An Interview with David Higgs, by Michael Olivier – June 2013

I have known David Higgs for about 30 years, I met him the first time he and his then mentor Bill Stafford showed me how to work with foie gras.  It has been a special thing watching him on his career path to the heights of success.  Now Executive Chef at The Saxon, I thought it was time to find out more about the real David Higgs.

Where did you train as a chef?
I began my career as a chef in 1990 at The Tulbagh, a 3-star Protea hotel in Cape Town.  After a year of cooking breakfasts, I soon realised I had found my calling and I 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 and Choices were rated under the top 10 restaurants in the country. In 1991 I then 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.

Who or what is your culinary inspiration?
I have been very fortunate to have met, and worked with, some incredible people over the years. Bill Stafford is so talented and gave me a good grounding and showed me the classics, whilst Herman Coetzee taught me to take chances, grab opportunities and believe in myself. Jean Engelbrecht instilled in me attention to detail, to not settle for anything less than perfect and a go big or go home philosophy.

What’s your Favourite Dish on your menu now?
Risotto of warthog and green chilli with quince… love it… we also finish it with bone marrow… cause we can J

What’s one piece of equipment you couldn’t live without?
I love my thermo mix. It blends and heats at the same time. It also has an angled blade which whips… gives a light finish to purees.

Who are your favourite food writers?
Food writers as in journos…. Frank Bruni is good to follow… not really to big on reading to be honest…. also enjoy Brian McCune… Kitchen Sink I think its called…

What is your ideal neighbourhood eatery?
Great friendly waiting staff, who know me and my likes and dislikes.. hot tasty food well cooked and seasoned, I will eat anything

What’s your favourite national or regional cuisine?
Love the way the Spanish live and eat..

What would be the ten food items you would take with you to a desert island?
Mangoes, lamb anything, epoisses, Balvinnie Tun 1401 single malt, eggs, tomatoes, butter, honey, mosbolletjies and skittles… lots of skittles

Always in your fridge at home?
Pickles, cheese, mayonnaise, crackers, Champagne, wines, beers and a good selection of single malts… which are mostly finished.

What is your morning routine?
Go straight to work, do not pass go do not collect 200 just get to work asap… then I place my orders or else the rest of the day is a mess.  Bowl of hot porridge and rooibos and maybe settle into scrambled eggs and fresh tomato just before breakfast service finishes.

Routine after lunch or dinner service?
Lunch carries on till dinner in Jozi… so when I get home, after flying home in my baby, I generally tuck into a single malt… celebrate the days happenings or drown my sorrows… seems to work for me???

I’m currently drinking?
Always enjoy Pinot and craft beers but I, as you probably noticed, have a slight or more than slight leaning to single malts.

Restaurant Peeve?
Don’t give me a menu or  wine list without telling me what’s not available!

Talent you would like to have?
I would kill to do a rally… no actually not any rally… the Dakar… I will still. after I rob the closest bank.

Bees in your Bonnet?
Opinions on open forums… guess we talk about that for hours

Restaurant Memento?
No mementos but I always keep a look out for interesting ways to present menus, butters, breads etc… love the creative minds and thinking behind restaurants, always wonder to myself… why did they do that?

Who is your Music Man?
Dave Matthews Band…. AND THEY ARE COMING SOON…

What is your Desert-Island Disc?
As above and some Trevor Noah for laughs… and love the way Nataniel tells a story… love it

Bedside Book?
errrr, reading not really my strength…I do have a copy of Branson’s, Screw Business as Usual… just that line inspires me every day

Fictional Character you identify with?
Chazz Reinolds in Wedding Crashers… yes he is fictional… no, kidding…tintin… full of adventure saving the world…

One guest for dinner – who would that be?
Billy Connolly

Guilty Pleasures/Secret Vice?
I’m a complete petrol head… it’s a huge vice trust me

What should we be cooking for dinner tonight?
How about slowly roasting a good leg of venison… such great accompanyments this time of year, great pears, jerusalem artichokes, celeriac etc.. win win really.

Read the original here.

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