The Plettenberg recently welcomed new Executive Chef Kaylinn Shabalala, whose CV includes stints at Grande Provence in Franschhoek, Restaurant at Waterkloof in Somerset West, The River Club in Zambia and Denis Island in the Seychelles. We chatted with Chef Kaylinn to find out a little bit more about her, how she’s enjoying the Plettenberg Hotel so far, as well as what’s inspiring her:
Why did you decide to join the Plettenberg Hotel team? The Liz McGrath Collection has a professional team with high standards. Who would not want to be a part of that team? Also, Plettenberg is a beautiful area with an exclusive feel to it – it does also have its challenges, which is something that also attracts me.
How are you enjoying your time in Plett so far? Is it a challenge to source/work with new suppliers? I am enjoying The Plettenberg Hotel with its ups and downs. I appreciate the professional environment, but we are also like a family. Supply can be a bit challenging – for example, it can be hard getting fresh fish at a reasonable price, even while we’re so close to the ocean. However, we have lovely local suppliers and farmers, and in general all are very helpful.
How would you describe your style as Exec Chef? I am an old school chef; I enjoy being hands on. I believe that when you work with your staff, you then understand them, their strengths and weaknesses. You set a standard and soon they will follow.
Can you tell us about your plans for the hotel’s menus going forward? Will there be a new focus? The restaurant at The Plettenberg Hotel is called SeaFood and indeed I would like to get guests to have a full-on oceanic experience. From the sea sand to the seashells, crustaceans and various fish… The list goes on, and in one way or another we shall incorporate it into the menu.
Which chefs do you consider to be your mentors? Chef Darren Roberts and Chef Gregory Czarnecki
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Perseverance is the key to success.
What are you reading at the moment? The Flavour Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Best/Worst thing you’ve ever eaten? Anything on a Sushi list would be my best. The worst would be a McDonald’s ‘burger’, if that is what one would call it!
What is inspiring you at the moment? The fact that we have produce suppliers within the town, and get our produce from the soil to the kitchen. Fresh and tasty. It is really nice to be able to talk to the famers and tell them about our interests in exploring different flavours and plating ideas, garnishes, textures. They always do their best to assist us.
Your favourite dish on the Plettenberg menu? Every dish!