Words: Kit Heathcock | Images: Supplied

We chat to three exceptional chefs whose food always inspires: Kerry Kilpin of Bistro 1682 at Steenberg, Christi Semczyszyn of Tjing Tjing – just re-opened after a complete revamp – and Liezl Odendaal, partner and pastry chef at Janse & Co.

Kerry Kilpin, Bistro 1682

Q: What inspired you to a career as a chef?
I always loved food from a young age. I used to bake and sell my cakes to the farm workers at payday on the farm. Later on, during my boarding school days I would bake and sell at school. Straight after school, I went to study at Silwood kitchens and really fell in love with cooking. In my second year, I was fortunate enough to work at La Colombe and met Franck Dangereux. I worked with Franck for 12 years and he has been a huge mentor in my career. In 2014, I decided it was time to spread my wings and moved to head up Bistro 1682.

Q: What qualities have contributed to your success?
A positive and a never-give-up attitude. Attention to detail and consistency is what I strive for, and happy staff make happy food, which in turn makes happy guests.

Q: What are you most excited about in the kitchen at the moment?
The new challenges that arise at Steenberg as we gear up for the next season.

Q: Favourite winter ingredients?
Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips and avocados.

Q: Favourite things to cook for yourself at home?
I am a sucker for a good roast with roast potatoes, veg, cauliflower cheese and, of course, lots of gravy.

Christi Semczyszyn, Tjing Tjing

Q: What inspired you to a career as a chef?
The women in my family are all phenomenal cooks and I grew up watching and helping them make family meals. My Granny bought me a Jamie Oliver cookbook when I was 13 so that I could start helping out with dinners and I worked my way through the whole book and made every single recipe. After studying special effects makeup and realising I hated the film industry, I gave cheffing a go, just to make some money, and loved it.

Q: What qualities have contributed to your success?
Great role models and loads of support and encouragement from my family and friends. I also work my best when I’m under crazy pressure.

Q: What are you most excited about in the kitchen at the moment?
I’m loving that people are into Japanese food now! I’ve always been obsessed with it and I’m thrilled to show people that it is more than just average sushi. Japanese food is all about three or four great quality ingredients prepared with meticulous attention and not over-dressed.

I’m SO not into foams, gels and crumbles, and more unnecessary ingredients and garnishes on the plate than you can remember. Japanese food is all about three or four great quality ingredients prepared with meticulous attention and not overdressed. The food looks like something I’d actually like to eat, rather than something I’m going to Instagram and pick apart so that I can figure out what I’m eating.

Q: Three of your favourite winter ingredients?
Mushrooms, pumpkin and root veg.

Q: What are your favourite things to cook for yourself at home?
In winter, I make loads of soups and stews. I always make way too much so that I can freeze some and share with friends and family.

Liezl Odendaal, Janse & Co

Q: What inspired you to a career as a chef?
I always wanted to be in a creative industry and since I can remember, I loved working with food. I studied a cheffing diploma then got straight to work in a kitchen, with a brief break to study for a BA degree. I had a few other work experiences in the food industry but nothing came close to the excitement of a kitchen. Every establishment where I’ve worked, I learned from and that built me to where I am now.

Q: What qualities have contributed to your success?
Hard work, endurance and to strive to do my best every day.

Q: What are you most excited about in the kitchen at the moment?
At the moment, it is creativity. The new season brings new ingredients. I love to work on new dishes, sometimes an idea works and sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, it is rewarding.

Q: What are your favourite winter ingredients to work with?
Cara Cara Citrus, Jerusalem artichokes and peas.

Q: What are your favourite things to cook for yourself at home?
In winter, I like to make tagines with homemade lemon preserve, different grains like black or red quinoa accompanied with fresh sambals. In summer, everything will go on a braai.

Bistro 1682
021 713 2211
steenbergfarm.com/bistro1682

Tjing Tjing
021 422 4374
tjingtjing.co.za

Janse & Co
021 422 0384
janseco.com