Nederburg is sponsoring the 2019 Rising Star Award that will go to South Africa’s most exciting new restaurant talent, to be announced in November. The coveted title forms part of the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards, taking place at Cape Town’s Grand West on 17 November.
Established in 2014, the Eat Out Nederburg Rising Star honour annually goes to the most promising newcomer to South Africa’s restaurant scene, identified by Eat Out’s judging panel, led by chief judge Margot Janse. Once again this year there is intense speculation about who will win, given the spate of newly established city and country eateries across the country.
“For the first time, this year Eat Out is releasing a shortlist of six nominees who are in the running for the 2019 Eat Out Nederburg Rising Star Award,” says Marguerite Beukes, Nederburg’s brand manager. “This only adds to the excitement as the tension mounts in the lead-up to the announcement of South Africa’s top 10 restaurants, as well as a spate of other awards including the Rising Star Award, on 17 November.”
The first Rising Star Award nominee is Jason Kosmas, head chef of The Pot Luck Club in Woodstock, Cape Town. An International Culinary Institute (ICA) trained chef, he has successfully worked his way up the culinary ladder over the past few years, with stints at The Stack, Chefs Warehouse (Bree Street) and Thali in Cape Town, as well as Vadas Smokehouse & Bakery in Stellenbosch – all top restaurants.
When asked about his earliest childhood memory of food, Jason says: “Cooking creamy scrambled eggs with my gran. I grew up in Tuscany and we always sat down together for a full breakfast as a family. There’d be cereals, fresh juices, yoghurt and – always – a hot, full breakfast. My mom’s side of the family is Italian – and she still lives on the property, with 400 olive trees. I go back to visit every year and get a quota of her olive oil sent to South Africa. My early introduction to food included shopping for ‘peasant’ ingredients at the local market with my mom, gran and aunt. It was all about simple dishes that relied on the beauty and flavours of ingredients from small cultivars.”
This simple Mediterranean food philosophy of quality above all else clearly reflects in Jason’s culinary style. Born to Greek and Italian parents, he lived in Tuscany, Italy, before moving to Johannesburg when he was eight.
Dale Stevens, head chef of FABER, is the second Rising Star Award nominee. Born and raised in Mossel Bay and has worked in the kitchens of award-winning restaurants like The Test Kitchen and Jordan Restaurant.
According to Dale, freedom and pressure bring him the greatest joy as a chef. “You really can get as creative as you want. It’s a really addictive feeling busting out a full restaurant. It means serving 60 guests – that’s 180 plates in three hours. I am a very calm person and have mastered the art of not letting my emotions get the best of me. As the head of the team, I need to stay cool and focused.”
His favourite ingredient is fish, and guiltiest culinary pleasure, the first and last slice of a sourdough loaf. “The crust is the best, warm with a generous amount of butter!” When it comes to hosting one South African celebrity for dinner, his first choice would be Trevor Noah. “He’s a real inspiration. Besides being super funny, he comes from a humble upbringing, which is something I relate to. He looks like a chilled guy, so I would serve something off the coals. A braai with lots of great wine, and cheese to end it all off.”
The third Rising Star Award nominee is Christina Semczyszyn, Tjing Tjing Momiji head chef, who studied special effects makeup before working at restaurants like The Dog’s Bollocks and the now-closed Dear Me.
Christina, whose favourite foodie travel destination is Japan, reckons that the most exciting ingredient she works with is wagyu tongue. “Lots of people are squeamish about it. It’s so nice to change their minds when they try the rich, soft and insanely flavourful tongue.” She also mentions her love of feeding people. “We have an open-plan kitchen, so I can see customers nodding and sharing bites of food. Watching them lick their lips, fingers and plates makes me so, so happy. I go all squishy inside!”
Offering some sound advice to others planning to enter the food industry in South Africa, she states: “Before you spend thousands on culinary school, find a kitchen that will let you work for free for a week to see if you actually like it. It’s not for everyone – and experience is a lot more important than a fancy diploma.”
The remaining three Rising Star Award nominees will be announced during the 10 days. Stay tuned by following Nederburg and Eat Out on social media.