We chat to Glen Williams, Chef Proprietor at Foxcroft Restaurant and Bakery
Glen Williams is a born and bred southern suburbs Capetonian. After he matriculated he went right on to studying part time at the Institute for Hospitality Education in South Africa, while working full time at the Opal Lounge. He then moved on to La Calombe, where he was to remain for 6 years. Things looked bright for Glen when he was promoted to pastry chef at La Colombe at the tender age of 21, and this move set him on a course that has brought him to where he is today.
Besides a short stint at 2 Michelin-starred The Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire in 2015, he has remained in the Mother City honing his skills. In October 2016, Glen and business partner Scot Kirton, opened Foxcroft Restaurant and Bakery in Constantia and this has been the fulfilment of a dream. As with the opening of any new business, it has its challenges, we chat to Glen about his journey…
I grew up with a father who was passionate about food and cooking, exposing me to a wide range of food. I started cooking at a young age and it was always on the list of possible future careers.
What drew you to pastry?
I landed in pastry quite accidentally but ended up loving it. I think it was the exacting nature and the creative possibilities that drew me to it. Everything in pastry was new to me, as I’d never really done much of it at home growing up.
When you tell people you’ve met for the first time that you’re a pastry chef, is there an inevitable response?
Given that I’m quite a large guy and always have been, the most common response is probably along the lines of “well I can see you have a sweet tooth” or “you must make good pastries cause you eat them all”. I’ve actually never had much of a sweet tooth at all.
Working with sweet things every day sounds like a sweet deal but it must get tiring. Do you ever end the day feeling ‘sweet-ed’ out?
Yes. Having to taste sweet things all day tires out your palate very quickly. Coffee became a crutch, more out of the need for something bitter/savoury and I drink around 4 litres of water when at work.
Do you remember what the first thing was that you baked? Or perhaps if you don’t remember what it was, then something that was really memorable?
I remember making little orange souffles at age 7, they came out nicely but I was so disappointed – that was the moment that I realised how overrated souffles are. My father ate them all.
Do you have a global pastry bucket list; places you want to visit to try their baked goods?
I visited some amazing patisseries in Paris last year. I’d also love to see the patisseries in Hong Kong and Tokyo, they’ve got some amazing pastry happening there.
We’ve seen some interesting trends this year with regards to baking – like multicoloured unicorn everything. What’s on the horizon that’s exciting for you?
At Foxcroft, we are focusing on refined but traditional pastries. We’re not really about trends, we are just trying to do the basics as best we can, with the best ingredients we can get our hands on.
The French pretty much reign when it comes to baking; are there other places that you draw inspiration from when creating dishes?
The French have most of the techniques to their name but one can draw inspiration in terms of flavours from anywhere.
Can you tell us a bit about how Foxcroft came about?
The idea started a few years ago, I decided I wanted my own business by the time I was 26 and thought a bakery would be the logical step. Scot wanted to support me in this and so, over the next year or two, the idea snowballed into what we have now – a full restaurant and bakery.
The toughest part about being a business owner in the restaurant industry?
For me, the toughest part has been the transition, as I didn’t go through the usual ranks of sous, head chef etc, before opening my own place. Lots of deep end learning has taken place, from business management, stock control, managing staff and dealing with consumer expectations and needs.
If I wasn’t a chef I’d be… either in the music industry or a pyrotechnician.
Series I’m currently watching… Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Dream holiday destination… Taiwan or Lisbon.
Late night petrol station indulgence… Steak and kidney pie.
Most treasured piece of kitchen equipment… my antique Rocher spoons.
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