Gregory Czarnecki

He may love cooking for his guests at Waterkloof Wine Estate’s signature restaurant, he may be proud of winning the recent Eat Out Mercedez-Benz’s Chef of the Year award, but for Gregory preparing a plate of food is personal. 

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How did your cooking journey begin? I learned to cook in France in contemporary restaurants, and also gained so much knowledge from my mentors: Andre Parra, Joel Perrault, and Alain Senderens with whom I spent five years. I learnt everything about cooking, discipline and philosophy, all lessons I treasure now, and all of which influence the way I cook. They made me who I am today. I think your surroundings also define your style and play a large part in the way you serve food.

What inspires your creative process? Inspiration comes in different forms. It can be something in the changing of the seasons or a painting, even a colour combination or a specific product. For me, it is important to see my visions turn into physical forms. It’s very tricky at times as your mind may carry you away to do things that could be impractical or take too long to execute. There is always a lot of parameters to consider, but when everything goes according to plan, nothing in the world comes close to that satisfaction.

Tell us more about your personal style… Every chef is individual; from their way of cooking to the way they plate their food. It’s personal. It’s a combination of your mind, your taste, and the reflections and influences of your mentors. I find the diversity of the various talents of chefs amazing.

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Black truffle | Ryfylke white halibut

What’s your take on food trends? I think trends work in specific environments. I just do what I love to do. And as the years go by, you get more knowledgable and you grow as a chef. Your style evolves as well and this reflects in your plating and your style of cooking. We always evolve and learn every day. That’s why I love what I do.

Tell us what that sixth sense when enjoying a meal is all about… I believe that a great meal should makes you feel an emotion. We all remember that one special dish or meal, the one that will stay with you for the next 10, maybe 20 years, or maybe a life time. That sixth sense is the emotion you feel when everything that’s right about a specific meal is just ticked off .

So now the dish is ready… Once the dish is plated, I look, I taste, I pair it with wine. I reassess the situation. I ensure everything makes sense and works for the guest – sometimes it’s simple, other times things need to be rectified, and then there are times I just stop everything and it’s back to the drawing board.

What is important to you? To be aware. I think chefs have a responsibility to consumers, we have to educate them about the sustainability of what they eat, inspire them to use organic produce, and ensure products are always traceable. We have a responsibility to look after the earth.

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And your most exotic or exciting experiment? Eight courses with white truffle! We were in Alba in Italy, and the food was just pure simplicity and old school. We each received a big white truffle and a mandolin. Every time the waitress brought us a new dish, she would slice our truffle and you had to make your way through it. I’ll remember that meal for the rest of my life. The simplicity of it is just phenomenal!

How has local food culture developed these last five years? Everything has just exploded in South Africa. People are much more aware of things happening on the food scene, they are getting more adventurous, are willing to try new things, experiment a bit. It’s awesome for us. We now have restaurants that put South Africa on the map as a gastronomic destination.

Your dishes are like works of art, tell us about #Gastroart My Instagram account started as a simple ‘I want a nice picture of my food’ and slowly my work got reposted on accounts that specialise in food artistry. I was and still am very flattered and honoured that my work gets considered. It’s a combination, according to them, of gastronomy and art. There is a couple of accounts on the platform that ask you to # them to notify them of your new posts, if they don’t follow you. And that’s how it all started. I think there is an appreciation for plates of food, the fact that you plate dishes with a concept behind it. I believe you eat with your eyes first but the main focus is still on flavour and textures.

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Images courtesy of Gregory Czarnecki


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