Photographs by Alisha Erasmus
Chef Chris Erasmus has been using wild ingredients in the Franschhoek-based Foliage restaurant since it opened 5 years ago – but his love for foraging goes back longer than that. “Living in the Karoo when I was younger, and helping my mom look for wild melons in the field,” says Chris when asked when his interest in foraging began. Sourcing produce directly from the natural surrounds certainly gives the restaurant a sustainable edge, so we asked the chef a few questions about foraging and how he puts his menu together, what they’re doing in the restaurant to be more eco-friendly, as well as his advice to chefs on how to be more sustainable.
What is it that you enjoy about foraging? Being in nature, firstly. Having the first 2 hours of my day in the wild with just my thoughts and no one around.
Is it quite tricky dealing with seasonal fluctuations or bad weather? Do you have days where foraging is the absolute last thing you’d want to do? Only in summer when it is blazing hot and the sun kills everything. Winter is fun!
How did you learn what was/wasn’t edible? Did you have any resources to help? I hung out with like-minded people and read A LOT!
Do you have any favourite foraged ingredients? I love mushrooms so Autumn is my favourite season.
Where are the other ingredients that you use sourced from, and what goes into choosing suppliers? Firstly, we try and keep it as much in town as possible. Small backyard farmers are always welcome. We support people with the same ethos as us, farms like Spier, Glen Oakes and Boschendal.
Can you take us through the process of how you put together your menu? Some dishes are well-thought-through and a lot of time goes into them. Others happen in the field when we stumble upon something and BANG! it’s on the menu.
You’ve been open for just on 5 years now – what do you think has contributed to the restaurant’s success? We try and keep it interesting but at the same time unpretentious and fun.
How big a role does sustainability play in your restaurant operations? Besides foraging, what are some of the things you’re doing to be eco-friendly and environmentally aware? We have our own compost heaps for the garden and part of the recycling is vegetable waste. Also, all water used for rinsing produce goes back into our gardens.
Is there any advice you would give to other chefs and restaurateurs when it comes to sustainability Prevent rather than cure. Stop the packaging before it enters the restaurant. Send all packaging back to the suppliers, they’ll soon get the message…