food, Lifestyle

pantry raid: what chefs eat

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Dave Schneider; Chefs Warehouse Maison. Photo: Claire Gunn.

What do the country’s best chefs eat when they’re not cooking the fantastic food we’ve come to know them for? We caught up with a few Western Cape-based favourites to find out what they stock their pantries with, what their post-service nourishment is and what their guiltiest pleasures are.

Cynthia Rivera and Cornel Mostert, Mulberry & Prince

Photo: Romain Costa.

It’s late, you’re coming off a long service and you get home starving. What are you making?

Cynthia: Something quick! By the end of the day I’m usually all buttered out. Quick toasted English muffin with crunchy peanut butter and a hot chocolate and I’m ready to wind down!

When you have a rare night off, what’s the plan for dinner? Who is cooking? What’s likely to be on the menu?

Cynthia:  I love a good pasta bake like a cheesy baked ziti or lasagna with garlic bread. Garlic bread is my weakness.

What is your ultimate home-cooked meal (either by yourself or someone in your family, i.e. partner/mother/father)?

Cynthia: My older sister is an exceptional cook so when I visit home I request her cooking. A big plate of Puerto Rican-style rice and beans, pernil (slow-roasted pork), fried plantains and avocado is my ideal meal.

What five non-negotiable ingredients do you always have in your kitchen to ensure you can whip up a delicious plate of food?

Cornel: I always have butter, eggs, Parmesan, anchovies and 00 flour on hand.  It’s to ensure I can always whip up my favourite pasta dish.

What’s your guilty-pleasure food item hidden at the back of the cupboard?

Cynthia: My guilty pleasure is instant kimchi ramen, I KNOW it’s so bad for you but so good. Literally takes me three minutes and I add whatever veggies or an egg to make it more substantial. Oh, and a slice of cheese transforms it completely. Try it!   

One condiment you simply can’t live without?

Cornel: Mayonnaise! Specifically and only Hellmann’s.

Dave Schneider, Chef’s Warehouse at Maison

Photo: Claire Gunn.

It’s late, you’re coming off a long service and you get home starving. What are you making?

One of three things: soft scrambled eggs on toast, finished off with crème fraîche (eggs are a lifesaver 24 hours a day); peanut butter and apricot jam on toast (mixed, of course); or a sandwich or wrap made up of any leftovers in the fridge. For example, roast chicken with mayo and avo or cold meats, pickles and salad with a li'l sriracha (I hate wasting food and when you are hungry and tired it's so great to use up all those leftovers to make a quick, delicious sandwich).

When you have a rare night off, what’s the plan for dinner? Who is cooking? What’s likely to be on the menu?

I live on my own, so mostly if I decide to take a night off, it's last minute and I end up resting at home and cooking for myself. I love making delicious sauce bases for curries and pastas. I usually have three to four different sauce bases in my fridge, which I take my time with on certain days off to ensure great flavour. These keep for a couple of weeks and even improve over a little time. When you live alone it's really important to have your fridge stocked with items that will keep for a while and buy small quantities of meat and veg as you need them.

With these bases, my menu options then become quite varied: pastas with mushrooms, bacon, olives and in a spicy Napolitana sauce or a hearty Bolognese with Parmesan and a lovely fresh salad with almost too much garlic. I often make a range of curries such as butter chicken or a Thai red curry with some rice and loads of herbs or even lovely roast pork chops with sweet and sour relish and stir-fried veg.

What is your ultimate home-cooked meal (either by yourself or someone in your family, i.e. partner/mother/father)?

Roast chicken. I love a perfectly roasted chicken with veg and potatoes. For me it is one of the most satisfying things to eat in the world. I love that you can cook and serve the entire meal in one pan – it saves on cleaning up and keeps all the flavour contained in one place. I also love it because in this industry it reminds me of coming together with family and friends and sharing a meal while conversing. It helps to celebrate companionship which is what food should always represent. There are big debates in our family over who cooks the best roast chicken – the prize, in my opinion, goes to my aunt, with my mom a very close second (I think that's going to get me in trouble).

What five non-negotiable ingredients do you always have in your kitchen to ensure you can whip up a delicious plate of food?

Other than onions, garlic, tomatoes, mixed salad leaves, chillies, dried pasta, rice, and homemade assorted sauce bases and relishes: eggs, really good-quality bread (olive ciabatta or baguette), avocado, crème fraîche and bacon.

What’s your guilty-pleasure food item hidden at the back of the cupboard?

Crunchy peanut butter. I eat it straight out of the jar with a tablespoon!

One condiment you simply can’t live without?

Pickled gherkins. I put pickles on just about anything or even as a quick snack and the pickling liquid makes for wicked salad dressings.

Giles Edwards, La Tête

Photo: Claire Gunn.

