
Q: Your top recipe book of the moment?
'A Day at El Bulli'.
Q: Favourite place to eat out in SA?
For lunch Overture and for dinner Rust en Vrede.
Q: What is your most successful seduction meal?
Scallops usually go down a treat.
Q: What is your favourite food and wine combination?
Duck and Pinot Noir.
Q: What do you think of Ferran Adria and molecular gastronomy?
I think he is heading a great movement that is quite innovative. A true kitchen messiah.
Q: If you could have anyone cook for you – who would it be?
My Girlfriend Aneska as she has never cooked for me.
Q: Who would you like to sit down for dinner with – anyone in the world?
My Girlfriend, my Sous chef josh, my jnr sous Dale and their partners. We never get a day off together to be able to do it.
Q: What would be your top foodie destination?
Q: Your best foodie memory?
Dinner at Moto in Chicago.
Q: Food hero?
Q: Food villain?
People you consider themselves “food fanatics”.