Executive Chef Darren Badenhorst has surely mastered the art of fine dining at The Restaurant at Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate in Franschhoek. With his unique style of drawing on nostalgic elements from his childhood and moments of food in his life, he applies an Asian twist to classic French cuisine with culinary flair that is truly his own.
Since joining Grande Provence as Executive Chef in 2012, Darren has garnered three of the four consecutive American Express Platinum Fine Dining Awards bestowed on The Restaurant. He was also the only Franschhoek chef, and one of seven South Africans to make the cut for the San Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 Top 10 finalists in Africa and the Middle East earlier this year. Recognition indeed for his dedication to create a unique dining experience and sensory adventure for his guests.
We have met up with Darren to ask him a few questions about his experience at the San Pellegrino Young Chef Awards and sneaked in a few extra questions too!
1. Why did you enter the San Pellegrino Young Chef competition?
I thought it was a fantastic initiative which would create exposure for up and coming chefs- I was lucky enough to sneak in with the age limit.
2. Your dish was the Parma wrapped slow cooked rabbit dish, served with palm sugar Szechuan rabbit liver brûlée and pumpkin seed gremolata. Why rabbit?
I find rabbit is a highly underutilised ingredient with brilliant flavour and texture possibilities. It was off my autumn menu so I knew it worked.
3. What would you say is the relevance of this award for South Africa?
International exposure is key. The talent in SA is amazing, but with no Michelin rating we get overlooked as a culinary destination. This forces change and will concentrate the focus on what we have to offer.
4. The Grand Final has a very acclaimed line up of Judges – Massimo Bottura, Gaston Acuriom, Yoshihiro Narisawa, Margot Janse, Yannik Alleno, Joan Roca and Eric Ripert. If you could spend two day’s in one of the above kitchens, who would it be and why?
Yoshihiro Narisawa, Japanese culture and cuisine fascinate me. The endless natural acidities and flavour combinations are mind-blowing.
5. What defines your cuisine?
I think a combination of things. Entertainment through creativity, simplicity and the evolution of the culinary arts. The just for fun…
6. Where do you like to eat out?
I'll have to let you know after season in Franschhoek.
7. What is your favourite drink?
Grande Provence White 2013.
8. One night, no costs involved – where would you eat in the world and what would you eat?
Alinea in Chicago with Grant Achatz. I would eat the entire menu, I can't leave anything out! He is a genius in my opinion.
9. What is your favourite ingredient?
That is a difficult one, it changes depending on the season and my mood. At the moment Guanciale, amazing smoky flavour that enhances any dish whilst keeping it moist.
10. What is your favourite piece of kitchen equipment?
This time of year it is my Paco-jet as I use the harvested, pre-fermented and fermenting grapes for all types of things.
* Franschhoek, regarded as South Africa’s Culinary Capital, has been appointed a member of The Délice Network of Good Food Cities of the World. Délice is an international network of likeminded cities engaged in promoting the benefits of culinary excellence and good food.