The Hartford style has always been to invest in people with a sense of originality and adventure, who know the value of style and the meaning of hard work, and in Constantijn Hahndiek, Cheryl Goss believes she has found the ideal bearer of this tradition.Read More
Filtering by Tag: Top South African Chefs
By Tarryn Gill
PLAY (Independent Newspapers) introduces the WonderWomen series, a much-needed celebration of amazing, inspirational South African women we encounter daily. These are women who glow with tenacity, spirit and energy and who achieve often against all odds and in tough male-dominated environments. The May issue feature's Hartford House Head Chef, Jackie Cameron :
The attractive 29-
year-old blonde with the bold voice and twinkly earrings is not what I am expecting. I'm immediately taken aback at her confidence, she's certain but not overwhelming. I like her and I can't stop thinking about what she's whipping up for lunch. She has been described as a gastronomical memory maker, winning countless awards and voted by SA Tourism as one of the Top 10 Young South African Chefs. I just know that whatever lunch is, it's going to be good.
I'd like to undo the damage done to the f-word and ask you straight up. Are you a feminist?
I am a woman in a male-dominated industry - kitchens have become a man's world. But in it, I wear my earrings, do my hair, I have even designed a new range of chef jackets. I work damn hard, I get it done. At the same time I enjoy looking good, that makes me feel good, and yes, that's me being a feminist.
What's a day in the life of Jackie Cameron like?
Dominated by food! I run the front and the back of Hartford House's five-star restaurant, I'm finishing off my new recipe book, I'm designing a new range of chef jackets, I handle all the media requests that come in, and of course, not a plate leaves my kitchen that isn't checked by me.
Like most women, it sounds like you're mastering the art of multi-tasking. How do you find the creative energy to stay ahead of the pack?
I have no free time, but I do make time to spend with my family and I do set aside hours where I can be creative. In my game, you have to. I travel globally, as much as I can, keep up my research and I am lucky enough to have great guides like Anna Trapido, Victor Strugo and Margot Janse who are all very supportive.
So you believe in mentorship?
Yes. One of the aspects I love most about my work is the training. No award can compare to the reward you get from witnessing the growth of another person. In my kitchen, compassion is important, it's an all-women kitchen and I don't want anyone to fail so I spend time training my team. As a woman chef... I have kitchen rules : Rule #1: No one comes into the kitchen angry or stressing about an issue. We speak upfront, get it out of the way, then we work. Rule#2 : If there are any errors during service, we tackle it after service, not during, and we tackle it constructively.
So you don't do a Gordon then?
No, I definitely do not do Gordon. There's no screaming, shouting or swearing in my kitchen. That's not the way I was brought up. Some of my team members are ex-farm workers, some can't speak English very well, and most of them are mothers. I can't do that to them. Their work is invaluable to me and to Hartford House.
The talent, the hard work, the flair, the chic. I like the whole package, the way you own your femininity and strength, all at the same time and in a difficult male-dominated field.
Thank you, my femininity is empowering.
What's the one thing you want to say to young aspiring women wanting to go this route?
Think long and hard. Don't do it for the wrong reasons, it's no quick walk to fame. Start by researching all the options: chef, food writer or photographer, even catering. Make the decision that's best suited to you and have passion.
What are you doing tonight?
Cooking for a charity initiative called Food for Thought that assists street kids in Durban.
How's your love life out there in the beautifully dreamy KZN Midlands?
What love life? I am very single at the moment and enjoying it very much, thank you.
If you want to sample Jackie's fabulous cuisine, go to www.hartford.co.za or sample her pizza creation at your nearest Col'Cacchio pizzeria, the Carpe Funghi which contains mozzarella, caramelised onion, oven-roasted mushrooms, roasted gadic and Italian Parmesan, topped with thinly sliced beef Carpaccio, truffle mayonnaise and fresh dill. R5 from every pizza sold goes to Children's Hospital Trust.
Extract from PLAY
Seared local beef fillet with fresh horseradish plus creamed potatoes enlivened with horseradish, roasted garlic, juvenile green beans and herbs with a red wine sauce.(Photo : Sally Chance)
Derek Taylor dines grandly at the International Wine and Food Society's dinner at Hartford House an on, um, gourmet bunny chows. Yes, that's possible.
"After a marathon weekend of eating and judging, my most urgent ambitions have now narrowed down to two. First to get star chef, Jackie Cameron at Hartford House to enter a gourmet bunny chow at the next annual festival celebrating KZN's unique food contribution to the world.
Next, to talk the International Wine and Food Society's Durban chapter into launching at this successful celebration of good real food next year. The IWFS members are a delightful group of omnivores but the pleasure of strolling over the grass alongside a row of eager curry-makers' stalls may take some selling.
