Jane-Therese Mulry is the Executive Chef of The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa in Saxonwold.…
Meet head chef Trevor Chikaura and executive chef Jane-Therese Mulry. Together, they make up part of the team at one of Jozi’s best-loved fine dining institutions – Qunu at The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa. We sat down with them to find out more about their careers and the special restaurant they work at.
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Head chef Trevor Chikaura
How would you describe the food Qunu?
It’s a modern African table – we try and incorporate the African culture into the food we make and are big on heritage ingredients like sorghum and millet. We’re also part of the slow food movement and have our own vegetable garden.
What’s the most popular dish on the menu?
Right now, it’s the Lobster, Corn and Champagne as well as the Oxtail, Beans and Samp. The latter is a favourite of both local and international guests.
Explain your working relationship with chef Jane-Therese.
Our working relationship is amazing. We’re always bouncing ideas off each other. Whenever I have new menu ideas I sit down with Jane and then I prepare the dishes and we taste. From there we decide what should go on the menu and what still needs work.
Is the kitchen as hectic as TV makes it look?
I would say it’s worse. A lot of people outside of work tell me that I’m the nicest person in the world, but I’m pretty sure a lot of the staff members are scared of me!
Is there anyone you’d like to cook for?
I wish I could cook for famous chefs like Grant Atkins, Daniel Humm and Rene Redzepi because I would love the constructive criticism.
Have you had any funny moments in the kitchen?
Oh yeah, I’ve been kicked out of the kitchen many a time! One of my old head chefs used to make people stand in a trash can when they made a mistake. It’s a harsh industry! I’ve messed up quite a lot – in fact, another old head chef once stabbed me because I overcooked a piece of fish. Today, he’s a good friend of mine.
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Executive chef Jane-Therese Mulry
Tell us a little bit about your career journey.
I’m originally from Australia. I did my apprenticeship and worked there for about six years before deciding it was time to go somewhere else. I first came to South Africa for the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and had an onward ticket to the UK as I just came to watch the rugby, but it took me two years to get out. While I was here, I decided to find a job and worked at the Carlton Hotel in Joburg and then the Belmond Mount Nelson in Cape Town.
What’s your favourite ingredient to cook with?
At the moment I’m really into using heritage ingredients like sorghum, which is an incredible gluten-free grain. It has so many incredible uses and I’d rather use something that’s African as it’s more sustainable. We have so many incredible grains in this country, so why not use them?
Why did you decide to do a separate veg-vegan menu?
With the way food trends are going, people want to know everything about their food. They want to know that their food is sustainable that it’s not going to leave too much of a footprint. Even at the Oscars this year, the whole menu was plant-based.
Who’s someone memorable that you’ve cooked for?
Oprah, especially because I haven’t just cooked for her in one country, but in two or three countries around the world. Nelson Mandela as well. Although I also love to cook for my family and friends!
Do you enjoy cooking on your days off?
Yes, I do. We have a vegetable garden at home and I love playing around with different ingredients.
What’s the best thing about being a chef?
People often ask me why I became a chef and I believe it’s because of my love of travel. I needed to find a job that would allow me to travel, so I fell into cooking. Like everything else in my life, I try and be the best I can be at it.
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Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa, 26 Saxon Road, Sandhurst
011 292 6000
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!