From learning in the kitchens of the Cape to showcasing his talent on kykNET’s reality cooking competition Kokkedoor (and winning the show), chef Mynhardt Joubert has firmly established himself as one the country’s culinary greats. We chatted to chef to find out more about his food journey, memories and what his ideal last meal would be.
Did you always want to be a chef? If not, what did you want to be when you were growing up?
I really stumbled upon the food and wine scene in Cape Town about 16 years ago. I started doing ballet at age six and went on to study musical theatre; after that I had a career as a professional ballet dancer, choreographer, and director.
I came to Cape Town knowing that I needed a change in career and life and started working at a wine bar in De Waterkant as a waiter. A magical world of wine opened up to me – shortly followed by the passionate engagement with food. I started learning the ropes, managing restaurants and tried my hand at cooking.
Needless to say, I fell in love with it. I realised there are so many similarities to the performing arts and the food industry. Both are driven by passion, discipline and hard work, and at the end of the day, you get one chance to get it right.
The experiences for the guests are fleeting and sensory, and you as the performer are left with a feeling of gratitude and fulfillment having been able to touch someone’s life and their experience around your craft.
If you were a food – or a dish/recipe – what would it be?
Lasagna! One of the simplest dishes to prepare but it has a lot of soul. It nourishes, comforts and consoles even the most hungry, tired and also lost souls. Layers of goodness stacked on top of each other topped with cheese and baked until it becomes one heavenly experience.
What’s the oddest (or most memorable) dish you’ve ever tasted?
The heart of a springbok. We went hunting one winter when I was about 10 or 11 years old in the Karoo. It made a lasting impression on me. Later when I had my restaurant Bar Bar Black Sheep in Riebeek Kasteel, we served lamb’s hearts on the menu, a beautiful rustic peasant’s dish that had the guests raving.
What tastes remind you of your childhood?
Krummelpap or ‘Putu Pap’ as it was called in Sotho. Those were the smells we woke up to on the farm in the Eastern Free State bordering Lesotho, lovingly prepared in the same pot for years and years and eaten with butter and sugar. It still makes my eyes glaze over just talking about it.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I enjoy touching people’s lives, creating unforgettable experiences with food, wine, and mood around a table, tastes, and memories that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. It is so much more than just serving a plate of food, as people will always remember how you made them feel. It has a lot to do with good old school Free State hospitality, warmth, and kindness.
ALSO READ: recipe: chef mynardt joubert’s kudu burger
And if you could change one aspect of your job, what would that be?
I wish I could change the supply chain and especially packaging that we are having to use at the moment. Every time a product arrives in my kitchen covered in three layers of plastic and unnecessary, harmful packaging, it just saddens me. My dream is to own my own land and farm for the table and the pantry. The way I suppose it used to be.
Which part of the world should every serious food-lover visit?
South Africa! And especially the Western Cape. We are one of the most diverse cultures in the world with a vibrant food history, and we’ve come a long way in producing some of the best products and produce, from fresh organically grown fruit and veg to olive oils and wine. There is so much that South Africa offers to a serious foodie and so many hidden gems and eateries. The world should come and eat, drink and breathe in our beauty.
What is your current favourite restaurant?
On recent travels, I stumbled upon a restaurant in Bloemfontein called Jack and Jill. You step into another world when you walk through the door, and you could be anywhere in the world really. The vibe is eclectic and truly South African, they serve the best coffee and have recently opened a very sexy gin bar inside the restaurant. The food is honest, colourful, prepared with integrity and very, very good!
What would your last meal – and last drink – be?
Haha! Depending on where and when this last happening takes place.
If it was summer: on the beach at Nature’s Valley eating harvested fresh mussels and fish off the fire with a bucket of ice-cold Black Label Beer
If in winter, Waterblommetjie Bredie in front of my fireplace made with lamb neck and onions washed down with KWV The Mentors Grenache Blanc 2011.
If there’s no time for eating, a huge gin and tonic, please!