VIOLET BY VENGATASS
My journey in the culinary arts began for me at the tender age of 4 with my Ouma Violet. She raised me to be the man I am today. Her warm, patient hands were instrumental in nurturing and imbuing in me the fundamentals of her hard-earned finesse, respect, passion and deep love for cooking and creating.
Violet taught me the importance of respect in every context. Respect for my fellow human being, respecting my environment, she even taught me to respect and give thanks to the grass upon which I walked. She, more than anyone taught me how to respect every single ingredient and how to conjure absolute magic with the little we possessed. I recall she would turn the humble marrow, freshly plucked from our arduously tended to back garden, into a delectable explosion of flavour which, when you closed your eyes, seemed to paint palettes of colour on your tongue followed by a flurry of textures and sensations with but a handful of unassuming herbs and spices. It, she, took me on a journey I still can not forget. I was hooked... and I think she knew it! A deep love and tremendous passion was secretly seeded in ma's little kitchen, in some insignificant corner of Benoni. A love and passion which would however, not stay a secret for very long...
I knew from a very young age what I wanted to do with the rest of my life... Like a writer puts pen to paper, a baller puts the ball to a net, my all consuming desire was to put a pan to the flame and create! I would cook at every given opportunity. In a macho school where historically, every single male student before me, took either woodwork, metalwork or technical drawing, I dared to go against the grain, to swim upstream, to break the mould, to be the first male student, in the history of William Hills High School to take what the school then termed (dare I say, quite chauvinistically) "home economics". I was ridiculed for it, but I didn't care. All I cared about was becoming the best version of myself, the best Chef, that I possibly could! Surviving all of that and graduating high school, my dear late uncle Swari, enrolled me in the infamous Swiss Hotel School where I really began to hit my stride.If you don't know, the Swiss Hotel School in my opinion, is one of the best Hotel Management Institutions in Johannesburg, and dare I say, South Africa! Two years later I graduated with my Hotel Management Diploma and some serious skills!
I then briefly ventured to the USA, specifically Florida, Miami on an internship program. The program lasted for a year and a half during which time I was exposed to and enamoured by cooking styles, techniques and flavours from the deep south and from bordering Mexico and Cuba. I learnt a lot from that experience and will always cherish my time there. I then returned to Mzansi! My Home! My love! and got a job at the world famous boutique hotel, The Saxon, as a Demi chef de partie. This is where I met chef Rudi Liebenberg, I worked with him for two years after which time he he slipped away to Cape Town. I stayed on at the Saxon for a few more months until I finally received a call from chef Rudi, asking that I join him at the Mount Nelson Hotel. I jumped at the opportunity to reunite with Chef Rudi, because I knew I still had so much to learn from him. I'm so glad I did, for I never looked back since.
My journey through the Belmont Mount Nelson took me from being a CDP in the breakfast restaurant to ultimately running the fine dining restaurant and main kitchen. During my treasured time at the Mount Nelson I won all many of Unilever's top completions, I did a stager at Lé Manoir in England with chef Raymond Blanc. I even got to write recipes that were published on the online food magazine Crush. I recently got selected to join the culinary national team of which I am very humbled, proud and oh so patriotic about.
For me cooking is... EVERYTHING!