Q&A with Jessica Shepherd, Co-Owner of The Table at De Meye
Chef Patron Jessica Shepherd of The Table at De Meye shares her food memories and advice on being a female in the food industry.
Eating around a table with good company is one of life's greatest pleasure – a pleasure you can experience at The Table at De Meye in Stellenbosch. Chef patron Jessica Shepherd together with her husband and business parter Luke Grant has created a space where you can enjoy beautiful lunches served family-style on mismatched antique platters.
With FOOD XX Symposium and Awards putting a spotlight on remarkable women in the food industry, we caught up with Shepherd who has succesfully carved a path in the culinary world. She shares her food memories, career journey and advice with us.
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Did you always want to be a chef?
I decided at a very young age, I think around 12 years old, that I would have a career where cooking and food is involved, because I enjoyed it so much. Another love of mine is animals, so being a veterinarian or wildlife conservationist were on the shortlist as well.
If you were a dish, what would it be?
What's the most memorable dish you've ever tasted?
When our family emigrated to the Middle East for my dad's work, I got to experience a whole new world of cuisine. All those spices, the overuse of lemon, garlic and fresh green herbs... I loved it!
What tastes remind you of your childhood?
Freshly baked mosbolletjies with butter.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
In my job personally, I enjoy the autonomy I have to be creative with the menus I serve, as well as working directly with small farmers and receiving their beautiful produce every week.
If you could change one aspect of your job, what would that be?
More weekends off would be nice.
What is the most rewarding and most challenging part of being a female chef in the industry?
The most challenging part would have been what I experienced 15 years ago going into the industry, being told that females were too soft or sensitive to really make it in a professional kitchen. And today, many female chefs are killing it, proving that as women in the industry, we can hold our own.
What advice do you have for women starting their careers as chefs?
Believe in yourself. And don't compromise your vision.
What's your current favourite drink?
I enjoy whisky every now and then, especially since Hank's Olde Irish has opened up on Dorp Street in Stellenbosch.
Which part of the world should every serious food lover visit?
This is so difficult to answer because there are so many foodie hubs around the world. I would say on my bucket list would be Central and South America, as well as Japan.