Iconic South African chef Garth Stroebel literally wrote the book on Modern South African Cuisine over a decade ago, so we caught up with the chef to find out more about what inspired him to write the book and where he thinks our cuisine is today.
Why did you write Modern South African Cuisine? South Africa has an extraordinary culinary heritage and I felt that these influences needed to be put out there in a contemporary kind of way.
How did you decide which recipes to use? The whole ideas was to use dishes that epitomise our heritage and that people could relate to, for example Prawns coated with beaten rice and served on a smoked snoek cake with chilli jam. This combines Indian, Malaysian and Asian cuisines.
What do you think South African cuisine is? To quote my book: “To define a cuisine is to confine it. By it’s very nature, modern South African cuisine implies growth and change, allowing individual chefs the freedom to experiment and express their personal style. It is a label, rather than a straight jacket.”
Is there a defining South African dish for you? A good Cape Malay curry with all it’s flavour, texture and nuances epitomises our multi-cultural heritage.
How do you feel that the South African culinary scene has change over the last 10 years? The change in South African culinary offerings has been immense. We have restaurants in our country which easily compete on the world stage. I would go so far as to say our standards are extremely high.
Where do you see South African cuisine in the future? I think we have been overlooked for a long time and if South African chefs can rally together to promote the art and science of modern South African food, using local ingredients and fynbos, we could be a force to contend with in the culinary world.
If you had overseas visitors asking for a true South African food experience, where would you suggest? In Cape Town, I would ask Cass Abrahams to cook them a dinner!