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This is what 7 of SA's top chefs will be cooking and eating this Christmas

Ever wondered what your favourite chef makes for Christmas? Here's a sneak peek into the holiday and festive feasting traditions of some of SA's celebrated chefs.

by: Jess Spiro | 25 Dec 2018
 
christmas tree with bauble

Curious to know how chefs spend the festive season, and more importantly, what they cook? We chatted to some of the best chefs in the country to see how they celebrate the big Christmas lunch and what magic they create with leftovers.

Warning: This is a long read so grab a mince pie and a cup of tea and get comfy!

1. Michael Cooke (Camphors at Vergelegen)

What are your Christmas plans this year? Where will you be spending the day, and with who?

It’s a very busy time of year for us at the restaurant, so it’s full steam ahead at the moment. Christmas is a very important personal day for the staff (by far the most requested day to have off in the calendar year), so we close the restaurant on Christmas Day. I’ll be spending Christmas Day with my family – naturally, I’ll probably be involved in some of the cooking (never a day off for a chef!). 

Do you have any Christmas traditions that you keep to every year?

The braai takes centre stage. My wife also started the tradition of us wearing Christmas jerseys (inspired from a trip to Europe around this time of year, when it’s their Winter), but with our South African Summers, wearing the festive jerseys only lasts as long as the photos! 

Who does the cooking?

Most of the family – everyone enjoys getting involved. 

What is your ideal Christmas lunch menu? Is there a particular dish that has to be on the table?

There has to be gammon – lots of it until we’re living off gammon sandwiches for the next week! As well as a leg of lamb cooked in the Weber, roasted veggies, a variety of crunchy salads, garlic bread, Yorkshire puddings, and gravy made from the roasting juices of the meats. And then, pavlova and mince pies for dessert – there’s always room for dessert! 

Is there a particular drink you'll be sipping throughout the day?

We always start with a cold beer or a refreshing gin and tonic while we’re busy with the cooking, then move on to bubbly for the meal. 

What is your favourite way to repurpose leftover Christmas lunch?

Christmas leftovers are the best! It’s nice to be able to open the fridge and graze from a variety of things to snack on. My personal favourite is gammon sandwiches with mustard and pickles all week.

2. Kobus van der Merwe (Wolfgat and 2018 Eat Out S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year)

What are your Christmas plans this year? Where will you be spending the day and with who?

The Christmas and New Year holidays fall on a Monday / Tuesday this year, which also happens to be our days off at the restaurant, so we'll be getting to have "normal" family time for a change. 

Do you have any Christmas traditions that you keep to every year?

A lazy lunch with family. 

Who does the cooking?

My family loves food so we're always all involved in some way - my dad and I often at the braai doing fish or lamb, my mom is usually on dessert. And everyone else helps with salads and side dishes and cocktails.

What is your ideal Christmas lunch menu? Is there a particular dish that has to be on the table?

It’s such a hot time of year that I prefer salads and cold cuts, which works out really well as things can be prepared in advance, and everyone gets to relax at the table. Leg of lamb is a tradition in our family: butterflied, flavoured with wild herbs and cooked on the braai. I also love doing whole fish briefly cooked over hot coals. 

Is there a particular drink you'll be sipping throughout the day?

Definitely some homemade cocktails using Wolfgat vermouth, and a selection of wines from the Swartland. 

What is your favourite way to repurpose leftover Christmas lunch?

Leftovers from lunch usually end up on open sandwiches for dinner - nothing beats toasted farm bread with slices of cold lamb or fish, and a good mustard or homemade mayonnaise. 

3. Zola Nene (Eat Out Cape Town Restaurant Editor)

What are your Christmas plans this year? Where will you be spending the day and with who?

I’m definitely taking a break this holiday, I’m going home to George to spend time with my family. It’s my nephew’s first Christmas and the first Christmas that my boyfriend is spending with my family so it’s an extra special one.

Do you have any Christmas traditions that you keep to every year?

Yep, our Christmas tradition is that I always hand out the Christmas presents. I love Christmas and revel in watching people open gifts, it’s such fun! 

Who does the cooking?

My mom does all the cooking at Christmas, I don’t lift a finger. Hey! I’m on holiday after all so it totally makes sense that I take a break from cooking. 

What is your ideal Christmas lunch menu? Is there a particular dish that has to be on the table?

For me, a Christmas menu has to include roast leg of lamb, gammon and roast potatoes – give me that and I’m happy! My mom always makes sure those are featured in our Christmas feast.

Is there a particular drink you'll be sipping throughout the day?

Bubbly of course, lots of it! My dad stocks up on it in the run-up to me coming home.

What is your favourite way to repurpose leftover Christmas lunch?

I love leftovers, they are mandatory during the festive season. My favourite is the Boxing Day leftover breakfast toasted cheese sandwich, piled high with slices of leftover meat. My mom always shreds up any leftover turkey and sautées it with onions and curry powder then we have that on soft buns with mayo.

4. Ivor Jones (Chefs Warehouse, Beau Constantia)

What are your Christmas plans this year? Where will you be spending the day and with who?

Yes, we are taking Christmas off, I can’t think of anything worse than working on Christmas. We are going to be at home with the family - super chilled.

