We talk to Executive Chef Neethling du Toit
We recently visited La Petite Ferme in Franschhoek and enjoyed a night away in the stunning French-country inspired luxury accommodation. While there, we ate a delicious dinner at La Petite Ferme Restaurant, which has become known for its culinary offering. The restaurant has previously been listed as one of the top 15 ‘Best Value’ establishments in the world by Condé Nast Traveller, and this is attributed to a combination of the venue’s cosy setting, flavoursome contemporary food and excellent service. Executive chef Neethling du Toit puts together a menu that highlights rustic flavours, served in a stylish and modern way. We chatted to the Worcester-born chef about what makes him tick…
I was first inspired by food when working at a pizza takeaway restaurant after school, during my teens. I then briefly pursued a career in steel construction before going oversees to work as a security guard. When I came back I enrolled in the ICA chef’s school in Stellenbosch. I did my internship at Chamonix restaurant under Dane Newton in Franschhoek. When the owners sold the restaurant I moved to La Petite Ferme as sous chef before taking over as executive chef in 2011.
What was exciting about the opportunity at La Petite Ferme when it came along?
I was a young chef and it was a great challenge. It was a great opportunity to work at a restaurant with such a long history and to try and maintain that standard while adding part of yourself along the way.
Do you have a specific meal or food moment/memory that made you want to be a chef?
As stupid as it might sound, it happened while I worked at the pizza restaurant. Although the food was simple, I got a sense of satisfaction from preparing it – this fuelled a passion for cooking which developed more and more as I became a chef.
Franschhoek is an abundant place – specifically for foodies, what makes La Petite Ferme special in your opinion?
It is a combination of things – La Petite Ferme has always served food that is good, honest and delicious. Our biggest secret weapon has to be the spectacular view we have, which draws diners to our establishment.
Tell us about the menu and food style at La Petite Ferme…
The food can best be described as contemporary country. Simple food that is cooked perfectly and concentrates on big flavours. A combination that will make the conservative diner happy, as well as excite the more daring.
Food trends come and go, what’s hot for you right now?
A lot of chefs are toying with simpler food and then they dolly it up to be more extravagant and appealing for the more gourmet market.
Is there a secret to a running a successful kitchen/restaurant?
Yes, taste your food! Then everything else falls into place.
Have you had a funny moment in the kitchen that has stuck with you?
Yes, a baboon that found its way into the kitchen during the winter season looking for food. The situation gets funnier if you consider the fact that the kitchen consisted of just women at the time. My ears are still ringing from the screams.
One culinary trend that you wish would die?
The whole gluten-free thing. There are few better things than warm, freshly baked bread with butter melted in to it. It helped my granny to live a fulfilling life to the age of 88-years before she passed away a few years ago. Save the baker and eat bread.To wrap up we ask Neethling to tell us a bit about a few of his favourite things.
place to unwind… Piketberg
drink at the end of service… brandy and soda
late night snack… chocolate
movie quote… ‘I’m gonna make you a offer you can’t refuse’. The Godfather
ingredient right now… chilli
toast topping… cheese
thing about winter… spicy curries
Sample Neethling’s cuisine at La Petite Ferme Restaurant, Franschhoek Pass Road. Booking is recommended