Food runs in family of passionate Oceana chef

PASSIONATE about cooking, Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve head chef Jacques van Rooyen cannot wait to get to work every morning.

Bursting at the seam with creativity, his profession is an outlet that translates directly into guests’ enjoyment.

Van Rooyen says he began his career like any other foodie and chef.

“I started cooking with my mom and gran. Food runs in the family.”

So we can all thank the women in his formative years.

But after these early phases of his life in cooking, Van Rooyen looked to others for inspiration.

Scientific gourmet chef Heston Blumenthal gets Van Rooyen’s ideas flowing. “Everyone knows this man is a machine!”

We asked Van Rooyen about his love of food …

What first attracted you to a career in the catering and food trade?

My mom and her cooking and also braai times – I guess the smell of charring lamb fat and wors was the start of my passion.

How did you go about training?

The very first day after matric, I left for Cape Town – it was to be the greatest three years of my life. Although my time at the Zevenwacht Chef School was the foundation, I have never stopped training as a chef.

What aspects of the job do you enjoy the most?

Definitely the cooking and preparation of food and seeing the finished product. Also the response of a happy guest after eating the food I have prepared.

What specific styles of cooking do you like to specialise in?

Mostly French and South African.

If you could choose to prepare a meal for anyone in the world, who would it be and what would you serve?

Gordon Ramsay and I would prepare my citrus vanilla baked cheesecake with orange and blackberry compote. I would love his opinion.

What was your scariest or weirdest or funniest moment in the kitchen?

One of the funniest moments was one New Year’s Eve party at Oceana involving a chocolate fountain and couple of American girls … They called me Jacqulate after drowning me in chocolate!

When you are at home relaxing, what is your favourite meal?

I love to eat! To name a few – lasagne, good pizza, steak, chips and salad.

If you could dine at any restaurant in South Africa tonight, which one would you choose and why?

La Colombe in Cape Town – I have never been there and would love to taste what the 25th-best restaurant in the world’s food tastes like.

If you had not been a chef, what career would you have chosen?

Music, I would have probably played the drums in a progressive metal band. I love my music.

Or a horticulturist as I enjoy being in nature and growing my own herbs and vegetables

What is one of your top mouth-watering creations?

My baked cheesecake.

Ingredients:

Filling: 750g cream cheese,100ml single cream, 1/2 vanilla pod (scrape the seeds out and then discard the pod) , 250g sugar,1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 3 eggs, zest of 1 lemon, 1 orange, ½ naartjie.

Base:180g digestive biscuits,60g flaked almonds,40g soft brown sugar, 80g soft butter and 2 tablespoons of flour.

Method: Blend the biscuits in a blender and add the rest of ingredients for the base. Press into a deep ovenproof dish (preferably a springform pan).

Mix the filling ingredients together and pour over biscuit base.

Bake at 170C for 25 minutes.

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