Twice a day, Chris Erasmus and two of his chefs head off into the Franschhoek forests to forage for fresh, interesting foliage to add to their menu.
Chris recently opened Foliage, on the corner of Berg and Huguenot streets, Franschhoek. He has a simple food philosophy: fresh, local, seasonal, and use everything, from nose to tail.
Chris was the chef at Pierneef à La Motte restaurant, in the same town, before opening Foliage in July. He says owning his own restaurant gives him the freedom to experiment with what nature has to offer.
Every morning and afternoon two of his chefs, Nick Oosthuizen and Shaun Marais, accompany Chris on foraging expeditions.
The trio heads off into the forests to search for fresh ingredients and when the weather plays along they gather a range of mushrooms, which grow under trees.
The unique thing about mushrooms, he says, is that each tree is “home” to specific mushrooms. Pine bolete mushrooms, for instance, grow under pine trees. But even when no mushrooms are to be found, there are always salad herbs, pine needles and ferns.
Sorrel is another favourite, and they also pick up loads of acorns that they use to make acorn flour with. The flour is then used for baking bread and as a thickening agent in an acorn praline.
To the delight of their diners (many of whom are locals who return time and again), they use whatever they come back with in their dishes.
Chris only uses free-range, organic meat from pasture-fed animals. He also does not shy away from unusual meat like warthog and game, and he uses everything, including the tongues, brains and ears.
His favourite dish on the menu is pork belly, which he serves with crushed potatoes and pesto made with dandelion and sunflower seeds.
The crackly pig ears, he says, are absolutely delicious and a firm favourite in both the restaurant and the kitchen.
Chris and his team expertly serves food in custom-made and unusual plates and bowls, adding to the eating experience.
He enjoys experimenting, coming up with new tastes and combinations. After a recent trip to India he returned with several bags of fresh, organic spices.
According to him, the quality of spices has a huge impact on the food and he only uses spices from highly-rated spice vendors.
Shelves in his kitchen are lined three-deep with glass jars containing a myriad of ingredients, including well-aged vinegar, which he uses for added zest to his dishes.