Asian-styled cooking is what chef Virgil Kahn prides himself on and this year he walked away with a Three Plate accolade from the JHP Gourmet Guide – an honour every chef dreams about.
The 37-year-old, who is now the executive chef at the Indochine restaurant on the Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch, grew up in Bonteheuwel and later moved to Woodlands.
He fondly remembers how he started off his cooking career by baking biscuits, cookies and cakes in his mother’s kitchen.
After matriculating from Modderdam High School, he studied at the Granger Bay Hotel School in Cape Town and landed his first position as a chef at the Arabella Westin where he discovered his love for food.
He then travelled on yachts, cooking up a storm and returned to South Africa in 2010 and then worked at the One and Only Hotel in Cape Town and later joined the Delaire Graff Estate.
This year, the JHP Gourmet Guide awarded chef Virgil and his team the Three Plate accolade – the highest possible in the Guide, and one of only five restaurants to receive it.
In many countries restaurants aspire to a one, two or three-star rating. In South Africa, restaurants aim for one, two or three plates, the ultimate accolade.
The prestigious plate rating, which equates to global standards of evaluating and rewarding refined and fine-dining establishments, has been lauded for its authenticity, impartiality and credibility. It celebrates the uniqueness of South African cuisine, from classic and conservative to daring and different.
Chef Virgil said that he draws inspiration from his fellow chefs and also nature around the estate.
While he knows how much effort and knowledge go into building the perfect dish, he also knows how important team-building is.
“I draw inspiration from chefs and how they apply themselves. My guys must leave here talking like chefs. They need to know about techniques, fermentation, health trends and life.
“I want to equip them with all these pieces to empower them. I appoint for energy, drive and fire,” he said.
Chef Virgil enjoys a variety of cooking variations but his favourite is Asian-styled cooking. The aromas of lemon grass, coriander, galangal, yuzu, ginger, chilli and other tantalising scents influence his cooking.
The father of two said his favourite local dish to cook is roti and curry while he also enjoys Japanese cuisine and various types of salads.
His mantra is, “Be the best in that moment.”
His advice to fellow youth wanting to pursue the same career is: “It is a difficult career that can be overwhelming. Put everything in and never give up; in the end you will see the rewards.”
He attributes his success to the women in his life, namely his mother and wife.