Lifestyle / Food And Drink

Tshepiso Makhele
3 minute read
30 Aug 2017
3:04 pm

Chef’s food orchestra

Tshepiso Makhele

Starting off as a waiter in a restaurant after matric, the talented chef says he slowly but surely migrated into the kitchen.

File photo.

While cooking has always been something chef Gerard Vingerling has been attracted to at an early age, he had to start at the very bottom to get where he is today and learn all the tricks every chef needs to wow those who enjoy his food.

Starting off as a waiter in a restaurant after matric, the talented chef says he slowly but surely migrated into the kitchen.

“It has always been something I wanted to do, and that is where it all started,” he said.

Challenges encountered

“Going through a chef’s career when you are young requires that you really keep a vision beyond the normal because the beginning years are hard.

“You get paid peanuts; you work long hours, you get treated badly, but that is the reality,” said Vingerling.

But choosing to focus on your goal and where you want to go helps you accept this reality and embrace the learning opportunity.

“In doing that, you learn from as many people as you can, as quick as possible,” he explained, adding “that is how you get where you need to get.”

Valued ingredients

“We put wine in everything,” he said laughing.

“There are nevertheless a bunch of ingredients that you cannot do without and these make the basic principle of starting a dish.”

These include garlic, the humble carrot, salt and pepper and certainly wine. “Without these core ingredients your dish will be lacking,” he said.

Moods and cooking

Vingerling says while some people regard cooking as a chore, for him a day is not fully complete without being in the kitchen and preparing a dish or two.

“I’ve always found cooking relaxing, and that is what attracted me to it.” He comes home from a long working day and still cooks.

“The problem in a chef’s career is that when you hit the high levels as an executive chef, the job becomes more about admin, so I appreciate a day where I can cook. I find that I’m more relaxed leaving work on a day I have cooked than on a day I have been dealing with admin,” he explained.

Food as a common factor

The respected chef says though we eat to live, food should also be viewed as a way to bring people together. “It doesn’t matter what culture, or where you are around the world, what we have in common is food. We all get together for it; we celebrate with it.

“A lot just revolves around it, be it a wedding or a funeral, it matters not, food is always there.

“This is when one gets to realise its importance. The fact is that food is the core element that brings people together,” he said.

First perfect dish

“The main thing for me back then was not perfecting a dish, but perfecting how to cook meat,” he said, pointing out that people think the grill is an easy option.

“When you have mastered how to grill with your eyes closed, that is an achievement. That is when you know you are getting somewhere.”

The executive chef Vingerling believes his role now is to create talent, but also craft an environment to nourish this talent.

“If that is not conducive you lose a lot of potential chefs. So it’s my duty to form an atmosphere that helps to support growing chefs. This is the most crucial thing for me.”

Chef’s Table

“I think the Chef’s Table event went extremely well. It gave chefs an opportunity to showcase themselves and went a long way in boosting their confidence, especially because they were cooking for the media, and when one gets confidence, one can only grow.”