5 Minutes with Chef Colette Robert

Words: Jess Spiro

Colette Robert is a true gem in Cape Town’s food crown. Despite living in London for a while, the call of home lured her back to the mother city. We couldn’t be happier, because her café The General Store serves up some of the best breakfasts, salads and cakes we’ve ever seen.

You are cooking some of the best food in Cape Town at the moment. What has been your journey to get to this point in your career?

Colette: I was lucky enough to always know that I wanted to be a chef, which was a good start. I studied at Silwood, before working under Giorgio Nava at 95 Keerom for 2 years. Feeling I needed a change, I headed off to London, where I joined the team at Finn’s of Chelsea, a luxury deli and caterer. It was here that I realised ‘I can do this’, and that the dream of running my own place could come true. Having been away for a number of years, we decided to return to Cape Town and The General Store was born.

Was there a defining moment in your career that made you realise that this is exactly what you are meant to be doing?

Colette: Not specifically. I grew up on a farm, and as you’d expect there was always something being cooked up in our kitchen. I guess I just enjoyed getting involved and developed an interest in food. When I realised that people were enjoying what I was making something clicked. Now, when I open the doors of The General Store, I feel that every day.

How would you define your culinary style?

Colette: Casual, unfussy cooking, the simpler the better. Made with love.

What is your earliest food memory that you think inspired you towards this career?

Colette: I don’t think it inspired my career, but one of my earliest food memories is of my brother making us avo on toast to share. At about 6 years old I was very unsure of this mushy green stuff he wanted me to eat with him.  I’ll never forget my surprise at the lemony, buttery, goodness on warm toast.  As the saying goes, you can never judge a book by its cover, and that’s true for so many things when it comes to food.

What is the best career advice you have ever been given? Who gave it to you?

Colette: A chef I once worked with while I was still studying, told me to always steal with the eyes – everyone has a different style or method of doing things, and so there is always something to learn from someone else.  One of the things I love about this job is that you’re constantly learning new things, it’s ever-changing.

If you had all the time and money in the world, what would be your ultimate food day? What would you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Colette: This is hard. Ok. Pain au chocolate and coffee at E5 Bakery in Hackney, London to start the day. Lunch at The Table in Stellenbosch in the sunshine. Crayfish braai and cold beers for dinner overlooking the ocean. All of this shared with close friends and family – the best part of any meal.

Most memorable meal?  Dinner at the Fat Duck.

Top of your restaurant bucket list?  Noma.

Favourite way to end a busy day? Hot bath and a gin and tonic.Colette
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Want to read about more badass women in the kitchen? Read HERE.

Read more about The General Store HERE.

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