5 Minutes with Chef Tracy-Leigh Genricks

Words: Jess Spiro

Tracy-Leigh Genricks is one half of the dream duo that brought Four & Twenty on to Cape Town’s food scene. Having graduated from culinary school, working at La Colombe and then returning to teach cookery at Silwood, she has a formidable wealth of food knowledge.

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?

Tracy: After graduating from my third year at Silwood Cookery School I explored my interest in teaching. This was a passion of mine and I was the cooking practical supervising chef (1st year programme) at Silwood from 2009-2012. Marijke and I travelled to France for a ‘food holiday’ and with my intense love of tasting different foods and eating, my love and passion for cooking, baking and confectionary, I was bursting with inspiration to create my own business where I could be the person behind the flavours and recipes. I have learnt so much over the last 3 years – about business, people and a lot about myself. Every day since opening, Marijke and I have committed ourselves lock, stock and barrel to the business and to maintaining a standard we feel is vital for a successful business. A lot of hard work, relationship building and tough decisions have been part of our journey.

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

Tracy:  Every day. My dream was to have a space where I could design my own food and tasty creations for someone else (hopefully) to feel the way I feel when I eat something delicious! I am happiest when I am eating something delicious with someone who feels the same way. I see our café as a happy place for customers to taste quality food in a pretty, quaint and cosy environment. I see this every day when I walk around the shop. This is what I was meant to do, no regrets, just excitement for the future of Four & Twenty.

How would you define your culinary style?

Tracy: Classic methods and authentic flavours. I love food that is unpretentious with just enough complexity to make it interesting and different from what you can find anywhere else. Flavour and textures should be the main focus – garnishes and any other additions should only be there if they contribute something to the overall experience of the dish. All my food is created from an initial thought, then it is tested and perfected, adjusting where necessary, and only when it is EXACTLY what I imagined the final result to be, THAT is when we offer it to our customers.

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

Tracy: ‘Cake sales’ at school. They were the highlight of my week! When it was my turn to bring something, my mom and I used to bake the ‘cookie-day cupcakes’ with glacé icing and hundreds and thousands. Although this seems very simple, we only ever baked those for the cake sale and I always knew that they were the best cakes on sale. I kept this to myself but I was always very proud.

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

Tracy:  The best career advice has always been from my dad. I can’t isolate the ‘best’ career advice, but he believed in me which taught me to believe in myself.

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?

Tracy:  For breakfast, I would have my boyfriend make flapjacks with golden syrup, mascarpone and loads of fresh berries and a delicious cup of coffee to enjoy in my pyjamas while sitting on a patio overlooking the sea on a beautiful morning. Lunch would be bao’s and ramen at Momofuku in New York and a Coca-Cola. Dinner would start with ‘bar snacks’ – a Genricks family tradition of a ‘smorgasbord’ usually consisting of cheeses, cured meats, lightly toasted bread, patés, relishes, pan fried chorizo and my mother’s ‘Larb’ – lettuce cups with spicy pork mince scented with lemongrass, lime and fresh herbs – all served with a glass of chilled Ataraxia Sauvignon Blanc, on my parents balcony in Simonstown. Then, a crayfish braai for mains and mom’s pavlova with ice cream and fresh berries for dessert.

Most memorable meal?

Grant Achatz’s ‘Alinea’. Edible floating strawberry balloon definitely the highlight of the night!

Top of your restaurant bucket list?

Massimo Bottura’s ‘Osteria Francescana’, of course, isn’t it everyone’s?

Favourite way to end a busy day?

Take away sushi on the couch with a glass of wine watching Downton Abbey with my pooch, Archie.
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Read about other badass women in kitchens HERE.

Read more about Four and Twenty here.

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