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James, who studied at the ICA in Stellenbosch, has been lucky to work for some of South African’s most celebrated chefs over the years. He started with Bruce Robertson at The Showroom, then allowed his love for pastry to grow with respected pastry chef, Nicolas van der Walt. James jumped at the chance to be Richard Carstens’ pastry chef at Manolo – after just a few months he became Richard’s sous chef – and there was even a stint with Mike Bassett at Ginga.

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Back in Joburg, the bulk of his management training came from time at a fine dining catering company and he worked for just over two years at local Italian eatery, Pomodoro, before the opportunity of owning his own restaurant presented itself. Thanks to his parents, James was blessed to travel a lot and one of his favourite culinary experiences was a food pilgrimage through Spain. “Our first wild boar we cooked for the trial menu at Coobs was terrible, but I thought back to my time in Spain and remembered that the best Iberico ham we had was from pigs that roamed around and feasted on acorns, so we tried it with our pigs and the results have been astounding.” James, who is a big believer in the nose to tail theory, uses as many different cuts of meats as possible − “the little guy did give up his life after all” – and reads everything from the latest food trends to recipe books from the 80s, to try to make his dishes better. “Thomas Keller from The French Laundry, in particular, keeps reiterating that we should respect our ingredients and he’s absolutely right,” says James, who makes sure that he only uses a few figs from the farm, so that the pigs can have them when they fall on the floor. “I don’t think many other chefs can say that they have their own six hectare garden, intertwined with fruit and veg that they can choose from at will. We’re extremely lucky.”

 

I’m living my dream and every day, through the dishes I create, I put my dream out there…