February, 2015

Open letter to a Cape Town chef.

Dear chef,

How much do you love your job? How much do you love food? These are two questions that are mutually exclusive. Just because you have a passion for cooking doesn’t mean you have a passion for cooking the food you currently are. If that’s the case, listen up.

Together with my wife, I have spent the last few years of my life building Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants. It has been tough. It has been fucking tough. Self-doubt has niggled pretty much every day and there are times when I wonder if it’s all worth it. But there are also great moments taken in small gestures. The e-mail from a customer, with a video of their young daughter singing a song about Frankie Fenner’s “proper meat”. The stranger who stops you in the street to say thank you for giving a shit about the meat that their family eats. These are the moments that give me goosebumps.

As the brand has evolved we have (I think) improved. When I look back at some of the stupid mistakes we have made along the way, I’m not disappointed. I’m proud. We don’t make those mistakes anymore. We are improving every day. And we will continue to improve. We never stop learning.

With our new store, we also launched Publik Wine Bar. A friendship that merges into a business relationship can be a disaster; people a lot smarter than me will tell you it’s a bad idea. In our case it’s been anything but. With an unflinching philosophy towards promoting specific styles of wine, David Cope has revolutionised the way a lot of people in this city drink wine. And I don’t think that’s an overstatement.

The missing piece to this puzzle – we’ve realised – is a chef.  Working with whole carcasses every day I am more convinced than ever that the opportunity is there for someone to grab this city by the throat and start serving the type of food we all want to cook. The type of food we all want to eat. The type of food that nobody is making properly.

Are you that chef?

There are some brilliant restaurants in this city. Shit, there are world-class restaurants in this city. And they are being run by world-class talents. If you are working as a CDP or a sous and you are learning from these people, then I applaud you. This letter isn’t for you. Stay where you are. Develop your skill set. Learn from the best. And one day you’ll be ready to do your own thing.

But maybe that day is today. Maybe you’re ready to do your own thing right now. If you think you are, we’d like to make you an offer. With an existing kitchen, and access to some of the best meat in the country, we want you to step into two established brands and have some fun serving simple, delicious food. You want to make the best burger in Cape Town? Cool, let’s make that happen here. You want hanger steak on the menu. Done. You want to pickle and you want to smoke? So do we. Roast chicken for four? Yes please. And you better believe there’s going to be some steak tartare action.  Forget about the fact that on any given day you can grab a boning knife and help break down a carcass or two. That’s something not too many chefs get to do nowadays.

Let’s put all our cards on the table. This isn’t a salary-based job. It’s a partnership. With turnover percentages. You get the space for free. And you do your thing. With some hard work you’ll be clearing more than you are now. If you want it badly, you’ll be taking home a lot more. You’ll also be having some fun hopefully.

Think about it. If you’re hearing a voice whispering that this could be for you…well, maybe you should listen.




Ramblings | Comments { 1 }

Profile: Nikki Albertyn.

A newspaper that recently asked me for a recipe and a few pieces of advice on lesser-fancied cuts, decided not to use the recipe I submitted. I was pretty bummed about that. Forget the fact that they asked me for input and then ignored it. Forget that. They had their reasons, I suppose. I was more bummed because the talented photographer that shot the dish never got her pic in a national newspaper. And she deserved it.

Nikki Albertyn is one to watch. As a stylist and a photographer her star is on the rise and I’m tipping her for big things. With a killer eye, Nikki has that exciting skill set where the lines between design and cooking blur. Photographer, stylist, cook. Triple threat.  You could say she likes all things aesthetically superior. You could also say she likes nice stuff.

Check out her pic below for my sherry-vinegar braised lamb neck risotto. (I’ve thrown in the recipe too). You might also want to check out this link for an event she’s hosting in Stellenbosch.

Nikki Albertyn. Remember that name, people.

Lamb neck risotto:

Recipe (serves 4):

  • olive oil
  • 2 whole lamb necks (leave whole if your pot is big enough, otherwise get your butcher to slice them into discs)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots, or small onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped leeks
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 litre homemade vegetable or chicken stock; more as needed (alternatively, just add water if you need)
  • 1/2 cup capers, to garnish
  • A few high-quality anchovies, to garnish
  • One lemon, peeled, to garnish
  • Parmesan, grated, to garnish.

Heat the oven to 140 Degrees Celsius. In a deep pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the lamb neck with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides; transfer to a plate. Pour off all but a few tablespoons of fat from the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, leeks, celery and carrots to the pan. Cook until the vegetables are tender and  just starting to brown. Stir in the garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook one minute more. Add the vinegar and simmer until it reduces to about half a cup.

Return the meat to the pot, and add enough stock to barely cover. (Use the water if you need to). Bring to a gentle simmer on the stovetop, then transfer the pot, uncovered, to the oven.

Braise in the oven, basting and turning the meat occasionally for 4 – 4 1/2 hours. The lamb is done when they’re tender enough to cut with a fork and the meat easily comes away from the bone.

Transfer the lamb to a plate, let the liquid cool, and spoon off any fat. (Meanwhile, strain the liquid and return to the pot.) Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Shred the meat from the bones and roughly chop.

When ready to serve, warm the meat in the sauce, basting frequently.

Make the risotto as per normal. When it is the right consistency, stir in the lamb and sauce. (You can use some of the braising liquid to make the risotto) To serve, spoon lamb risotto into bowls. Garnish with anchovies, lemon rind and sprigs of thyme.  Finally, finish with cracked black pepper and sea salt.
Go forth and eat,

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Food By Me | Comments { 1 }