Biography

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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."

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Mentors

I have been very fortunate to have met
and worked with some incredible people over the years,

but there are a few people I owe a lot to
             and I would like to thank them.

David Higgs
Learning to work with students was a new challenge but very rewarding! - 2003/4 David Higgs

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."

Bill Stafford
(My true understanding of cooking)

This well known chef came to SA and looked after Protea hotels for a number of years. The key with Mr Stafford was that he was based in classics. He spent much time in France and the UK. Cooking, teaching and competing. He was also named UK chef of the year before, thankfully, venturing over to SA. He shaped me, taught me the importance of the classics and how to integrate modern styles and techniques. He asked me to join him in starting a business, more in the line of industrial catering, producing for different airlines, Woolworths, the Spur group etc. I spent 7 years at Staffords Quality Foods, which is still growing to this day. It was here that I came to understand working with large teams, motivating, accurate costing and health and hygiene.
Thank you Chef.

Herman Coertze
(Taking chances and opportunities. Entrepreneurship)

I met Mr Coertze after I had started my first few businesses. When he and his partners decided to give Meerendal Wine Estate a new look, he offered me the opportunity to open all the food and beverage outlets on the farm as my own businesses. It was an incredible project and he taught me to believe in myself. It was also to some degree my only real failure. After selling the food and beverage operations to the farm he asked me to head the farm as GM which I did willingly. But I soon realized you can't run a farm like a restaurant and also that my love and strengths were in food and the serving thereof. Our paths crossed again when he asked me to join him in Johannesburg as Chef at The Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel. He told me about all the other possibilities in the North. He was not wrong. I am blown away. And truly loving JOZI!
Thank you sir. I feel our paths will cross again.

Jean Engelbrecht
(Go big or go home. Attention to detail and the importance of marketing)

Rust en Vrede was the most insane experience of my life. At all levels. It was the culmination of all the experience gained over the years with one really important addition: attention to detail. After much planning was done, Jean and I took a quick trip to London to eat and see. It took us 4 days to understand what we needed to do. We came back and scrapped most of our previous plans. "As ons dit gaan doen gaan ons dit reg doen" /"If we are going to do this, we are going to do it properly," is all he said. Few people, including me, knew at that time that the wine industry was going through tough economical times. But even so, he kept his word.
I believe the attention to detail is the main factor that set us apart. The model for the chairs we had made were changed 8 times before he was satisfied. That is Jean.
"F*#% it. It has to be comfortable."
Thank you for trusting me and thank you for not settling for anything less than perfect.

Since the opening of the restaurant in 2008, they achieved significant local and international success, which includes:

2008

 •  Diners Club Wine List Awards (Platinum)
 •  Conde Naste Hot Tables of 2008

2009

 •  Rossouw's Restaurant Awards 2009 (3 Stars)
 •  Eatout Magazine Top 10 Restaurants in South Africa (6th)
 •  San Pellegrino Top 100 Restaurants in the World (98th)
 •  Wine Spectator Award of Excellence
 •  Diners Club Wine List Awards (Platinum)
 •  American Express Fine Dining Award

2010

 •  Eatout Magazine Top 10 Restaurants in South Africa (3rd)
 •  Eatout Magazine Best Service Award
 •  San Pellegrino Top 100 Restaurants in the World (74th)
 •  Great Wine Capitals of the World Best Global Restaurant
 •  Rossouw's Restaurant Awards 2010 (3 Stars)
 •  Wine Spectator Award of Excellence
 •  American Express Fine Dining Award

2011

 •  Eatout Magazine Best Restaurant in South Africa
 •  Eatout Magazine David Higgs Best Chef in South Africa
 •  Eatout Magazine Best Service Award
 •  San Pellegrino Top 100 Restaurants in the World (61st)
 •  Rossouw's Restaurant Awards 2011 (3 Stars)
 •  Rossouw's Platinium Restaurant Award for best overall restaurant 2011
 •  Great Wine Capitals of the World Best National Restaurant
 •  Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence

It was a great opportunity for me
to see what the industry in Johannesburg is like."
- David Higgs

In addition to this and by no means any less important I would like to say thank you to all the young and old chefs I have worked with over the years. They led me, taught me, shat on me, inspired me, worked alongside me, helped me achieve, were patient with me, understood me and forgave me for my language, which can often become a bit foul ☺. Not only chefs, but friends, family, food and wine people. Thank you all for your support and advice.

My Mom and Gran, Manfred Scholtz, Tina Stafford, Vince Gibbons, Lindsay Mitchell, June Bracken, Wynand Du Plessis, Marcel Clarke, Lynne Mossop, Wade van Der Merwe, Margot Janse, Ettiene Bonthuys, Garth Stroebel, Paul Hartmann, Garth Shnier, Carla Bester (RIP), Henrico Grobelaar, John Shuttleworth, Adriaan Maree, Mike Van Rooyen, Fabio Daniel, Louise Veldhuisen, Carel Chapman and his incredible family, Tannie Ellen(Jeans Mom), Leeba and Marinda Fouche, Guy Lanfear and last but not least 2 people that have in recent years helped me achieve new heights, Neil Grant and Minette Smith. Thank you for your patience. You know what im talking about.

This list will not be complete without the name of Dr Billy Gallagher, for what he has done for the international recognition of SA chefs. Also, he deserves praise for helping with the upliftment of the previously disadvantaged within our industry. I thank you, sir.

Recently

David left Rust en Vrede in 2011 to join Herman Coertze again at the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel.
"It was a great opportunity for me to see what the industry in Johannesburg is like."

Central One restaurant at the Hotel underwent a few changes and proved
that the Jozi market is open to all sorts of eating experiences
even in hotels - as long as its personal and of a high standard…

Currently

David is at the Saxon Hotel and Spa also reconfiguring
the restaurant as well as restyling the food
and beverage operations.

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