Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen serves the very best

To be taken up in the Michelin firmament is arguably the culinary world’s highest honour. But to venture to France and receive this accolade in Michelin territory is a rare feat. Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen has done just that, yet his favourite taste is still mieliepap with tomato-and-onion relish.

As the executive chef of a Michelin-star restaurant on the French Riviera, saying you have a certain standard to uphold would be putting it mildly. And it doesn’t begin and end with the food: everything is scrutinised, from your choice of glassware to the folds in the tablecloths, so it’s easy to get lost in overly complicated techniques and fussy presentation.

I grew up on a farm near Middelburg in Mpumalanga and developed a unique relationship with food. I spent my youth evading a certain destiny as a tractor-driving farmer’s son, instead taking to a life in the kitchen, where, nurtured by my mother and grandmothers, I refined a talent that would one day see me open my Michelin-starred restaurant, Jan.

Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen serves the very best
Tuna, Mieliepap Panna Cotta and Chakalaka

I recently expanded Jan’s borders by introducing Maria, a bespoke dining concept named after one of my grandmothers because she had a profound impact on my cooking.

To stay true to my roots, I always go back to the simple flavours of my childhood. The best dish I’ve ever tasted was mieliepap with tomato-and-onion relish. I can’t remember the first time I had it; it was just part of growing up and always reminds me of home.

Although my personal style as a chef is strongly influenced by French and Italian cooking, my best dishes are the ones with an unmistakable South African flavour.

This is what inspired my Tuna, Mieliepap Panna Cotta and Chakalaka dish served at Jan, and featured in the début issue of Jan the Journal. Light and delicious, it features three local classics – mieliepap, biltong and chakalaka. The mieliepap, which is similar to polenta, adds texture to the panna cotta, while the biltong and chakalaka complement its creamier textures and elevate the flavour of the tuna. It almost beats the original.

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