Women in the winelands making waves in gastronomy
In honour of women’s month, we’ve gathered together a formidable list of talented, experienced, award winning, and widely respected female chefs in the Cape winelands. These are culinary professionals who are not only at the top of their game and thegame; they are also tearing down preconceptions and building vast empires in a largely male-dominated world. Here is a list of living testaments to the ironclad strength and resilience, and unfathomable talent of women in South African!
Carolize Coetzee, Executive Chef of Tokara’s flagship restaurant, graduated from Hurst Campus (The Culinary Academy) in 2010. She then went on to work at Delaire Graff, Makaron Restaurant at Majeka House, Haute Cabrière, Equus at Cavalli, and Cuvée at Simonsig before becoming appointed head chef at Bodega Restaurant at Dornier Wines in 2016. Then, in 2018, she became executive chef at Tokara Restaurant, which serves terroir focused contemporary cuisine, award-winning wines, and dramatic views over Stellenbosch and False Bay. Carolize grew up in Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape, where she recalls enjoying her mother’s lovingly prepared food and mastering heirloom family recipes.
Jess Van Dyk
Chef, traveller, and now chef again, Jess has returned to fine dining restaurant La Colombe this winter as the second in command of one of South Africa’s top kitchens. The Silwood School of Cookery-trained chef cut her teeth at La Colombe as sous chef, before taking a break to travel, completing a season on the yachts in the Mediterranean. Growing up in a typical Afrikaans family in the Platteland, Jess’s family loved dining out, but never at fine dining restaurants, as there was nothing of that sort where she came from. When she was 12, she became obsessed with BBC Food programmes and that’s where her love and interest for food grew to a whole new level.
Kerry grew up on a farm in Grahamstown, where she developed her love of food by selling freshly baked goodies to the farm workers, a little business that continued into high school. By matric, there wasn’t a doubt in Kerry’s mind that she wanted to pursue a career in cheffing. She graduated from Silwood in 2002, joined La Colombe as chef de partiein 2003, and was appointed Sous Chef in 2004. In 2006, she opened the Foodbarn restaurant in Noordhoek with Franck Dangereux and, in 2014, was appointed Executive Chef at Bistro Sixteen82 and Catharina’s Restaurant at Steenberg Farm in Constantia. Kilpin has since developed a fantastic reputation for supporting sustainable dining initiatives (ABALOBI, for example) and for combining her love of local ingredients with unexpected ingredients and flavours inspired by her trips abroad.
Isabelo Charity, Franschhoek and, previously, The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français
For 21 years, Margot Janse was the rock star chef behind The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français. Over the course of her time here, she was named Eat Out DSTV Chef of the Year in both 2002 and 2012. Furthermore, the restaurant was named 8thbest in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and, by 2012, had been named in the Top 10 list of South African restaurants on 11 different occasions. In 2017, Margot Janse left Le Quartier Français to pursue Isabelo, the charity she started with her restaurant team, which provides nutritious meals to needy children in the Franschhoek Valley. Margot is also chief judge on the Eat Out Awards judging panel and consults for Nourish, the flagship restaurant at Santé Wellness Retreat & Spa.
Michélle Theron is the supreme talent behind the Russian-South African fusion cuisine served at Avant-Garde, the new restaurant at Hazendal Wine Estate. She began her career with a hospitality and catering diploma from Boland College before joining the team at De Volkskombuis and De Oewer in Stellenbosch. She then worked at Laborie (Paarl), the Cape Grace Hotel, as well as some Michelin-starred restaurants in Holland. In 2010, Michélle joined Pierneef à La Motte, where, in 2014, she became executive chef. In 2018, she was appointed head chef of Avant-Garde Restaurant, where she has been impressing the socks off diners ever since.
Nicolene Barrow, executive chef of Le Lude estate’s Orangerie Restaurant, is one of the latest members of the international (and prestigious) gastronomic society La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the membership of which is by invitation only. Nicolene, trained as a chef in Europe, before setting up Orangerie Restaurant, where she presents French cuisine with a contemporary twist, combining “the purist, disciplined approach of the European masters with a hint of individual, modern creativity” to create dishes that look as good as they taste!
Tina first discovered the joy of baking when she was just 12-years-old by making chocolate éclairs “I was hooked,” she says. Originally a Liverpudlian, her family immigrated to South Africa in 1975, though she moved London in 1989 to study for a Hospitality and Catering qualification (City & Guilds), which she completed while working at The London Marriott Grosvenor Square. She continued honing her skills at Oakes with Chris Oakes, Dellugo in Soho, Stephen Bull, Blandford Street, and Conrad Chelsea Hotel. After the success of their restaurant Bread & Wine at Môreson Wine Estate, Tina and her chef husband, Neil Jewell, together with Chef Liam Tomlin, opened “Jewells” at Paarl’s Spice Route.
Vanie Padayachee, the “Spice Girl”
Vanie Padayachee was born and raised in Durban, where she studied at ML Sultan Hotel School. She then spent over 10 years working with award-winning chef Margot Janse at Le Quartier Français. From 2013 onwards, she gave cooking classes and stayed on in 2015 when it was acquired by Leeu Collection. Vanie also starting her own cookery school in Port Alfred and has experience working at the restaurant at Grande Provence. In 2016, after travelling to India to train in Delhi, Vanie returned to Leeu Collection as head of Marigold Authentic Indian restaurant in Franschhoek.