CRUSH CHATS TO Michael Broughton
Executive Chef of Terroir Restaurant
Crush sits down to chat with Executive Chef of Terroir Restaurant, Michael Broughton, to find out just what makes him tick…
You did not train formally as a chef, which is really hard to believe considering your immense success – how did you get where you are today?
You are correct; I did not train formally as a chef. I did 3 years at hotel school (where they teach you management and accounts) and was actually very disinterested in cooking at that time. I spent almost 10 years as a hotelier after my studies and only started my cooking career in 1998. I literally picked up a book called ‘My Gastronomy’ by Nico Ladenis. I then read his second book called ‘Nico’, and decided to start cooking by trial and error, which was actually quite silly as he was a 3 Michelin starred chef! Needless to say it was a difficult and often expensive tuition – when the foie gras in the pan literally ends up an oily mess and you wonder why, or when your quail looks like it has just had open-heart surgery after deboning! I think I have cooked every single recipe in his two books.
You are not from the Cape, how did you land up in the Winelands?
I’m originally from Durban; I left KZN when I was 23 and spent 12 years in Jo’burg. I then came down to Stellenbosch in 2004 as I had met my wife Jane, she is a Capetonian, and so the Cape was a good choice.
You have recently launched Terroir – the cookbook, how was the experience of putting a book together?
The idea sounds rather romantic, but it was pretty hard work! With a busy kitchen and being dad and husband… it was not easy. Having ideas in your mind is one thing, writing them down in a logical and sequential order was a challenge to say the least.
The food at Terroir is on a scale that would probably be difficult for the home cook to produce, how have you translated this in the book?
As I mentioned in the book it would be great if you have an extra pair of hands to help. However I made a point of highlighting how far in advance one could make each element of each dish, so that on the day it would only be a matter of putting the last minute fresh prep together and then plating. I also gave the conventional cooking methods for the home cook alongside the techniques of sous-vide and other low temperature cooking techniques that sometimes seem challenging to the home cook.
The recipes in the book are also just a blank canvas for creating your own ideas – like a good pair of Diesel jeans you can dress them up or down.
How much of a part did your team in the kitchen play in you creating the book?
I think most chefs would tell you that you are as good as your team and they are as good as you have trained them. My two sous chefs, Ruan and Alice, were crucial in assisting me with the hours of mis en place for photography, etc. If it weren’t for their solid commitment, I doubt I would have made it to the finish line on time. They played a huge role in this.
You lead an award-winning restaurant, have had your own show on TV and now a cookbook… what’s next?
If I were 5 years younger I would have more children! But for now, I will let the dust settle a bit – it has been a demanding year writing the book and we’ll see where it goes from here.
As a chef it must be tough to eat out without being critical – do you have a favourite spot that you go to?
Chefs often find it difficult to switch off and not be critical – however, as I have gotten older I find it easier to just enjoy what’s been put in front of me with no unrealistic expectations. My family and I enjoy the pizza at Buratta, as well as The Millhouse Kitchen at Lourensford (the kids can run around outside until they have an appetite).
Summer is well on its way; do you have a summer dish that is a crowd pleaser?
We have a new summer starter – confit tomato and buratta with a rosemary-raisin vinaigrette and coconut. Customers are enjoying it very much now with the arrival of warmer weather.
If you won the lottery today, would you carry on cooking or would you retire and kick back?
Have often thought of that (haha!) the jury is still out on that one …
Your foodie idol is coming to eat at your restaurant, what South African produce would you want to showcase and what would you make?
I would poach a West Coast crayfish, serve it with rosemary butter, tomato smoor, curry oil and truffle froth nestled on my hand-rolled, bow-tied saffron pasta (farfalle), along with a glass of fine Chenin.