Cognac and chocolate launch chef’s brand

Chef Samkelo Mthiyane launched his private brand with a chocolate and cognac pairing at Dockside at the Port Elizabeth harbour Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

A sunny Sunday afternoon spent looking over the sea while sipping French cognac paired with artisanal Belgian chocolate was a Bay chef’s interesting manner of introducing himself to local foodies last weekend.

After five years of experience working in various Port Elizabeth and UK kitchens, Samkelo Mthiyane, 30, launched his private brand in style at the Port Elizabeth harbour’s Dockside on Sunday.

Mthiyane treated guests to a tastebud-tickling educational session of Camus Cognac, for which he is an ambassador, with Belgian chocolate brand Sjukla chocolates, proudly based in Port Elizabeth.

“Pairing is about educating people on how to pair certain drinks with certain types of food,” Mthiyane said.

The guests were educated on what Camu cognac was about, how to drink it and what type of chocolate was best to pair it with from three types of Sjukla chocolates.

Artisanal chocolatier Ela van Coillie Vosloo crafts these fine chocolates by hand, having learnt the art while living in Belgium for some years.

Mthiyane said it was best to pair Camu VSOP Cognac, higher in minerals than the VS, with Sjukla’s Belgium Speculoos flavour.

The Capsicum Culinary Studio alumnus ventured into self-employment after working for Sun International at the Boardwalk, Tilting Heads Taco Cafe and Margarita Bar in Stanley Street, and being head chef of the recently closed Zest Urban Cafe in Walmer.

How did he become a head chef in such a short while, you might wonder, but Mthiyane credits his job-hopping for the accumulated experience.

“It’s been beneficial because it’s how I got the skill and learned all that I’ve learned so quickly,” he said.

While working for Tilting Heads Mthiyane was commended by South African celebrity chef Reuben Riffel for his El Pollo Taco, a moment which Mthiyane holds as the high point of his career so far.

“A man of his calibre coming into my kitchen [on two occasions] to ask who had made the food and holding my hand to say ‘good job’ was a highlight,” Mthiyane said.

The versatile chef, who likes to leave a unique taste in the mouth with his food, offers catering for business lunches, dinner parties and pop-ups all over the Eastern Cape, with future plans to open his own restaurants.

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