5 Minutes with Chef Emma Hofmans

Words: Jess Spiro

What would we do without Hallelujah? We don’t even want to think about it. Emma Hofmans is the chef genius behind all those amazing lobster rolls and duck tacos. She’s worked in some incredible restaurants, but we’re hoping she stays on Kloofnek for a while.

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?

Emma: I studied at The Culinary Academy (now The Hurst Campus) which included a 6 month placement. I was sent to The Cellars-Hohenort where I started at the Conservatory and then did my second 3 months at The Greenhouse. I loved the kitchen so much I asked for a job and they hired me full time! I worked there for another year, working my way around every section and building myself up to Chef De Partie. Then I moved on to The Pot Luck Club which was an amazing experience, seeing a different kind of kitchen environment and stepping away from fine dining. However, I wanted more freedom so found the opportunity at Hallelujah. Almost 2 years later and I am still here! It’s been a huge learning curve but was definitely the best decision I could have made.

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

Emma: The first few weeks of internship were really hard. I wasn’t getting it and I kept screwing up. I sat myself down and told myself that I knew how to cook, Iwas just over thinking it – then things started to fall into place. It probably only really clicked when I started at The Greenhouse where things were a lot harder than at The Conservatory. It took a little while but eventually things started happening so naturally that I didn’t even need to think about what I was doing during service. It was such an amazing feeling, the adrenaline pumping through my veins. I loved it and thought, “This is awesome. I think I should do this for a while”.

How would you define your culinary style?

Emma: Ummm… I don’t know if I could define it, but I am an extremely relaxed cook. I try to keep my flavours bold but well-balanced. I don’t like over complicating food. Keep it simple and consistent.

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

Emma: Probably discussing what was for dinner with my mom. As I got older, I got more involved in preparing dinner, I loved experimenting and trying new things. My mom is an excellent cook – it was largely thanks to her that I went down this path.

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

Emma: My professor at chef school advised me to watch and learn. To do the prep you need to do but to make sure that you are always watching everyone else. To ask questions – any chef worth their salt is going to be more than happy to share their knowledge with you.

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?

Emma: Breakfast: Bagel and shmear and ice coffee from just about any bagel shop in NYC!

Lunch: Filet de Perche (tiny fresh water fish… it’s a speciality in Switzerland) and a glass of Rosé at the lakeside in Geneva.

Dinner: A full Italian feast. From the snacks to the antipasti, to the dessert and espresso at the end.

Most memorable meal? Auberge D’Onex in Switzerland, my parents used to take us there for special occasions. The food is wholesome and delicious and uses some of the most incredible ingredients. The meal starts with a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano and a knife!

Top of your restaurant bucket list? Osteria Francescana (going there in 3 weeks!), Alinea, Pujol.

Favourite way to end a busy day? Glass of wine.
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Want to read about more badass women in kitchens? Read here.

Read our review of Hallelujah here.

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