Chef Jess Van Dyk, the Head Chef of La Colombe, hails from the Northern Cape, and has swiftly worked through the ranks of the fine dining restaurant to her position of Head Chef.

After graduating from Silwood School of Cookery in 2012, she stayed on at La Colombe, where she had completed her practical training, reaching the position of Sous Chef in 2014. In 2015, she set off to explore the rest of the industry by working first at a creative food company, where she was involved in all aspects of food such as styling, catering and videography, before setting off to the Mediterranean where she worked for a season on the yachts.

She had spent a year away from the restaurant and began to think of returning to the restaurant world when Chef James Gaag contacted her about a position as Head Chef. She says, “It was perfect timing, and a dream come true!”

Here, she tells us more about herself:

Advice to those entering the industry? You have to eat, breath and live for food/cooking. It’s one of the hardest industries, it is brutal and exhausting and without 100% commitment and passion, it will get the better of you. Don’t do it because the TV makes it look cool, do it for the love and fire burning inside of you. If you do decide it is for you, push yourself and work hard every single day. Arrive early and leave late, help where you can and try be faster and better every single day. Respect everyone in the kitchen, from sculler to Head Chef, steal with your eyes and stay humble.”

Can you tell us about creating your seasonal menu? We are currently working on improving and changing the menu, dishes and the guest’s experience as a whole. Dining at La Colombe should be more than just a meal, we want to convey a feeling, a show of theatre and entertainment all while playing with your senses and leaving your taste buds buzzing. La Colombe has a very set style of food and service, in a way I guess you can say ‘classic fine dining’, which we try keep but evolve with the trends and ‘fashion’ to not be old school either. We are always making small changes to dishes, as produce comes in and out of season- adjusting as we go, either adding ingredients or simplifying a dish.

What inspires you? I get mostly inspired by people, whether that be someone I follow on social media or watching James Gaag come up with a quirky new idea at work, that’s what pushes me. Inspiration comes from anywhere, something you taste at a food market, saw on social media, came across in someone’s cookbook. Traveling is vital as chefs to keep improving and adding to our repertoire. You learn so much by just watching how other countries or people live, eat, go about finding and sourcing their and ingredients. Not even to mention the explosion of flavor, spices, techniques and beliefs everyone has about what they cook and how.

Where are you off to next? We are about to head off to the States and Mexico for a food trip, to dine at some of the best restaurants in the world and to learn and see the locals produce their traditional dishes. I can’t wait! I am a traveler at heart and live for the thrill of feeling the unease of being in a new country, hearing a new language or accent, eating new foods and seeing new produce. If I could travel for a living, I probably would, but it is so exciting to do so with my team. So, you can look forward to a few Mexican ‘twists’ on the upcoming menu!

La Colombe is currently running a winter special – R495 for four courses, R945 with wine pairing – until the 30th of August 2019. Click here to see what’s on the menu.

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Paul NashCarolize Coetzee