But first to Jackie's latest IWFS dinner. A chilly Midlands night honed the appetites for the five course dinner and Diemersfontein wine tasting - including a couple of Jackie's edible jokes.
First came a complex meeting of brown mushroom soup with shiitake mushroom powder and Midlands truffle oil. This was a welcome warming soup with a remarkable depth of flavour but I couldn't find much contribution from the shiitake powder. Nevertheless, an auspicious beginning enhanced by the perky flavour of the 2007 Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Shiraz which accompanied it.
On to a warm salad of springbok loin seared with pink peppercorns, spoom, candied walnuts, foie gras terrine and black lava salt. Spoom is a sort of Italian sherbet made with syrup and wine for fruit juice mix and then, when nearly frozen, lightened with a whipped in dose of uncooked meringue to give it air and texture. The dish was excellent, the meat cooked to perfection. Black lava salt is a new one to me, but whatever its provenance, it has a good earthy contribution to flavour.
When it came to the 2007 Diermsfontein Carpe Diem malbec - a rush of big flavours, most satisfying. This is a most interesting growth and hard to find on its own and hard to find on its own : most malbec goes to invigorating other growths in blends.
Then a tartare of Norwegian salmon with Swissland goats' cheese (Swissland is a glorious Midlands source of goats' cheese in several styles,) campfire smoked olives, micro herbs with lemon croutons. This excellent train-crash of flavours and textures with Dimersfontein's Carpe Diem chenin blanc 2009 was a pleasing and lively young partner.
The main dish of seared local beef fillet with fresh horseradish plus creamed potatoes enlivened with horseradish, roasted garlic, juvenile green beans and herbs with a red wine sauce won my instant gratitude. I am an unsuccessful fresh horseradish addict doomed to a life of mostly disappointment in my search for the magic root. The beef was outstanding - obviously grass-fed with some grain finishing from its flavour and texture. A declarative, brightly flavoured 2007 Diemersfontein pinotage supported the dish well.
"Peanut butter and syrup on toast" was Jackie's jokey introduction to the dessert. In it she had combined peanut butter with maple syrup ice-cream, sugar-glazed bananas and a vanilla crème anglaise into an intriguing nougat effect within and around the melange. A good joke, delicious in fact. A nicely edged 2009 viognier from Diemersfontein contrasted effectively with this excellent end to a memorable dinner.
Jackie Cameron is one of our top 10 national chefs and still surprising her fans. We are lucky to have her here".
For more information please visit :
Breakfast on the verandas, with their garden and hill views, offers around 40 dishes including Hartford's variations and accessories.
(Photo : Sally Chance)
"THEY DON’T GET MUCH BETTER THAN THIS"
Derek Taylor, one of the nation’s foremost food critics, was a recent visitor to Hartford House. He took a shine to Jackie’s offering. A real shine.
When I win the lottery I’m going to buy a new Hardy’s trout rod and talk Clare into coming with me to live en pension at Hartford House.
That’s about as near to heaven as I’m ever going to get – for as long as Jackie Cameron remains at this unique heritage hotel as executive chef. And that looks like a very long time indeed, thank goodness.
She’s already been there for years, the youngest executive chef in the business, richly creative and a self-admitted “obsessive perfectionist”.
Having made this careful decision, I must also pay tribute to the Goss family who have restored this enchanting hostelry, now into its third century, in all its beauty and character for so long and so meticulously. Cameron’s food comes to you within its elegant Victorian dining room and the wide verandas with their huge bowls of fresh roses on the tables.
Although you could probably get any dish in the world from Cameron, giving her enough time to fly in the yak leg from Tibet and the blue potatoes from Peru or whatever, but there is no need here for a traditional á la carte menu with its ranks of old reliables.
Cameron’s irrepressible creativity changes her menus faster, almost, than the printer can follow. Her cuisine is solidly based on quality materials from twelve distinguished Midlands suppliers of every kind of meat to dairy, cheeses, chocolate and trout.
Someone wrote that Hartford House is unique in being the only world-class hotel neighbouring a world-class Stud Horse Farm (Summerhill). I think you can add the world-class talents of Jackie Cameron to that combination’s uniqueness.
My only worry about going to live there, courtesy of the Lotto people, would be that after a few weeks I might have to be transported between table and trout streams in a heavy-duty wheelbarrow by two or three very strong men.
Verdict: Superb creativity, cooking, materials and atmosphere. Outstanding good value. Highly recommended.
IF YOU’RE CURIOUS, READ ON ……
Breakfast on the verandas, with their garden and hill views, offers around 40 dishes including their variations and accessories. The full deal offers the lot to choose from for R150 (including Jungle oats with dash of Jameson whisky if you like and known locally as the Killick special).
