2013 was a big year for former Port Elizabeth chef Vanessa Marx.
Marx, 28, won the rising star award at the Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards and she got married within the same week.
The former Collegiate High pupil is making waves in culinary circles as head chef of one of Cape Town’s hot spots, Dear Me.
After completing school, Marx went to study at the Institute of Culinary Arts.
“I loved cooking and baking from a very young age, and my mom convinced me it was my destiny,” Marx said.
But fulfilling that destiny has not always been easy.
“It is tough trying to make a name for yourself in the industry. It is long hours and very hard work. There is tough competition out there.
“I met Ilze, the owner of Dear Me, nearly five years ago. It all started with an idea, which we transformed into what is now Dear Me,” Marx said.
Marx is very proud of Dear Me and describes the food as seasonal and showcases the amazing local produce on offer.
“We try to keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves. We use free-range and ethically farmed produce.
“I write all our menus myself. It’s mostly the seasons, my suppliers and the produce that inspire me. I also pick our herbs and vegetables at the Oranjezicht City Farm, so that’s a wealth of inspiration for me.”
Marx also gets her inspiration from travelling.
The highlight of her career has been the Eat Out rising star award which she won in November. “It’s been very exciting and rewarding!” she said.
Shortly after she won the prestigious award, Marx walked down the aisle to marry Blake Atwell, 30, who is in sales.
“Trying to manage a hot career and being a newlywed is quite the juggling act,” she says.
“It’s important to try and make time for other aspects of your life in between work. There’s a lot of pressure being a chef and long hours. It’s full-on and demanding. My husband is very understanding and supportive though!”
Born-and-bred in Port Elizabeth, Marx misses her old friends and the Friendly City.
“It was a good city to grow up in, but I needed to move to the Cape to be able to expand.”
Marx’s star is definitely on the rise and she has other dreams she would like to see fulfilled.
“I would like to be on the forefront of change. I’d love to see chefs making a difference and supporting local and ethically farmed produce, and aiming to be more sustainable. Chefs hold a great deal of power as they are the middle man between the producer and the customer.”
If Marx could cook with anyone she said it would be Rene Redzepi or Magnus Nilsson and she would love to cook for her dad one last time.