Rarely good things come twice but this is true for Jean Delport’s restaurant, Interlude, in Horsham, UK.
The fine-dining restaurant of the South African-born chef retained its second consecutive Michelin Star, which was announced in January. Delport was previously a chef at Benguela on Main in Somerset West, Western Cape, before making his big move to the UK.
“I have always dreamed of having a Michelin Star, it’s one of those things that isn’t recognised in South Africa unfortunately, something you have to move abroad for,” he said.
The Michelin Star is touted as one of the most prestigious accolades in the world of fine dining and is not awarded in SA because there are no Michelin inspectors in the country or indeed in all of Africa.
Within 10 months of opening Interlude in 2019, it received its first Michelin Star. He says the second time was more expected. However, retaining the star is quite difficult and doing this consecutively is rare.
The achievement is remarkable and he adds the move to the UK with a close friend, head chef Ruan Pretorius, and his wife was worth it.
“The first time we got it was pure elation…the day I got the email I burst into tears. We definitely made the right decision because what we are doing is working and it was more self-fulfillment. It’s difficult to describe, but I was overjoyed.”
“Interlude was built on the dream of getting a Michelin Star. Delport has infused flavours from home with South African Cape wines. If we do it cleverly, subtly and doing it to the style of cooking we like just gives us a whole different dynamic.
“We always wanted to embrace our strong points. It would have been silly not to focus on my heritage, my childhood memories and upbringing.”
To get the recognition isn’t easy. Chef Delport says keeping their high standards comes down to how their team is constructed, how the kitchen is run and how well the personalities work together. The food is so precise throughout the 21 courses in one evening that diners aren’t aware their mains are in the works after the first courses.
Before cultivating a name for himself in the culinary world, Delport was a sports fanatic, a typical South African young boy who is very grounded and family orientated.
“Post cooking, your horizons start getting bigger and that kind of took over. In this industry, if you don’t give it everything it could get tricky to get towards the top and it’s not a rewarding industry either. It’s very much a passion-led industry, throwing yourself into it becomes an obsession. Cooking has done that for me to levels that I never thought of in school.”
As he cooks for the local palate, this can be tricky as Interlude is situated in West Sussex, England and the SA team does its best to accommodate them y creating ideas that would not only satisfy themselves as chefs but the locals too.
“The general palate in the UK is quite bland, higher amounts of salt, so we have to tone down things slightly. We had to be positive and understand exactly what we want to put on the plate and for them to understand it.”
With limited operations, the pandemic hasn’t been easy for many businesses. The past 12 months Interlude has been closed for about seven of those months.
“The industry will take some recovery but it will eventually recover. Hospitality is always resilient, it’s always adapting.”
As for now, Delport is embracing English culture, spending much more time at home, keeping it simple, healthy and cooking up a delectable Sunday roast.