Dinner is a feast of five courses for R325, a menu that changes every day. Here’s a typical combination: Jerusalem artichoke soup with smoked salmon ice cream, herbed croutons and crisp sage leaves.
Balsamic seared chicken livers, Erwin’s Parma ham, Swissland’s goats’ cheese and kiwi with red onion. Pepper corn crusted Springbok with onion-flavoured polenta, baba ganoush, wilted lettuce and ruby port syrup.
Dijon blackened beef fillet, shitake butter, a potato cream infused with truffle oil and similarly sauced, fresh broccoli tips.
Chai latte with summer fruit compote, spiced doughnuts, Belgian chocolate sauce and “crackle” pop-icecream.
The wine list is an intelligently varied, award-winner.
Lunch is a clever offering of some 25 dishes in which mains can be starters and starters mains. It’s the kind of meal where you can choose two or three starters or a single, main or any combination – whatever you fancy. Well-briefed waiters tell you which dishes can be shrunk or enlarged.
Prices range from R32 (oven-roasted marrow bones with vegetables, capers, fresh lemon and chives) to R135 (Shitake-crusted beef fillet with caramelised onions, Amandine potato rolls and mushroom duxelles with red wine sauce). Portions are satisfying. The service is informed, warm and cheerful.
We lunched there this week with our highly impressed God-daughter Catarina from London and three roaring appetites on a polished-bright day of 15C with a gentle waft from a patio-heater on the veranda to keep us from any little breezes.
We had two soups of the day: magically reduced flavours of mushroom and onion, infused with truffle and textured with central “ice creams” of intensified tastes. Served in deep bowls with home-made breads on the side they produced ladylike gasps of satisfaction.
I reluctantly passed over the home-made brawn with brioche, cherry tomatoes glazed in balsamic with rocket and an English mustard aioli until next summer. (How often do you see good brawn on a menu, these days?)
Instead I took the Gorgonzola capalletti – hat-shaped ravioli containing the cheese – with more of the cheese dotted about, smoked olives, green beans, fried apple, toasted walnuts and walnut oil. This was a great warmer and a real feast of flavours. The “campfire” olives were new to me and a great taste.
Catarina’s 19-years-old appetite, dealt with the formidable slices of shitake fillet of beef in style. Clare, fulfilling a long-held ambition, enjoyed big, meaty frogs’ legs. They had been poached in a Chinese master stock and then seared with Chinese five-spice and were accompanied by pan-seared spinach, asparagus, crisped potatoes and a sauce reduced from the stock.
My five-spice confit of duck with candied onions and Asian vegetable spring rolls came with a red wine sauce and was delicious. Confit is a much abused word in many restaurants these days and can often turn out to be bits of meat stewed to paste in fat.
But this was a true confit, the duck tender and full of flavour.
Despite their excellent desserts of the day -- tiramisu and espresso parfait with marscapone and cinnamon ice cream; fresh berry-frozen cheesecake with nutty biscuits, berry sorbet and a coulis with hot berry tea – Clare and Catarina rather forcefully volunteered to share my cheese platter.
It was the best I’ve enjoyed for years. Six excellent local cheeses came in absolutely perfect ripeness with citrine candied onion, cheese and herb chutneys, pickled ginger, lemon sage, biscuits and the delightful house health bread. Why is it most restaurants serve unripened cheese, fridge-hardened and with about a tenth of its flavour potential?
"COMPLIMENTS (as big as they get) from one of the BIGGEST AND THE BEST"
So the accolades have been piling up for Hartford House in the last eighteen months, but its latest achievement in making House & Leisure’s Top Five South African restaurants, ranks with the best of them. Heavens knows how many there are in South Africa, but at the last count, some guru claimed there were more than 60000 eateries in the nation, yet this one, ten kilometres outside the dustiest little dorp in the Midlands at the southernmost tip of what the civilized people to the north of us call the darkest continent, happens to make the top five.
It’s not only a compliment to Jackie Cameron and her team, it’s a miracle in an environment which has emerged from 80% unemployment, a land of few skills, and nothing in the way of culinary virtues.
That Sir Clement Freud, recently deceased and much-lamented raconteur, adventurer and journalist in the UK, once proclaimed Hartford the most beautiful home in the country is a well documented statement, but what a blessing to have that and one of the nation’s elite gourmet paradises.
The August issue of South Africa’s foremost publication on the world of living, House & Leisure, will announce the top five. We have no idea who the competition are, but readers and browsers will get their chance to vote for the king of kings following that issue. Don’t worry, you’ll get the reminder!
