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Jacques Vonderstein: City remembers gentle giant and wonderful friend

A gentle giant, a gentle man, a gentleman, a foodie and a friend is how residents of the city will forever remember Jacques Vonderstein.

A gentle giant, a gentle man, a gentleman, a foodie and a friend is how residents of the city will forever remember Jacques Vonderstein.

Vonderstein (44), beloved chef and co-owner of The Farmyard died on Wednesday of a heart attack after suffering a short illness.

“There are no words to describe our feelings about the loss of our friend and partner in many projects. He was a great man and will be greatly missed by all,” was the message from Cansa’s Relay for Life team. Jacques was a committee member for four years.

While his Twitter account is silent now, past messages show the man Vonderstein had been. His cooking tips and photos of delicious dishes, family photos and news about his son’s birthday tell the story of a family man who loved to cook.

His friend and business partner, Paul Altenroxel said it was an end of an era for Polokwane. Not only did The Farmyard come to an end this weekend making way for the new Mike’s Kitchen, but now Vonderstein is not there anymore. “He was The Farmyard,” Altenroxel said.

Vonderstein was the heart and soul of the kitchen and the restaurant, and anybody who has ever attended a food and wine pairing at The Farmyard has experienced his gift. He was a chef par excellence who knew how to marry flavours, getting the best out of the food and the wine.

“He was happiest in the kitchen. He loved pleasing people and preparing fine food. The only thing he loved more was his family. That was the reason we did not open in the evenings, he wanted to be with his family. He existed for them,” Altenroxel said.

“He served the community. We met at a Round Table function years ago and still worked together at the Round Table 41ers Club. He also supported Cansa’s Relay For Life.”

Altenroxel said he approached Vonderstein in 2006 to join The Farmyard’s team. “It’s been seven good years, the best.” Altenroxel thanked all the suppliers, the staff and the community for their support and messages of condolences. “It is so humbling. Jacques was larger than life, a very good guy.”

Judy Oosthuysen, Jacques’ assistant in the restaurant for the past four years said he was like a father to her, “always there for you, no matter what. He was like Superman. He taught us such a lot. He is irreplaceable and we will miss him a lot”.

Karabo Mathabatha, a member of the kitchen staff agreed: “We will remember him always. He was an angel. He was a father to all of us and we are so sad.”

Arthur van der Schyff, district councillor for the 41ers Club in the province will remember Jacques fondly. “He always had a smile on his face. He was always willing and ready to assist when needed. It was a huge shock and a big loss for us at the club and for the community as a whole.”

Vonderstein left behind his wife, Lee-Anne and two children, Claudia and Alex. “Jacques had a passion for his family. I will always remember his smile and his patience, his fantastic sense of humour and his big heart,” Lee-Anne said. She thanked the community of Polokwane for the messages of condolences and sympathy, and assistance during this time.

A memorial service for Vonderstein will be held today (Tuesday) at the Lutheran Church, 68 Voortrekker Street at 10:00.

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