The Head Chef at La Colombe Restaurant in Constantia, Jess van Dyk gives us a little peak into the mind of a busy chef and what her go-to’s and must-have’s would be when she’s not slaving away in the kitchen!
What was the first thing you remember cooking as a child?
I used to pretend that I was on a TV cooking show while preparing my after-school lunches, whether that was a sandwich, curried baked beans on toast or a tuna salad. The first big meal I ever prepared was after being obsessed with Junior Masterchef for a while, I raided my mom’s freezer and fridges and whipped up a three-course meal. Starters were creamed haddock of some sort, mains was a lamb and monkeygland sauce (I know) and dessert was deconstructed milk tart ‘towers’.
What do you cook now for yourself when you’re home on your day off?
As chefs, we don’t get a chance to eat out a lot or try all the new up and coming places/restaurants, and so I try to do so on my days off. But when I am home I usually cook something no-fuss and which would make the minimum amount of mess (ain’t nobody got time for dishes). I love a good Carbonara or Arabiata pasta, but my ultimate guilty treat is a cheese and bacon toastie. I smear cream cheese inside, layer good mature Cheddar, pickled onion or spicy chutney and crispy thick cut streaky bacon and then that gets toasted in a pan with copious amounts of butter. Can’t go wrong.
Your go-to dinner party dish when you’re cooking for family or friends?
A crispy pork belly, maybe even rolled and stuffed, cider jus and some creamy mashed potatoes with a roasted veggie salad.
What kitchen tool could you never do without?
A good sharp chef’s knife and a blender or pestle and mortar to make those cures, marinades and dressings.
What’s been your biggest kitchen nightmare?
The most recent was during a fully booked service, our generator kept cutting out. I know most restaurants run like this, but my whole kitchen runs off the power. We have no gas tops, no flat tops, not a single appliance runs without it. The whole kitchen was sweating, not only because of the heat but the pressure of trying to serve a full dining room with no way of cooking or heating their food. The food angels were with us that day, cause this all happened 10 mins before the power switched over to council again. Phew!
What did you have for dinner last night?
The Cousin’s pasta, mushroom and thyme tagliatelle swirled in a Parmesan wheel.
The first word that comes to mind when we say, foodie?
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What ingredient(s) are you most excited about working with right now?
Jerusalem artichokes, they have a short season and unique flavour.
If you could only eat potatoes (as the main ingredient) for your last meal on earth – what would you cook?
I think it would have to be a spicy potato/vegetable curry, or the aloo tikki spicy potato ‘cakes’ I had at Melting Pot the other day. Something that delivers both in flavour and comfort- with some slap chips on the side;)
Chef Jess van Dyk in the La Colombe Kitchen.