The following is an extract from a candid Q&A interview with our Head Chef, Jackie Cameron, which was recently published in the Travel & Food supplement of The Times.
Recipe books; kitchen equipment (exciting kitchen gadgets always win me over); improved ingredients and products; I also love handbags, shoes and earrings.
Best thing about shopping?
Finding that something that puts a smile on my face.
Worst thing about shopping?
The hustle and bustle.
Cash or Credit Card?
I always pay... cash. With the arrival of the credit crunch, I’ve... become very aware of every transaction I make.
Jean Paul Gaultier.
A cap gun at the age of three.
A chocolate-dipped scorpion.
Earliest shopping memory?
Begging my mother for a chocolate at a grocery store. I’m always reminded of that when I hear other children trying their luck. Just the other day, while standing in the queue at Woolworths, I overheard a young boy telling his mother how much he loved her. I was taken aback by his honesty and caring nature, only to hear two seconds later how much he would love a chocolate. I had to laugh.
Whats in yor fridge?
In my fridge I always have... a selection of Midlands cheese and homemade pickles and preserves.
Perspective on 'Green'?
To me going green means... contributing in a positive light. Believing that every individual can make a difference.
Best shopping companions?
My mother and sister.
Worst shopping companion?
A person who is irritated and in a huff and rush.
Best all-time purchase?
Larousse Gastronomique, “the world’s most famous culinary reference book”.
Most expensive purchase?
My studio flat.
WHAT I’D BUY WITH...
R500 : A meal for one at a top restaurant.
R5000 : A coffee machine and beans... together they make a full-bodied espresso with a perfect crema.
If the sky’s the limit?
I would buy only the best quality, state-of-the-art equipment to furnish my dream kitchen. A good chef is a prepared chef and a prepared chef is a fast chef.
"THIS MAN’S BEEN AROUND : SO THIS IS SOME COMPLIMENT"
Hello Jackie and Cheryl:
Just a short note to thank you both and Gold Circle and Gill Simpkins for the wonderful experience of being at Summerhill this week and the great lunch in a perfect setting. Jackie you are a genius, pea soup and ice cream!! such invention. I love it. And the Norwegian salmon was superb and the desserts sublime. I hope to come back and do a proper crit and also take in more of the amazing atmosphere of Summerhill. We are truly blessed as South Africans to have a place like this. Thank you for a memorable day.
I saw Mickey briefly on our tour but would obviously like to interview him and get an in depth view into his thoughts on the farm and subjects in general. I am told he has a wonderful way with words and views about our country.
Best wishes and thank you again.
(Eminent Journalist : The Daily News)
After months of adjudication across the length and breadth of South Africa, a shortlist of 20 restaurants has been released for the coveted Prudential Eat Out Restaurant Awards 2008.
Hartford House is one of the 20 nominees for the 'Oscars of Cuisine' and Executive Chef Jackie Cameron and her team are delighted to be amongst the finalists.
The awards evening, where accolades will be presented for Chef of the Year, Top 10 Restaurants in South Africa and Restaurant of the Year, takes place at the Westin Grand in Cape Town on Sunday 30 November 2008.
Fine food connoisseur Victor Strugo, always wildly enthusiastic about Hartford - its culinary excellence and the Wellness Centre - had this to say after a recent visit:
“At the risk of sounding predictable, you have again thrilled us with your wizardry and warmed our hearts with your welcome. Coming to Hartford has become for us something like visiting heaven – it is just a totally different dimension from everyday life, and a significant part of its magic is created in your kitchen.
"We loved both the quiet intimate Monday dinner and Tuesday’s festive party. Both menus were very impressive, particularly Tuesday’s which I thought very bold for dispensing altogether with fish and giving a succession of intensely flavoured meats. But you (referring to Jackie Cameron, head chef at Hartford House) paced it wonderfully - the quantities were not overwhelming, the spicy variation held the interest and complex-sounding combinations proved to be totally harmonious dishes, and all beautifully presented. Also, each dish had a surprise that gave it freshness and originality – I never would have thought that truffle-scenting brinjals would work so well, the candied vegetables were perfect (and beautiful) with that awesome duck and the brittle’s texture and flavour just finished off the dessert perfectly.
"The personal touch was very apparent even in the picnic basket that we enjoyed on the way to Joburg on Wednesday and finished in the office that afternoon. Your home-made chocolates are wonderful and the description sheet was very thoughtful!"
Victor’s acclaimed fields of expertise include: Le GastroGnome, Saturday Star; Classic Feel Magazine; Wine Magazine; National Selector, American Express Fine Dining Programme; Regional Selection Panel, The World's 50 Best Restaurants