Dining Out, People of Joburg

Chef of the month: Jack Coetzee

March 13, 2019, Author: Candice May

Farm-to-table, snout-to-tail – whatever you call it, for Urbanologi’s head chef Jack Coetzee, the concept of going back to basics isn’t merely a food trend; it’s a way of life. It’s a philosophy in which he prepares his guests the most flavourful, tastiest, nutrient-rich dishes he can by sourcing the best local ingredients.

Chef Jack is the first to admit that his story of why he decided to become a chef isn’t what you’d expect to hear. “My dear mother, who I love to bits, is a terrible cook,” he laughs. Having grown up in the Zimbabwean city of Gweru and attended boarding school in his high school years, Jack says that this, coupled with ‘borderline inedible’ canteen food, made him decide to take matters into his own hands. “My dad is a farmer, so convincing him to start a vegetable patch with some basic herbs at home was an easy task,” he adds.


After winning recipes for a couple of years, Jack started to really enjoy spending time in the kitchen and moved to Cape Town to begin studying towards becoming a professional chef at Silwood School of Cookery. Since then, he’s worked in the kitchens of award-winning restaurants, including The Test Kitchen by Luke Dale-Roberts.

During Jack’s tenure at The Test Kitchen, he worked closely with chef Angelo Sirocco, who started the brewery-eatery Urbanologi in the heart of Joburg. When the position of head chef opened up, Jack joined the team. “At the time, I was working at Summerfields Rose Retreat & Spa in Mpumalanga. I flew to Joburg for the interview, instantly fell in love with Urbanologi and rest is history,” Jack says.


Jack explains that the type of food on offer at Urbanologi is no longer Asian fusion tapas. “With our new menu, developed by myself and my two sous chefs, we’re moving away from that tag – the emphasis is now on tapas, or small plates, based on sustainable sourcing.” Along with the new menu, Urbanologi has introduced the Project 150 concept, which entails only sourcing ingredients within a 150km radius of the restaurant.

The new menu is divided into different sections – butcher, greengrocer, fishmonger baker and brewery – and each dish indicates how far the main ingredient source is from the restaurant. Among the dishes on the seasonal menu at the moment are duck scotch eggs, pork cheek buns, tempura shimeji mushrooms and Jack’s take on salmon sashimi.


While the farm-to-table concept is restrictive, Jack says it’s equally exciting as it allows him to be highly innovative with the menu. “We’ve had to borrow techniques from different local cultures and modernise some South African classics. Our aim is to create something that’s of an international standard, but still reflects the cuisine that’s special to our little corner of the globe,” he explains. There’s only one way to get a better taste for chef Jack’s cooking, and that’s to go and taste it yourself.

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Candice, the Editor of Hello Joburg Magazine, is a coffee-drinking, fashion-obsessed lover of anything and everything lifestyle related. She’s also a self-confessed foodie, champagne enthusiast and devoted bargain hunter.

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