Q & A with Peter Tempelhoff

Food24 has a chat to this award-winning chef.

02 Nov 2011
Peter Tempelhoff

Peter Tempelhoff is the executive chef of The Greenhouse and the Liz McGrath collection.

He has cooked in kitchens around the world and is a
passionate and all-around great guy. He is creating some seriously amazing food at The Greenhouse in Constantia and his food is eye-rollingly delicious, innovative and beautiful.

We chat to him about life, food and his passion for supporting the SASSI list.

Q: Where did your love of cooking begin – can you pinpoint an incident or moment when you knew this would be your future?
A: I have always had a passion for the trade, I remember as a young boy I used to make an effort to get in the kitchen before my mother to help with dinner. The moment of enlightenment occurred at a dinner which was cooked by Raymond Blanc nearly 2 decades ago; at that dinner as a trainee chef, I was overcome by an enormous sense of relief that I had made the right career choice.

Q: What is the highlight of your career so far and why?
Last November I had the honour of cooking for the Grand Chefs of the Relais & Chateaux at the Cellars-Hohenort Hotel- there were over 70 Michelin stars in my dining room… at the end of the meal I was kissed and congratulated with a standing ovation, by among others; Raymond Blanc, Michel Roux, Georges Blanc, Michel Trama and Olivier Roellinger- all culinary legends and my heroes.

Q: What is your style of cooking?
My style has been rooted in French classics while adopting a very modern approach in technique and flavour composition. How has it evolved and changed? Over the years my plates have evolved to become lighter and less cluttered, but still remaining precise and true to the ingredients.

Q: What is the most exotic thing you have ever cooked with or tasted? Describe the dish.
A: Maggot cheese. It is a Sardinian specialty, the cheese is left outdoors while it is still young, holes are bored into it and flies are allowed to lay their eggs in the cheese. Days later the maggots have eaten  a lot of the inside of the cheese a and ‘matured’ it, at this stage the cheese is smoked so that the maggots are terminated so cannot turn into flies. The maggots remains and the cheese are then consumed like a normal cheese. The flavor is so strong that it burns the mouth, so not a lot can be consumed- thankfully.

Q: You support the SASSI list whole-heartedly, what do you think of restaurants who keep using fish on the orange list?
A: At some stage the head chefs/owners of these restaurants need to take ownership of our seas, they need to wake up to the reality that we cannot keep depleting our oceans like this - as in the future, their children will have to pay the consequences... a planet of lifeless oceans.

Q: What is the worst meal you’ve ever cooked? What happened?
A: It was a catering event on Robben Island in 1997, Madiba was returning for an event with the Clinton family- the caterers I was working for seriously under estimated the kitchen capabilities and the menu. Ultimately the main course of baby chicken was undercooked and took about 2 hours to get 150 plates out- it was so embarrassing delayed that Madiba eventually left, as he could not wait any longer; I was so happy he left so he would not have to taste the terrible food.

Q: What is the one implement in the kitchen you cannot do without? Why?
A: My knives, needless to say more.

Q: What in your opinion is the most underrated ingredient? Why?
The humble onion- it is the basis of all slow food, sauces, soups etc. but yet it receives a pauper’s gratitude. Things taste better with onion, except desserts.

Q: What is the best meal you’ve had in 2011?
A: Per Se, New York

Q: What do you think about social media as a promotional tool?
A: The undisputed king of media at the moment!

Q: How do you view food bloggers?
A: Some with a pinch of salt and some in high regards.

Q: If you could have anyone cook for you – who would it be?
A: AA Gill - I’d love to give him some of his own!

Q: Who would you like to sit down for dinner with – anyone in the world? 6 people.
A: Will Ferrel, Charlie Sheen & Bree Olsen, Ferran Adria, Jackie Chan, Dalai Lama (would have to be outside South Africa)

Q: What would be your top foodie destination?
A: It has to be Tokyo as I have been twice, but my second one would be Seoul, Korea

Q: Favourite place to eat out in SA?
A: Borussos Trattoria; kid friendly authentic Italian. The owner can be seen making pizzas every day - legendary!

- Caro de Waal

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