Meet world-renowned chef Jan Hendrik. The first South African Michelin Star chef and owner of Restaurant JAN in Nice, where winners of the #explorecreativefrance competition will have the opportunity to dine.
Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen was raised on a farm in the north of South Africa. He completed an advanced diploma in culinary arts, followed by a BA in applied design and photography. This is before working as a contributing food editor for Elle magazine in South Africa as well as in France. Jan Hendrik opened JAN in 2013 near the port of Nice, France and is now a world-renowned chef.
The restaurant is housed in a renovated motorcycle outlet with an interior which reflects his creative side. A side that undoubtedly shines through in his culinary designs and, of course, the striking photographs that he takes of them. Hard work and a superb menu cooked to perfection as well as the entire package offered to diners, has awarded Jan Hendrik the honour of being a Michelin star.
Jan Hendrik has also added the title of author to his name with the release of his books, The French Affair (2013) and JAN – A Breath of French Air (2016). His latest book is a collection of stories and recipes from his restaurant.
Interview with Jan Hendrik
Creative Feel: Why did you become a chef, how did you learn your art?
Jan Hendrik: I have always had a passion for cooking. My grandmother was my mentor in the basics and taught me how to appreciate simple flavours. On my life journey, I have collected ideas, expressions, and methods that I use today at JAN.
CF: Describe your approach to cooking
JH: First of all, food needs to be seasonable, comforting, delicious and make you feel satisfied. The extra touch of theatre and new flavours make the experience even more perfect.
CF: Name three tools no kitchen should be without.
JH: A palette knife, a good mixer, and a plane grater.
CF: What are some of your favourite ingredients at the moment, and why?
JH: Tomatoes, cauliflower, rabbit, carrots, berries and vanilla. They are currently in season but I go through stages with what I crave.
CF: The most common mistake people make when cooking is…
JH: Overthinking things. Follow your senses. Do research about unknown ingredients and techniques and make a point of taking notes. You will be amazed at how much information there is around us in today’s life.
CF: Do the South African and the French palates share similarities? How so?
JH: Some similarities, but this is what makes our job interesting. That is, actually combining the two on new levels and introducing our guests to flavour experiences that are new to them.
CF: How has working in the city of Nice influenced your creativity in the kitchen?
JH: The markets have changed the way I look at produce. Inspiration is around every corner and, to top it off, there is always the sun to raise my energy and excitement levels.
CF: Considering his clout in the city, describe the perfect Henri Matisse inspired meal.
JH: Wine, bread, cheese and meat.
CF: For a dinner party with some of my favourite people, I would make…
JH: Salt-crusted and whole baked sea bass with salads from the market.
CF: Two guests I would love to have at a dinner party are…
JH: Princess Charlene of Monaco and Julia Roberts.
CF: Describe the best meal you have ever eaten.
JH: My grandmother’s pancakes after I came back home from school as a child. She used to dust them lightly with cinnamon sugar.
CF: What would you describe as your trademark dish and why?
JH: This constantly changes, but currently it is our Barley Risotto with scallop, pancetta, and cauliflower. Purely because I think it is delicious.
All images are courtesy of Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. For more information, please visit his website on www.janhendrik.com