Karen Dudley

Cape Town-based chef, author and ‘surprised restaurateur’ Karen Dudley is driven by her desire to ‘ find solutions and make things better for everyone every day’

Best known for the fresh, wholesome dishes she presents at her eclectic restaurant The Kitchen in Woodstock – which began after her successful catering business outgrew her home kitchen – Dudley’s diverse approach to food is inspired by her aim to ‘lead people into making better choices in the way they eat’. It’s this diversity, in fact, that played a major role in shaping her life.

‘I grew up during apartheid in a typical coloured home,’ Dudley says. ‘Embracing my identity as a non-white South African at a time when SA was very traumatised, I realised that I’d never fit into a category and had to forge my own identity. I was the embodiment of a rich mix of cultures, which set me free to embrace flavours, textures and colours.’

Dudley soon realised she could touch people with the food she made and authored two cookbooks that introduced a different, vegetable-led way for South Africans to eat. She’s now in the process of completing her third, which is due to be released later this year. ‘My new book, Set a Table, is about how to gather people around your table and the joy of entertaining,’ she says. ‘It’s a very beautiful, intimate book full of secrets and ridiculously brilliant recipes, and is based on my “theology” of the table: this is where we learn about each other, where we connect and find belonging. Food is the vehicle that helps us get to this place.’

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Karen Dudley’s new book

The Kitchen’s Interior Design

My aesthetic has a great appreciation for redemption – taking things that might have been discarded, and restoring or making them better. I love objects that carry stories or that involve some imagining, and there’s strong nostalgia in all the bits I’ve collected. The cool thing is that almost everything is for use, not merely for display. I also have a strong connection to colour and the power it has to create pleasing spaces.

My South African Heritage

Heritage is tremendously important in my work. I’m always reaching for the flavours that people are longing for, introducing combinations and textures, finding our common identity and riffing on it. I’ve had to trust and believe in what I find delicious.

Jo Malone’s Oud & Bergamot Cologne

This and Malone’s Pomegranate Noir cologne are my ultimate scents. I also love the smell of cardamom and fennel.

David Higgs, Richard Carstens and Ivor Jones

They’re three of SA’s finest chefs. I love the attention they’re giving to vegetables.

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Vintage Furniture

From my chaise-longue and slightly dilapidated Sanderson two-seater to our large glass-drawer haberdashery chest in our dressing room, I love all my furniture, which is mostly vintage and re-covered, often in linens from my collection.

The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

When I visited New York City, I was in awe of this museum and would happily spend days in it. Back home, I’m spoilt for choice, especially because I live and work in Woodstock where there are amazing art exhibitions at Stevenson Cape Town and Goodman Gallery on my doorstep.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cape Town

This is my favourite city, where I grew up and live. Looking up at Table Mountain gives me great perspective on my place in the world and I find inspiration throughout the city, from Kingdom in the Woodstock Exchange and Chandler House in Church Street to the treasure-filled Woodstock Vintage and the bookshop in Newlands’ Dean Street Arcade, where I shamelessly sit on the floor and feast on cookbooks!

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Chandler House by Michael Chandler

Karen Dudley’s The Kitchen can be found at 111 Sir Lowry Rd, Woodstock.

Looking for more food inspiration? Read Joburg’s Hot New Breakfast CollabJessica Rushmere’s Charming Swan Café and Joburg Bar Wins at 2018 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards next.