“Rust en Vrede”, Stellenbosch, South Africa
FOR ALMOST 20 YEARS DAVID HIGGS HAS BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR A COUNTRY’S CULINARY FATE – THAT OF HIS HOMELAND, SOUTH AFRICA. THE TOP CHEF MAKES HIS GUESTS’ TASTE-BUDS FLOWER AT HIS RESTAURANT RUST EN VREDE.
But before the first bud could open, he had to meet his teacher, Bill Stafford. Higgs spent the next eight years with him. Stafford turned the young cook into a top chef. The South African has him to thank for much more than a culinary foundation – his entire knowledge of the art of cooking came from his teacher. Equipped with bags of culinary refinement and experience, Higgs founded the David Higgs School of Good Cooking in 2000. The next course on his menu came just one year later – his own catering business, to be joined 12 months afterwards by the kitchen of Leinster restaurant in Cape Town. Higgs sold the Leinster in 2005 and opened the Meerendal in Durbanville. In 2007 he parted company with his refined educational establishment and all his kitchens. At his last culinary post to date, the top chef has concentrated on the crème de la crème of the culinary arts, haute cuisine. He leads his exquisite brigade, consisting of sous-chefs John Shuttleworth and Adriaan Maree, pastry chef Steffan Coetzee and Mark Louw as junior chef de partie, at Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch. Sommelier Neil Grant lords it over the wine.
The chef’s cuisine is inspired more by the various ingredients than by a country. Higgs’ style is classic with French roots, a South African trunk and a crown of fresh vegetables. The South African’s technique is not scientific; he doesn’t want to turn his kitchen into a laboratory. He gives pride of place to selected ingredients, only then does he concentrate on the execution. Freshness is to the forefront and the role is taken up by a new protagonist every day, from his own herb and vegetable garden and a farm in the Kalahari Desert which silences the craving for tender meat. Delicacies such as pan-fried duck breast with lemon candied aubergine and shitake mushroom, or chocolate mousse with a blood orange and mandarin sorbet arrive on the tables of Rust en Vrede when these exquisite components are brought together in the top chef’s kitchen.
The culinary Oscars that the restaurant has received so far are proof that his carefully selected ingredients are no imposters. Just one year after opening, Rust en Vrede occupied sixth place in Eat Out´s Top 10 Restaurants. 2009 continued in the same vein: 98th place in San Pellegrino’s Top 100 Restaurants in the World and three stars from Rossouw´s Restaurant Guide. Higgs’ personal titles include Young Chef of the Year from the Chaine des Rottisseurs, which he won as young chef. When asked when he received his greatest award, the reply is “In 2009 when I was able to persuade Ferran Adrià of the existence of South African haute cuisine at my restaurant Rust en Vrede.” The exceptional Spanish chef was bowled over by the high quality and creativity in South Africa’s kitchen, and Higgs was bowled over by Adrià’s modest and polite manner.
If you don’t expect any culinary highlights in South Africa, you will be taught otherwise at Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch, where the top chef’s customers are amongst the most spoilt gourmets in the world.
Read the original here.