Do you have any Christmas traditions that you keep to every year?

We still do the stockings every year! And we get to open one gift the night before Christmas Day.

Who does the cooking?

So this year I will be doing the cooking with my brother, Dylan, at home. It’s going to epic.

What is your ideal Christmas lunch menu? Is there a particular dish that has to be on the table?

I’ve never really been a fan of turkey, so this year we are going braai a whole beef rib. And we will definitely be doing some stuffing because Christmas isn’t Christmas without stuffing!

Is there a particular drink you'll be sipping throughout the day?

Definitely whisky and bubbles – a lot of bubbly.

What are your thoughts on leftovers?

Totally the best part of Christmas! We normally smash pudding leftovers.

What is your favourite way to repurpose leftover Christmas lunch?

We generally use it in a fry up for Boxing Day breakfast.

5. Candice Philip (Grei at The Saxon Hotel

Will you be taking some time off this year?

We are working straight through, we are open on Christmas Eve as always and we take Christmas Day off. And then straight through to New Year’s Eve again before a short break in January. 

Where will you be spending the day and with who? 

I will probably spend my time with family and friends – whoever hasn’t gone away on holiday. 

Do you have any Christmas traditions that you keep to every year? 

I have always loved Christmas and as a family, we always do Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, but since I’m always working it’s a little tricky. So, I generally fit in with what everyone else is doing. 

Who does the cooking? 

Usually my mom, and my dad takes care of the turkey.

What is your ideal Christmas lunch menu?

Is there a particular dish that has to be on the table? Definitely lamb and turkey, my dad usually does the turkey in the Weber over a couple hours, so when its done its still succulent but has a smokiness to it as well. It’s delicious with all the trimmings – roast sweet potatoes are a must along with normal roast potatoes, of course, it wouldn’t be the same otherwise. 

Is there a particular drink you'll be sipping throughout the day?

Champagne or a good Chenin for me. 

What is your favourite way to repurpose leftover Christmas lunch? 

To be honest I love leftovers just the way they are. They’re always yum the next day.

6. Wesley Randles (The Shortmarket Club and The Commissary)

What are your Christmas plans this year?

Every year we close over Christmas to allow for all the staff to spend time with their families. We spend every Christmas with my wife’s family, staying in Cape Town.  

Do you have any Christmas traditions that you keep to every year?

Every year I make a gammon for my Christmas lunch and for Luke (Dale-Roberts’) family. 

Who does the cooking?

My wife, Jules and I do the cooking. I usually focus on the proteins, we both do the side and she does dessert. What is your ideal Christmas lunch menu?

Is there a particular dish that has to be on the table?

This year we are going to do a gammon pork belly, Peking-style duck stuffed with carrot cake batter. We always make fresh bread. We often have an orange and fennel salad, it's light and will go well with the duck this year. We will probably have another green salad and an heirloom tomato salad.  Gammon always has to be on the table, I think the family would never forgive us if we left it off. Then, for dessert, the old South African Peppermint Crisp pudding has been the favourite for the last few years. Jules is playing around with a mushed up pavlova/ice cream sandwich. 

Is there a particular drink you'll be sipping throughout the day?

I’ll be drinking ice cold beers, whatever’s going – this is Geoff and Uncle Murray’s speciality. 

What is your favourite way to repurpose leftover Christmas lunch?

Cold gammon sandwiches with lots of mustard.

7. Jessica Shepherd (The Table at De Meye)

What are your Christmas plans this year? Where will you be spending the day and with who? 

We will be taking a week off this year from Christmas to New Year, and will spend most of the time locally with my family - our house in Stellenbosch for Christmas Eve, my parents home for Christmas Day, and my sister’s home in Durbanville for Boxing Day.

Do you have any Christmas traditions that you keep to every year? 

My sister bakes a gingerbread house every year, which we all decorate on Christmas Eve (to be demolished on Christmas Day). We always start Christmas morning with a healthy breakfast of homemade mince pies, shortbread and fruitcake. My dad always, and I mean always, has to prepare his Christmas gammon, and then it has to be my mom's Christmas pudding with brandy sauce for dessert. It sounds like a lot because it is! The planning of Christmas lunch in my family takes place a month in advance, no jokes.

Who does the cooking? 

Everyone pitches in. My mom makes sure everyone is rostered in for a dish or two. This year myself and Luke are responsible for the veggie sides.

What is your ideal Christmas lunch menu? Is there a particular dish that has to be on the table?

I would love nothing more than some beautiful fish, lots of light tasty salads, and seasonal veg cooked on the fire.

Is there a particular drink you'll be sipping throughout the day? 

My brother-in-law is a wine enthusiast, so I'm sure he will have some goodies selected for the day. 

What is your favourite way to repurpose leftover Christmas lunch? 

We always have leftovers, and they always get eaten on Boxing Day, mostly as salad and cold sliced meat. This year I am advocating for leftovers to be repurposed into braaibroodjies.

What are your Christmas food traditions? SHARE them with us in the comments section down below! 

Read more on: gammon  |  festive  |  desserts  |  chefs  |  lamb  |  side dishes
 

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