Long known for its family heritage, fine Italian dining and consistently delicious reputation, the Café Del Sol Group is led by group executive chef Jonathan Duiker, who has been mastering his craft since his teenage years. From growing up making meals for his brothers and sisters and studying to become a chef, then gaining experience cooking in South African hotels, Jonathan’s culinary finesse took him to the Maldives where he worked for international brands such as LUX*, Anantara and W Maldives. As if that wasn’t luxurious enough, he then relocated to the Seychelles to work on a private island before moving back to SA to head up Café Del Sol. But for all that the world had to offer his tastebuds, his favourite comfort food is still firmly rooted in what he learnt in his mom’s kitchen.
When did you discover you had serious cooking talent and what has been your professional journey from then until now?
I discovered my talent in my teens as I was always preparing food for my brothers and sisters. To pursue my love of cooking, I studied to be a chef for three years. Following this, I went into the hotel sector, working for establishments like the Winchester Mansions, the Cape Grace Hotel and the Melrose Arch Hotel, before my culinary journey took me overseas. I found myself in the Maldives working for top international brands such as LUX*, Anantara and W Maldives. Later, I moved to the Seychelles and worked on the private island of Desroches before moving back to South Africa and joining the Café Del Sol Group as executive chef.
What comfort dish have you prepared for us?
Does it recall any fond memories?
I remember my mom making this dish for me on Saturday mornings before my soccer games and telling me, ‘That’s how a man starts his day, so go out there and change the world.’
How long did it take you to master?
From the age of 15, I started making eggs Benedict with my mom and, as time went by, I mastered the steps involved – like the swirling of the water, using a pot deep enough to get the eggs just right and using the correct whisk to get the hollandaise fluffy and bright.
Any cheat tips for the lazy cook?
You can get good-quality English muffins from Woolworths, which saves you time – or switch out the bun and make potato rösti as a substitute. When it comes to the hollandaise, for me the trick is to use the freshest eggs possible to get that great, bright shine.
To be a good chef, you need to…
Have discipline. Proper planning prevents poor performance, so get your kitchen in order and keep it in order as you work. Clean as you go.
If you were to describe yourself as a sweet treat, what would it be?
Pavlova. It’s a light dessert base that enhances anything that it’s paired with.
8 bacon rashers, ham slices or smoked salmon slivers
8 eggs, for poaching
40ml white-wine vinegar
4 English muffins, halved
Butter, for spreading
4 blades of fresh wheatgrass, for garnishing
10g edible flowers or micro herbs, for garnishing
For the hollandaise sauce
200g unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
25ml white-wine vinegar
10ml lemon juice
Salt and black pepper, for seasoning
For the herb oil
50g fresh flat-leaf parsley
50g fresh chives
50g sweet basil
200ml extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper, for seasoning
Heat a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the bacon or ham and fry slowly, turning occasionally, until browned. Make sure the bacon fat is rendered. Remove from the pan and set on a paper towel to absorb any excess fat. Set aside and keep warm for later use.
In the meantime, begin making the hollandaise by melting the unsalted butter gently in a microwave oven until it becomes a golden liquid. Set aside for later use (keep it hot).
On medium heat, place the 4 egg yolks, 25ml vinegar, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a bowl over a double boiler. Whisk the mixture with a balloon whisk until the eggs lighten in colour. Slowly drizzle in the hot melted butter, while continuing to whisk. Taste for salt and acidity, and add more salt or lemon juice to taste.
Transfer the hollandaise mixture to a pouring container and store it in a warm place.
Fill a large pot with water until it is two-thirds full and bring to a simmer, then bring to a boil and add 40ml vinegar. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
Working with one egg at a time, crack an egg into a small bowl and slip it into the barely simmering vinegar-water. Once it begins to solidify, slip in another egg, until all 8 eggs are cooking.
Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and allow the eggs to cook for four minutes. Remember which egg went in first (you’ll need to take it out first) and gently lift it out with a slotted spoon.
As soon as all the eggs are in the poaching water, toast the English muffins.
To make the herb oil, use a blender to purée the herbs and olive oil until completely smooth. Place the mixture in a saucepan and simmer over moderate heat for 45 seconds, then pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Transfer the mixture to a dressing bottle for later use.
To assemble the eggs Benedict, butter the English muffins and arrange them on a plate. Top with bacon or ham or smoked salmon, followed by a poached egg. Pour some hollandaise sauce over the eggs. Garnish with the edible flowers or micro herbs, wheatgrass and herb oil, and serve immediately.