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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
Take me back to the perfect mouthful every time,” says @trufflejournal “A taste and visual experience with the Atlantic tuna, home fermented kimchi, beetroot kombucha radish, compression of apple and of course the show with nitro sesame!” pic credit: @trufflejournal #greenhousect #greenhouseexperience
Follow Peter on Instagram for more inspiration.