It’s late, you’re coming off a long service and you get home starving. What are you making?

Not much, I usually get home late and am not in the mood for cooking. There is always a good glass of Pinot or Chenin, and then it’s a slice of cheese and some pickles. It’s relatively sad but its the truth.

When you have a rare night off, what’s the plan for dinner? Who is cooking? What’s likely to be on the menu?

I love to cook when I am not working, and especially because of the nature of the food at La Tête, I generally make something vegetarian and spicy. Curry is my go-to Monday night dinner, and then beef-shin gnocchi is a late Sunday lunch.

What is your ultimate home-cooked meal (either by yourself or someone in your family, i.e. partner/mother/father)?

Vitello tonnato. I grew up eating this as part of our family 'Sunday lunch' and I honestly think it’s the cleanest, most sophisticated plate of food. My mother always makes it and I still have to slice the veal for her. Served al fresco-style with plenty of bread, caprese salad and a few new potatoes, and I am in heaven.

What five non-negotiable ingredients do you always have in your kitchen to ensure you can whip up a delicious plate of food?

Chilli, ginger, coriander, capers and olives. As you can tell, it’s either going to be spicy or salty.

What’s your guilty-pleasure food item hidden at the back of the cupboard?

Condensed milk. I can’t stand it by itself, but I have it in my coffee every morning – like camping coffee. I started doing this in London after I returned from a trip to the bush, and now I can’t go back.

One condiment you simply can’t live without?

Colman's English mustard. You can forgo lots of things, but a steak without mustard is just not the same, and it has to be English.

Michael Deg, Cavalli Estate


It’s late, you’re coming off a long service and you get home starving. What are you making?

We love having cheese in the house; we usually have always 3–5 different types of cheeses in our fridge. My favourite is a strong blue or, at the moment, I'm enjoying the 6-month-aged Gruberg cheese from Klein River in Stanford. Obviously I love having a glass of wine with it.

When you have a rare night off, what’s the plan for dinner? Who is cooking? What’s likely to be on the menu?

It depends: my wife Collette is a pretty good cook – she's the restaurant manager at Bertus Basson’s new restaurant in Stellenbosch – so we usually take turns. Monday nights would be our Saturday night, as both our restaurants are closed on Mondays. If Collette is cooking, she would choose a recipe from one of Rick Stein’s cookbooks; he is a firm favourite in our house and his recipes always work. If I am cooking, I tend to go for fish – we have a great fishmonger close to us. I usually keep it very simple – for example, a pan-fried silver fish, with some fresh peas, tenderstem broccoli and lemon caper butter sauce would be an average Monday night dinner.

What is your ultimate home-cooked meal (either by yourself or someone in your family, i.e. partner/mother/father)?

I grew up in Durban, and we always ate loads of Durban lamb curry, My dad taught me how to make curry at a young age, probably one of the first things I learnt how to cook. When I make it at home, we usually invite friends over and I go the whole mile, I make dhal, poppadoms, Bombay potatoes and naan bread. I really enjoy Indian cooking and playing around with spices.

What five non-negotiable ingredients do you always have in your kitchen to ensure you can whip up a delicious plate of food?

Garlic, onions, chilli, ginger and lemons.

What’s your guilty-pleasure food item hidden at the back of the cupboard?

Liquorice; I am an addict.

One condiment you simply can’t live without?

Mustard – I love the slightly sweeter German mustard.

Wesley Randles, The Shortmarket Club

Photo: Andy Lund. 

It’s late, you’re coming off a long service and you get home starving. What are you making?

I generally won’t cook after service, and if I’ve had a few beers with my chefs on a Saturday night, I’ll most likely end up at NY Pizza after 1am – it’s a bit of a hidden secret, but we all know a fresh batch of pizza is made then and we get it hot from the oven.

When you have a rare night off, what’s the plan for dinner? Who is cooking? What’s likely to be on the menu?

I generally cook at home. Our favourite go-to is a rack of lamb on the braai, roasted fennel, pea and goat’s cheese salad, fresh lemon courgette salad and a couple of bottles of wine.

What is your ultimate home-cooked meal (either by yourself or someone in your family, i.e. partner/mother/father)?

Fresh, homemade pasta. We have a couple of winners, but our favourite is with truffles, artichokes and chilli.

What five non-negotiable ingredients do you always have in your kitchen to ensure you can whip up a delicious plate of food?

Parmesan, good olive oil, garlic, chilli and wine.

What’s your guilty-pleasure food item hidden at the back of the cupboard?

No guilty pleasures last in the cupboard.

One condiment you simply can’t live without?

Chilli sauce. Doesn’t matter what brand, I’ll be into it.

ALSO READ: WATCH – In the kitchen with Wesley Randles