On a Thursday evening just the other week, I was invited to celebrate the release and already apparent success of The Supper Club. Phillipa Cheifitz has written over ten cookbooks, and this is her latest edition of accessible recipes any type of occasion. Previous food editor of Cosmopolitan and current columnist for Taste magazine, Cheifitz has become a renowned and respected food writer over the years.
The Supper Club refers to a Cheifitz's very own supper club she shares with her group of passionate food lovers. Once a season they get together and vote on their choice of menu. Cheifitz decided that the dishes created were dishes that all friends of food and cooking should enjoy. The dishes embody a nature of sharing and festivity, and they are also attainable for the more novice cook.
We celebrated her book at La Petite Mort, the white, serene space of André Sales and Morné Visagie. La Petite Mort is a supper night held by these two in their Bo Kaap loft Apartment. Their menu changes on every occasion, planned according to the night ahead.
On this particular night, the dishes came straight out of The Supper Club, and André, the chef, displayed his unfailing ability to cook, and do Cheifitz’s prized recipes justice. With La Petite Mort setting the tone, the dinner table was filled with stimulating conversation between engaging and delightful diners. And this is exactly what both The Supper Club and La Petite Mort embodies.
We asked André a few questions about the cookbook and his supper nights:
How did La Petite Mort start?
Three years ago I wanted to throw an elaborate dinner party for friends but couldn't really afford the costs of the food and wine, so I asked for donations to cover the costs, and the whole idea has grown from there.
Did La Petite Mort start in your current space?
We began at our previous home around the corner in Jordaan Street, also in the Bo-Kaap. The house was much smaller so we had to move a lot of furniture around each dinner to fit it in. But I think it's important that we've always hosted it from our home.
Tell us why you chose the name.
La Petite Mort is a French expression used as a euphemism for an orgasm, but has also been extended by various philosophers to describe a moment of intense pleasure brought on by intellectual stimulants such as excellent literature, or physical such as delicious food. I like to think of it as that moment when a table falls silent as everyone takes their first bite of an exquisite meal.
You clearly work as a team, each with your respective rolls, is food something you both take pleasure in?
We do both take pleasure in food, and work together to create the menu and prepare the evening. We also both really enjoy having interesting people over for dinner and putting together a memorable evening.
What do you love most about cooking and food in general?
I think for me it's about finding the best ingredients, and then preparing them to showcase the best they have to offer. If this means making a stew which takes days of reducing different stocks, and hours of braising quality free range beef, or simply blanching fresh asparagus from the market I find it equally satisfying.
Andre, could you describe your experience with cooking and how you came to develop your skill.
I have taught myself to cook by doing these dinners. I think armed with a selection of good cookbooks, a little talent, a lot of passion, and some willing guinea pigs you can really develop skills in the kitchen.
The Supper Club is a really versatile cookbook that has recipes suitable for a variety of occasions. What made you decide to cook the dishes you chose for The Supper Club edition of La Petite Mort?
I think when you're putting together a menu the availability of seasonal ingredients really plays a big part as a starting point, and then how different dishes will play off each other to create a whole evening. I was working from printed out PDFs which weren't in the same order as the book, and I realized when I got the hard copy that most of the recipes came from the spring section of the cookbook, so I think the book has been organized really well for putting together a dinner party.
What other recipes for you stand out from the cookbook?
There is a lamb stew I really wanted to make but it seemed a bit heavy for our spring evening. Also a chicken dish (I think with olives) that really jumped out. The pizza is also really simple and versatile.
If you enjoy a lavish home cooked meal and sitting around an interesting, sociable dinner table, then book your seat at La Petite Mort.
- Ceili McGeever