10 Questions with AtholPlace Hotel & Villa’s Executive Chef

I have found that getting to know the chefs behind a meal adds a certain depth to the meal itself. As though acting as another ingredient,  enhancing the myriad flavours and scents and revealing the heart of the dish. In the same way that learning about where the different ingredients were sourced, and how and why, gives the art of dining greater meaning, gives the diner, you and I, something to connect with. It is this knowledge and understanding that lets us walk away from the table feeling richer and more alive, more apart of the entire culinary process than most people on the other side of the plate are fortunate to be.

This is the hope behind our Q&As with the chefs of Relais & Châteaux Africa and Indian Ocean. To give you the story behind the dishes you’ll savour in the different hotels and lodges, and to give life to each part of that dish.

Sit down with the man behind the meals at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in our 10 Questions with Willie Malherbe below.

10 Questions with AtholPlace Hotel & Villa Executive Chef, Willie Malherbe

1. What five things has working at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa taught you about yourself, life and love?

Mmm, interesting question. Okay, here goes. Passion is paramount, patience, self-respect, understanding and lastly, make every second count.

2. How did your path lead you to AtholPlace Hotel & Villa?

Having known and being close friends with the previous managing couple of the Morokuru Family (which includes AtholPlace) for more than a decade, I started helping out when they set up this property and that led me to being employed on a permanent basis.

3. How do you bring a taste of your environment to your dishes?

By using as much as possible local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients and working closely with our suppliers to assist us in reaching this goal. Also drawing from the multiple cultures and their cuisines found in this rainbow nation.

4. How would you describe the kind of cuisine at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa and the motivation behind it?

I would say our cuisine is relaxed with a global influence created by using fresh seasonal, ingredients with the focus being on flavour.

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

Happy customers that let you know they really enjoyed there meal and dining experience is what inspires and keeps me going. In life I would say the privilege of being able to not worry about were my next meal is coming from, living in an free country and being “reasonably” healthy.

6. Where do you source most of your produce from and why?

We try and work with as many local suppliers as possible, fortunately we are blessed in Johannesburg to have great suppliers that will go out of their way to assist in delivering top quality, fresh ingredients.

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

Funnily enough one of my favorite ingredients at the moment is corn. It’s a vital staple food for most South Africans as well as being a versatile ingredient to work with. When it comes to favorite local dish, I have to say “magwinya’s”  It’s a street food which consist of “vetkoek” or fried bread with a selection of fillings such as curried mince and cheese. Its available on most street corners throughout the city.

8. What do you enjoy most about working at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa?

The comradery in the kitchen is the best….

9. Your favourite dish on the menu now? And why?

Hickory smoked Springbok loin, crisp goats cheese and rainbow radish salad. Reason? I love Springbok and smoking things.

10. What makes Johannesburg such a special place for foodies to visit?

Simply put I would say it is the melting pot of different cultures and their cuisines that make Johannesburg a foodie destination… as well as the passion of the people creating the food, from the top five star establishments down to the lady selling magwinyas on the street corner.