Our Chef of The Month is Jonathan Duiker, the Head Chef of the Café del Sol Group.
Growing up in Cape Town, Jonathan’s life is filled with memories of food. His mother, a domestic worker, learnt numerous cooking techniques at her job, and brought them home to her children. Artfully combining the traditional food they ate with Mediterranean flavours, the youngest of five siblings got tasked with assisting and dish washing. As he got older, he took over the cooking, which he greatly enjoyed.
Soon he headed off to Cape College to do his chef studies. “It was the one thing that kept me straight – that discipline of having to be on time and learn, because you needed that theory to do the practical. Theory was never my strong point,” he laughs.
While studying, Jonathan worked evening shifts to gain experience. After graduating, he moved straight into the kitchens of 0932 and The Cape Grace Hotel, to name a few. He then moved to Swaziland to work for the king, and eventually to Johannesburg, to work at a variety of properties, including the Melrose Arch Hotel. It was here, under the guidance of Chef Wicus Prinsloo, that Jonathan’s full personae developed. He dived in to honing what is now one of his most passionate loves – food and wine pairing.
However, all chef’s need to work abroad to gain experience, so off he went. What a ride it’s been… from luxury Thai resort Anantara and LUX hotels in Mauritius, to the Seychelles and Starwood Hotelsin the Maldives.
The challenges faced in these remote, high-end resort hotels are like no other. Logistics, and keeping menu’s exciting for long staying guests, to sourcing requirements for an in-villa dining experience for a family of 6, who only eat specific foods, or have specific cultural requirements, found Jonathan learning fast.
“The sky is the limit though. You get to be as creative as you want, and can – and when you have eight restaurants and four bars across four islands to manage, you get a true feel for the nature of possibility.”
The call of home resounded and Jonathan headed back to Joburg with his now wife. He took the opportunity to be involved with the trio of Café del Sol restaurants, to help them grow and expand their already well-established brand – and this makes him a very happy chef!
Café del Sol offers ‘mamma’s food’, made with heart and soul, but he’s tweaking the traditional recipes, and playing with textures and visual aspects of presentation. However, the dishes still resonate the family ethos of the brand.
Where do we find this passionate man on his day off? Researching international trends, checking out websites of world famous chef’s, and scouting out new local restaurants to see what’s going on in and around Jozi.
Hello Joburg was first published in April 1980 as a monthly restaurant and entertainment magazine. Over the years we have developed a network of patriotic Joburgers that love nothing more than sharing their experiences in this beautiful city!