An Interview with David Higgs – 2012

David started his career as a chef in 1990 at The Tulbagh, a 3-star Protea hotel in Cape Town.
After a year of cooking breakfasts he realised that he has found his calling and he joined Bill Stafford at
Peers restaurant, situated on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. The restaurant was part
of a group called Cuisine International including Peers, Choices, Piers Edge and Selections Bakery.
During that time Peers ánd Choices were rated under the top 10 restaurants in the country.

In 1991 he enrolled at the Cape Town Technikon for the 3 year Diploma in Professional Cookery while
still working at Peers and Choices and receiving in-service training. It was at this stage that David started
competing in culinary competitions and in 2003 he won the title as Young Chef of South Africa from
Chaine de Rottisseurs (an international society devoted to choice dining and the camaraderie of the
table.) As a result of this much sought after title he represented South Africa in Australia.

After graduating from the Technikon, he joined Mr. Stafford again and started a company
called Staffords Quality Foods. It was large scale industrial catering for airlines, retail, restaurant
chains etc.

As Higgs explains, “I gained a lot of practical experience as I learnt about working with
staff and costing, as well as all the practicalities of food production on a mass scale.”

Other responsibilities included the purchasing, receiving and storage of produce.

During this time he continued to successfully compete in various other competitions.
“Competitions enabled me to stay in touch with the international culinary scene.”
From 1997 to 2004 David was a member of the South African National Culinary Team.
He represented South Africa at both the Culinary World Cup in Switzerland and the Culinary
Olympics in Germany.

“Garth Stroebel and Paul Hartmann were valuable mentors and important role models
during this stage of my career. Always with the support from Bill Stafford.”

In 2000 he started his own cooking school.
“It was another fundamental step in my personal development.”
The school was named: The Higgs School of Good Cooking.
“It was another fundamental step in my personal development.”

 The school was named: The Higgs School of Good Cooking. It had an adjacent catering company called, Extreem Kwizeen. During this time they cooked for many well known celebrities.

“One of my personal highlights however was cooking for Mr Nelson Mandela at Tuynhuis and Vergelegen on numerous occasions. To listen to that man speak is always a humbling experience…”

In 2003/4 he took over the running of Leinster Hall, a restaurant on the slopes of Table Mountain, in conjunction with his teaching role. “Learning to work with students was a new challenge but very rewarding; seeing enthusiastic chefs entering the industry.”

In October 2004 he joined the new owners of Meerendal, a wine farm on the ouskirts of Durbanville and became part of this milestone development. He moved the school to the farm and started up two restaurants in order to give the students practical experience in addition to theoretical training. They were trained to cook for the Bistro, as well as for the fine dining restaurant, Wheatfields. One of his first priorities on the farm was the layout of an extensive herb and vegetable garden from which he provided for the kitchens. “It is always an absolute treat to be able to use fresh herbs from the garden, and when you are on a farm it just does not make sense not to have this luxury”

In 2007, after selling his shares in all the businesses, he left Meerendal to open a fine dining restaurant with Jean Engelbrecht in the old cellar on the historical wine estate, Rust en Vrede, outside Stellenbosch.
“It was the perfect opportunity to really get back to serving top end food and developing personal relations with all my guests. And I could get back into the kitchen and start cooking again.”

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