The creativity and enthusiasm of our region’s inspired young chefs and winemakers will no doubt ensure the future of the Overstrand’s designation as a Unesco Creative City of Gastronomy.
At Creation Wines on Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, I found two chefs and two winemakers who join a long list of youngsters that have benefited from the opportunities offered by co-owners, Jean-Claude (JC) and Carolyn Martin and their team. Fired by ambition and the urge to learn, these talented individuals are well on their way to carving a successful future in the food and wine industry.
Executive Chef Jaco Grové (40) from Sandbaai originally hails from Namibia. He describes himself as the “father figure” in the kitchen, where his job is to create dishes and develop the menu in collaboration with Carolyn and the culinary team.
Jaco particularly enjoys working with fish, and says he loves the challenge of creating a dish that not only looks and tastes delicious but also shows off the accompanying wine to perfection. Innovation and creativity are key, as the art of food and wine pairing involves matching the characteristics of the wine, its colour, nose and taste to the dish.
He says one of the most exciting aspects of his job is that you never stop learning, and so it has been for him from the day he first saw a man in a tall hat and asked his mother what he was. With most of his family being involved in the hospitality industry, it was pretty much a given that he would follow suit.
His family moved to the Cape and then to the Overstrand where, with encouragement from his mother and sister, he enrolled at Warwick’s Chef School. After graduation his first appointment was at The Marine Hotel, followed by a stint in Britain and Thailand. After returning to South Africa, he went to Johannesburg before joining Creation in 2013.
In line with Creation’s ethos of innovation, Jaco’s passion for food and wine constantly motivates him to create original and distinctive flavours that pair harmoniously with Creation’s elegant, award-winning wines. Much of his inspiration comes from nature and the bounty of our ocean and the fynbos kingdom. This is reflected in the colour, texture and flavour of the dishes he prepares. And with so much fresh, local produce available it’s possible to create exciting seasonal dishes.
Jaco also makes sure that he keeps up with the world’s latest culinary trends and says he truly believes that the day you give up learning is the day you hang up your apron.
Assisting Jaco is Sous Chef Joseph Pook (27) from Stanford, who says his journey started when his mother gave him a Jamie Oliver cookbook at the age of 16. After graduating from Hermanus High School, he also trained at Warwick’s Chef School. Joseph considers himself most fortunate as an anonymous German sponsor funded his training.
After graduating he did a stint at Springfontein Eats near Stanford with Michelin Star Chef Jurgen Schneider, whom he describes as his inspiration. He says he will never forget Schneider’s words when he asked Joseph: “Do you know how a diamond is made?” The answer was, “Pressure.” He took this advice to heart, doing his best to attain personal targets like getting to work in a three-star Michelin restaurant – an experience he funded himself in August 2018 when working at Inter Scaldes in the Netherlands.
When it comes to food, Joseph says he loves vegetables and has a particular passion for truffles. He joined the Creation culinary team three months ago and is all fired up to learn as much as he can, working alongside Jaco. He shares his executive chef’s ambition of making Eat Out’s Top 50 restaurants in South Africa for 2020.
Cellar assistant and winemaker Urle Hansen (27) now lives in Mount Pleasant but he grew up on Diepgat, not far from Creation, and attended the farm school before progressing to Swartberg Secondary in Caledon. After completing a course in Electrical Engineering at Boland College, he joined Creation Wines in 2013 as a cellar hand.
Since his first year at Creation, it has been Urle’s ambition to make his own wine. His enthusiasm didn’t go unnoticed as he tried to learn as much as possible under the mentorship of co-owner and winemaker JC Martin. In addition to the hands-on work in the cellar he attended several courses at Elsenburg Agricultural College.
In 2018 Urle was one of six cellar workers from the Western Cape to be accepted on the Burgundy Exchange Programme. Looking back on the six weeks he spent in Burgundy, Urle says: “From learning the way they make wine, to the way they enjoy it, it was a tremendous experience. It gave me a new appreciation of my surroundings and the opportunities I have to learn and grow.”
Now Urle’s first barrel of Pinot Noir has been bottled, he couldn’t be more thrilled and has named the wine after his daughter, Emily. His hopes for 2020 include another overseas trip to gather inspiration and broaden his knowledge – and the opportunity of making another wine.
Like Urle, Kirsten Myburgh (26) lives in Mount Pleasant. He completed his schooling at Hawston Secondary School. Joining Creation during the 2014 harvest, he was thrown in the deep end. Although he admits that it was hectic, he loved the excitement and says it was “an awesome learning curve”. In addition to the daily hands-on work as a cellar assistant, he completed his SKOP Level 3 qualification. SKOP is an Afrikaans acronym for Senior Cellar Worker’s Training Programme, which kick-starts empowerment for many of its learners.
It is clear that Kirsten revels in all aspects of the winemaking craft. He’s ready for any challenge that comes his way and is quick to point out the benefits of having winemakers JC and Gerhard Smith as his mentors.
Kirsten’s first wine was a wooded Sauvignon Blanc, named K’s Sauvignon Blanc 2019. This maiden wine is an achievement that Kisten shares with pride and enthusiasm. Once the 2020 harvest is over, he’ll be heading to New Zealand for two months and on his return, he says he’d like to make his own Chardonnay. It is his cultivar of choice because of its complexity and depth, its beautiful aromas and distinctive flavours.
His advice to those wanting to join the wine industry is not to be scared of the unknown but to grab with both hands the opportunities that come their way.
Staff training at Creation goes beyond what is taught in the cellar or in the kitchen, says Carolyn. She believes that through an holistic approach to training, the high standards that have been set for the Overstrand’s designation as a Unesco Creative City of Gastronomy will not only be achieved but continue to flourish.