Margot Janse: "Young Chefs Must Work with Open Ears and Eyes"

An interview with S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 grand final jury member Margot Janse as she offers some of her own advice to young chefs.

Margot Janse is the chef at the award winning Tasting Room restaurant inside the wonderful Relais and Châteaux Le Quartier Français Hotel in Franschhoek, South Africa.

Her restaurant has been named the best in South Africa on a number of different occasions and sits at number 88 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 51-100 list.

The chef, who trained as an actress, is from the Netherlands and originally moved to South Africa to follow her passion for photography before switching it up and heading in a culinary direction.

Fresh, seasonal and always balanced, much of the ingredients she presents come directly from the restaurant’s onsite garden. An ambassador of the diverse indigenous ingredients that surround her, Janse has become one of the most exciting chefs in the world right now.

She’s also taking time out of her busy schedule to join the jury for the Grand Final of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 which takes place at the end of this month in Milan.

We caught up with the chef to find out more about this role and get some of her advice for the young chefs of the future.

Tell us your best piece of advice for young chefs?
To work with open ears and eyes. To absorb like a sponge and question everything. To understand that the journey of becoming a good chef is neither quick nor easy.

Tell us about a time when you remember making a mistake as a young chef? What happened, where were you working and what did you learn?
I was presented with bunches of spinach and pretended to know what Chiffonade meant, which obviously did not work out so well in the end. Always ask. No question is ever stupid.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
Taste it in your head before you start.

What’s the worst mistake a young chef can make?
To think they know it all once they leave culinary college.

What do you think about the idea to pairing young chefs with young designers?
Fabulous as there is a strong element of design in food too and it will be very interesting to see the inspiration/collaboration.

Why in your opinion is S.Pellegrino Young Chef important?
It is a brilliant platform for younger chefs to get exposure on many levels. To enter the international arena and work alongside similar chefs from many different countries and cultures.

If you could be a young chef again, what would you do differently?
I have been pretty lucky with the way my career path took shape, but I don't think one can ever travel too much.

What are some of the most exciting developing in the South African food scene at the moment?
The whole South African food scene is super exciting. The celebration of Africa through its indigenous and also many endemic products is very strong. We have an amazing story to tell and many chefs are proudly doing so in their very own culinary language.

What are some of the most exciting things you’re currently working on in the kitchen?
We are constantly evolving, are expanding our own vegetable and herb garden. We have hosted 2 guest Chefs in the past year and are exploring the option of doing this more often.

Tell us about some of the other projects you’re working on for 2015? New books, restaurants, shows?
This year is my 20th year as Chef at Le Quartier Francais. I am working on  'the' book and we are planning some celebrations for my anniversary later this year. I will be joining 9 other international female chefs  to India in September in aid of a Charity. It is a very exciting project.

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