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Q&A with Alex Mueller

Chef Caro talks to Alex from PURE restaurant in Hout Bay.

by: Caro de Waal: Food24 | 15 Oct 2009
Pure at Hout Bay Manor

It is like stepping into another world. PURE is an ethereal and visual experience that caught my breath and had me gawping like a fish out of water. It felt like I had entered Lord Neptune’s chamber.

The inspiring concept behind this foodie décor dream, is that the only colours that you will see are the people and the food.

Alex Mueller is the executive chef of PURE, the restaurant and fine dining experience that is open to the public at the Hout Bay Manor in Cape Town. Hailing from Germany, this cutting-edge chef is injecting some seriously lip-smacking cuisine into the area.

With a sparkle in his eye and a wicked sense of humour, his passion and love for his chosen craft comes flowing beautifully into his food. It is filled with flavour, innovation and life and the greatest of care is taken in each dish.
The menu changes every 6 weeks and only the freshest of local and seasonal produce is used.

We sat down with him 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?
A: Unlike most other chefs, I never actually aspired to be one. I associated it with the smell of old frying fat and overweight guys in checked pants. So, I started my apprenticeship in Hospitality Management because it appeared to be more glamorous. My first department was the kitchen and I never left, but I still can’t stand the smell of old frying fat!

Q: You’ve worked at a couple of interesting locations around the world. What was the highlight for you and why?
A: My highlight was Hubli’s Landhaus in Davos (Switzerland). A one Star Michelin Restaurant, complete with a shouting and rather pedantic Executive Chef, which funnily enough I enjoyed. The initial training was done with military precision, which I’m really grateful for. You learned what you had to do to stay out of trouble. For example, cutting a Beef Fillet to 170g instead of 160g meant big trouble. To cover up my mistake I would eat the remaining 10 gram of Beef Tartar (I hope my chefs don’t read that).

Q: What is the worst meal you’ve ever cooked? What happened?
A: It’s without a doubt an Apple Ginger Mousse, which I did with raw apples in the morning and the apples reacted during the day with the cream.

Q: What is the one implement in the kitchen you cannot do without? Why?
A: My Kitchen Aid, there might be better machines on the market, but none of them in that many different colours.

Q: What in your opinion is the most underrated ingredient?
A: Dried Snoek.

Q: What is the best meal you’ve had in 2009?
A: I had a holiday in Germany (Bavaria) and had Weisswurst and a Weissbier at 7am when I arrived at Munich Airport. I love the combination of the ice cold beer, the quality of the sausage and the mustard.

Q: What do you cook at home?
A: When I’m off the next day then I cook spaghetti aglio, olio and pepperoncini. It must always be quick and fresh.

Q: What is your most successful seduction meal?
A: I doubt that placing food on my body would work, but I know how people react to my Chocolate Fondant with Rose Pelargonium and Chilli Ice Cream.

Q: If you could have anyone cook for you – who would it be?
A: I can think of one or two food critics who I would love to see on the other side of the stove.

Q: Who would you like to sit down for dinner with – anyone in the world, 6 people?
A: Alain Ducasse (to give me some tips), Barack Obama and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (maybe they could solve some problems), Dalai Lama (someone needs to keep the discussion peaceful), Gary Player and Halle Berry (to think and speak about other things rather than cooking and politics).

Q: What would be your top foodie destination?
A: Brussels (Belgium), even the chips are gourmet food.

Q: What is your top recipe book of the moment?
A: I like "One day at El Bulli”.

Q: What is your favourite place to eat out in SA?
A: It would sound great if I could say Pure, but I don’t like to sit in my own restaurant because I just can’t relax.
I had a lovely experience at Bosman’s and that was only their lunch menu. Besides that, I love to go anywhere where they try to cook fresh ingredients and where my two year old daughter has fun and is accepted.

Q: Your best foodie memory?
A: I was in Paris in a restaurant that looked like an old-fashioned train station and had one of the best meals of my life. The décor and surrounds left a lot to be desired but it didn’t matter.

Q: Food hero?
A: My Grandpa. It took him ages to prepare a meal, but I never saw anyone doing it with his love and attention to detail and the result was always awesome.

Q: Food villain?
A: Ronald McDonald

- None


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