CHEF PROFILE - CONSTANTIJN HAHNDIEK
Born and raised in Cape Town “I wish I could say that I always wanted to be a chef, that it’s what I dreamt of doing. I had very little experience of food when I was young except for my mother's great cooking. I remember tasting basil pesto for the first time and my mouth just absolutely exploding. I asked my friend what was in it, and she told me herbs, olive oil and nuts.” Hahndiek remembers being astounded that something so simple and tasty could be made by anyone. “That was it. From that moment I was hooked to seeking the next new flavour.’
After school Constantijn was sponsored a trip overseas by a restaurant owner who he had worked for during his youth and ended up working at a seaside hotel in Devon. Here, he says, he got more classic in-the-kitchen training. “The hotel then paid for me to study while I was working there for three years. I really fell in love with cooking. I loved the fun and camaraderie in the kitchen and the industry really suited a young lifestyle at the time.”
Constantijn says when he started discovering the surprises and adventures food could take you on, he was inspired to leave England and travel for a few years. He worked in Spain and France and then went on to New Zealand.
It was great because I learnt a lot about Mediterranean cooking and then, when I went to New Zealand, it was more about cutting-edge, fusion-style and Asian food.
At age 25 Constantijn had moved back to London and was working for an events company that catered for extremely high profile people and events.
However, wanting to leave the fast-paced chaos of London’s culinary world, Constantijn soon went back to France where he worked at a small, boutique hotel in the country.
“I loved the lifestyle and the fact that cooking was all about the countryside and sourcing the produce as locally as possible. There was such respect for the produce. It was very grounding after being in London.”
Constantijn moved back to South Africa about three years ago and spent just over two years working at a restaurant in Franschhoek. He moved to KwaZulu-Natal and is currently the Head Chef at Hartford House.
“I think Durban and KZN still has huge potential to grow in the food industry. Cape Town has always dominated it, but the emerging ‘market scene’ in Durban and excellent produce available in areas like the Natal Midlands, means we have real potential here to create special food."