10 Questions with Greenhouse Head Chef, Ashley Moss

“I always say that I don’t believe I’m a chef. I try to be a storyteller.” -Jose Andrés

You sense this same marriage of roles – chef as storyteller – in the dishes at Greenhouse, at The Cellars-Hohenort in Cape Town. You can detect it in their menu, from the first page to the last, and in the restaurant’s mission: “Local and historical ingredients telling stories. Each plate a question, an idea, an experience.” And you can see it in the eyes of the chefs.

Head Chef, Ashley Moss’ eyes seem to see more than what lies before them. They hint to a mind receiving several stories at a time, one that, like the writer or orator, weaves the whispers together to create something that is new and old at the same time.

Creating a modern South African dining experience that is as complex, joyful and beautiful as the country itself, Ashley and his team tell the stories of the Cape of Good Hope using ingredients with meaning and history. Ingredients found in the cellars and pantries of locals, young and old, ingredients handpicked from the sea and the garden, the fields and orchards. Ingredients that tell the story of South Africa.

In these 10 Questions with Ashley below, we get to know the chef, the storyteller, the man behind the meals at Greenhouse himself.

For more inspiration from Ashley, follow him on Instagram here.


1. What has working at Greenhouse taught you about yourself, life and love?

There are a few things I have learnt which are applicable to all three. Life is all about balance. Have a clear vision of where you are and where you are going. Connect with what you do and make it meaningful.

2. How did your path lead you to Greenhouse?

I followed the yellow brick road.

3. How do you bring a taste of the land/sea/terroir into your dishes?

We use fresh local ingredients. Local is our ethos. Using local ingredients, celebrating our individuality and our heritage is really important. Why would you pack up a beautiful ingredient, put it on a plane, fly it half way around the word, compromise its integrity and serve it without provenance?



4. How would you describe the kind of cuisine at Greenhouse and the motivation behind it?

Its contemporary South African, inspired by our flora, fauna and heritage. Proudly local ingredients crafted together with international experience and influence.

5. What inspires you day to day – in life and work?

My Family, the TV show, do you know it?



6. Where do you source most of your produce from and who / what are some of your favourite local food suppliers? What is your relationship like with these suppliers?

Our suppliers are very important to us, as they are the link between the produce and us. We are very lucky to have passionate people supplying us with some great produce. Iming has a farm 8 km away from us and has some great specialty vegetables. Kurt gets us fantastic fresh Atlantic tuna and Justin forages the forests around us for wild mushrooms and herbs. Without these people we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

7. What are some of your favourite local ingredients and dishes?

We have so many great ingredients its hard to choose. We have just started to get our first local truffles, which it pretty exciting. You can’t beat a good braai and it seems to exemplify our heritage pretty well.



8. Your most memorable day on the job?

I don’t have much time to look back, just forward.

9. How is the Weekly Wastage Challenge going?

It has gone really well and the feedback has been amazing, but I feel that its time to take it up a notch. We are working on a new challenge, which will tackle more broad environmental issues and how we as consumers can make responsible sustainable choices.




10. Your favourite dish on the menu right now? And why?

All of the dishes as they’re such a celebration of great local ingredients and they’re delicious.

Ellerman House Takes To The Desert

 

“It is the unknown around the corner that turns my wheels.” — Heinz Stücke, German long-distance touring cyclist

In search of of the unknown, of the wild and wonderful of Africa, Paul Harris (Owner of Ellerman House in Cape Town) and daughter, Nicola Harris, joined this year’s Challenge4ACause in the Damaraland Desert of Namibia. Representing Ellerman House, they pedaled alongside many other faces of the Relais & Châteaux team.

Here is a glimpse at the experience through their eyes, as they travelled across one of the most inimitable and isolated wilderness areas in the world, for six days, covering 360 kilometres on mountain bikes, to raise funds for rhino conservation and other projects in Africa.

For more information about the challenge and charities involved, read our blogs: Great Things Are Done When Men & Mountains (& Deserts) Meet, and, A Wilderness Experience With Heart.

R&C: What was Challenge4ACause like as an experience?  

Paul: It was an amazing experience, with great people. No cell phones. No city lights, so the stars were like diamonds in the sky. Rugged terrain. Spectacular landscapes.

R&C: What were the highs 

Paul: Finishing without falling, the beer at the end of the ride, and being together around the fire at night.

R&C: And the lows?

Paul: The fear of falling along the way… what with the terrifying steep declines with rocks and sand.

For Nicola, it was a similarly amazing week. The highs for her were not having contact with the outside world, “being able to be completely present,” she said, as were the scenery, the night skies and the group of people. The lows were “the five hills in the last 5 km of day two, after spending seven hours on the bike in the scorching heat”.

Ah, so they are human, after all.

 

In the Words of – Chef Peter Tempelhoff

In an interview with We Are Africa, The Collection by Liz McGrath’s Executive Chef, Peter Tempelhoff, spoke of a few of our favourite things… inspiration, travel and Africa. In our series of insights from the Relais & Châteaux Africa and Indian Ocean tribe, we bring you the first words of wisdom from “South Africa’s gastronomic genius.”

On inspiration

My inspiration is multi-faceted, though there are the two main sources: the people I surround myself with and the local bounty of the region -The Fairest Cape.


Lunch at #GreenhouseCT by @rowaneva #greenhouseexperience #capetown #capetownmag

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On travel

I truly believe that all young aspiring chefs need to travel, as food really is an international language. Learning how other cultures balance flavours, create textures and enhance tastes opens your mind and breaks down the barriers of culinary conservatism. My palate has always been pretty constant, it was my repertoire of cooking skills that really benefitted from my travels.


On the menu: beer, crisps and pretzels. {link in bio of full offering} #greenhousect #capetown

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On cooking in Africa

I love the potential of African food; the first meal was eaten in Africa, so there is an amazing amount of history and lore that could be unearthed about African food. Despite the late start of South Africa onto the culinary scene, the country has made amazing strides to catch up to the rest of the world. I love being around this kind of energy.

My connection with Africa runs deep; every waking day I appreciate how good we have things on the southern tip of Africa. Living so far from the rest of the world, where importing food is poor economics, is actually a blessing in disguise. Why would I want to cook with peaches in winter or oranges in summer, why would I want a piece of fruit or meat flown 10 thousand kilometres for me to put it on a plate and feed it to a guest? I love being inextricably linked to the seasons and at one with the African earth, I love being so dependent on the rainfall for my porcini mushrooms and the sunshine for my hanneport. I love being at the mercy of all 4 seasons, because it is at the knees of Mother Nature that one learns versatility and creativity – it is here that a chef becomes humble and finds himself.

On trends

There are a lot of local chefs using modernist techniques in their cooking now, the secret is using it in moderation and only when necessary to enhance a flavour or a texture. The local scene has also seen an increased amount of chefs pushing the boundaries with daring combinations and ultra-creative plating techniques.

In South Africa there is a rise in carb-less cooking as well as a shift towards ancient preserving techniques like fermentation. I think both have their merit and can enhance the dining experience.



On reimagining South African food

Terroir cooking and conserving the culture of the region in which one is cooking is immeasurably important and definitely not country specific. Food is what nations are built on and as such preserving its culture is a means of preserving the country’s own culture.



Discover Peter Tempelhoff and his team’s creations at Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort, a Relais & Châteaux hotel in Cape Town, South Africa.

Follow Peter on Instagram for more inspiration.

Read the full interview with We Are Africa here.