As noted in our prior blog, Chef Jackie Cameron served for 12 years as the head chef at the award-winning Hartford House, a five-star boutique hotel in rural Mooi River (located in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). She left in 2014 in order to establish a unique cooking school in South Africa — a school to train the next generation of top chefs for the country. We were among the six “students” who attended her inaugural cooking demonstration class at the school, about an hour’s drive northwest of Durban.
Jackie’s perspective on her cooking style: “I have, over the years, spent as much time as possible with KwaZulu-Natal’s crafters, drawing inspiration form the different cultures; always with the restaurant scene in mind. It is remarkable to see traditional combinations being created with heart and soul once flavour profile is understood, in a new-age way. Having decided on a local and cultural understanding, the third leg of the pot was memories — my childhood memories. Serving only in-season fruit and vegetables, SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) green-listed seafood, and knowing your supplier form the foundation of culinary creativity. They are the cornerstones of my cooking. Questions I ask myself are: ‘Is this dish going to inspire, teach and/or remind a person of something uniquely KZN? If it doesn’t, then what’s the point?'”
Among other local foods that we had for snacks, Jackie made biltong, a dried, cured meat that originated in South Africa and is similar to beef jerky. A major difference between biltong and jerky is that biltong is sliced after the meat is cured and dried in contrast to jerky which is sliced before it is dried. Also biltong is generally made from a variety of meats (typically raw fillets) ranging from beef and game to farmed ostrich.
During class the local manager of the Terbodore coffee roasting company served as barista and made incredible cappuccinos upon request. It was easy to get spoiled at this school!
The entree of the meal we would eat after the cooking demonstration was “Cordon Bleu crispy Chicken Roll with Butter Bean Puree, ‘Gourmet Greek’ Yoghurt, Garlic Chips and Lavendar Flowers”. The following photographs illustrate a few of the many steps this dish required. Not your 10-minute chicken-in-a-skillet quick dinner…
Our next blog post will share the finished dishes as we enjoyed them in the dining room at the School.