Solms-Delta farm is living up to a transformation that has proved successful in few places so far in South Africa. The workers now own 33% equity share and every employee has an interest in making Solms-Delta a success.
You can see the pride in the smiles of all who work there and the enthusiasm overflows with a wink and twinkle.
The local wit is intertwined with the wine with lables like ‘Langarm’ and ‘Lekkerwijn’, and with more than one earning 4-stars from Platter's wine guide, they are far from joking with the quality.
Fyndraai is the restaurant on this beautiful farm, with tables on a huge lawn, shady trees to languish under and a view of the Groot Drakenstein mountains to toast to.
Franschhoek born-and-bred chef Shaun Schoeman heads the kitchen at Fyndraai and earned his stripes in Franschhoek’s esteemed Haute Cabriere and Monneaux restaurants.
At Fyndraai he mingles the history of our country into his dishes with a subtle finesse that really works with simple and beautiful fare that is un-fussy and seriously tasty.
This boy can cook jong! With a huge grin he tells me of his love and passion for food.
Q: Where did your love of cooking begin – can you pinpoint an incident or moment when you knew this would be your future?
It really started when my mom asked me to get some potatoes from the shop. She said, “Once you return young man, you can start peeling straight away and after that I’ll show you how to make vetkoek dough”. Later at the dinner table I felt so great, saying to myself “I have peeled these potatoes, and made the vetkoek dough,” as well as getting a chance to brag to my sister.
Q: What inspires you?
What really inspires me the most, is when I walk though my kitchen in the morning, and get all those different smells, fresh bread baking in the oven, stew 'on the cook', or stock that’s ‘going on’ on the stove tops, this really gives me inspiration for combining certain flavours. Magazines and the internet also inspire me … don’t underestimate the internet!
Q: What is the highlight of your career so far and why?
Working at Fyndraai and cooking for the Professor Mark Solms! Managing my own kitchen, working out my own recipes, assisting staff, training staff… I’m having a ball!
Q: What is your style of cooking?
I love all styles, but at Fyndraai on Solms-Delta wine estate I do what I do best – create dishes that explore the culinary heritage of the Cape. Old traditions with a modern twist - uniting European, Asian and African flavours in a fusion of tradition and creativity. Presenting food that is eye-catching, but never intimidating and tastes marvelous. I like to use different cooking techniques, replacing the old with the new, but the traditional elements still remain.
Q: What is the worst meal you’ve ever cooked? What happened?
Thank goodness I have few memories of this but I do remember one incident where I had to cook for entertainment at a friend’s house. I completely forgot about the pork belly roast in the oven! This was on a Sunday evening and no shops were open. Oh my word, I had to serve that, almost-burnt, dry, over-cooked, bitter piece of pork belly.
Q: What is the one implement in the kitchen you cannot do without? Why?
Stick blender, this really fixes-up sauces and dressings fast, it really makes my life so much easier.
Q: What do you cook at home?
Normal, plain authentic food, at times I do get a bit fancy when it comes to entertaining.
Q: What is the best meal you’ve had in 2009?
It was actually a few days ago, I have had the most tasty Tong Lok Chinese chicken and egg noodle stir fry, sjoe, now that was tasty!
Q: What is your most successful seduction meal?
Usually I do this with something sweet, which will be strawberries, deep dark chocolate mousse, and a champagne jelly…. it really works.
What is your favourite food and wine combination?
Q: What is your favourite food and wine combination?
My own favorite is braised lamb neck, tomato bredie, vanilla flavoured potato custard, which goes so very well with our Solms-Delta Hiervandaan 2006 – a blend of shiraz, Mourvédre, Grenache noir, Carignan, and skins or the voigner … mmmmmm nothing else like it!
Q: If you could have anyone cook for you – who would it be?
My mom or grand mom.
Q: Who would you like to sit down for dinner with – anyone in the world? 6 people.
Jennifer Lopez, or Beyoncé - don’t even bother about the rest, they’ll just be a disturbance.
Q: Your top recipe book of the moment?
Thomas Keller from The French Laundry.
Q: Your best foodie memory?
Cooking at a Relais and Chateau event, with great master chefs was a big honour for me.