From South Africa to London and back again with Isla Rechner

Published Jul 1, 2024


By Oceans Marasha

From a childhood fascination with a Scottish cooking show to becoming a celebrated pastry chef, Isla Rechner’s journey through the culinary world has been as vibrant and diverse as the flavours she creates.

Originally hailing from Kloof, KwaZulu-Natal, Isla’s path to gastronomic excellence has taken her across continents, shaping her into the talented chef and entrepreneur she is today.

Isla’s culinary passion ignited at a young age, inspired by a Scottish cooking show that left a lasting impression. As she grew up, her curiosity and skills blossomed. Initially pursuing a career in journalism, she soon transitioned to her true calling, earning accolades in hospitality at Capsicum Culinary Studio’s Durban campus.

Under the mentorship of chef Eric Beruiller, Isla earned a patisserie diploma and was awarded Graduate of the Year in 2010, marking the beginning of her culinary journey.

Isla’s career flourished as she ventured into the culinary scene, establishing herself in Durban with a pastry stall at Shongweni Farmers Market and a private catering business. In 2014, driven by wanderlust and culinary ambition, she moved to London.

There, she honed her skills at renowned establishments, including Yotam Ottolenghi’s eatery and eventually as Group Pastry Chef at Granger & Co’s King’s Cross branch.

Her tenure at Granger & Co not only showcased her talent but also deepened her appreciation for diverse culinary influences and meticulous pastry craft.

Isla Rechner’s Panna cotta. Picture: Supplied

Despite her success abroad, homesickness and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic prompted Isla’s return to South Africa in late 2020. Settling in Cape Town with her fiancé and twins, she embarked on a new chapter, blending motherhood with her culinary pursuits.

Isla continued to delight Cape Town residents with her private cheffing services, food pop-ups, and creative ventures, including developing freezer meals and desserts.

Reflecting on her journey, Isla credits her mentors, including chef Eric Beruiller and colleagues at Granger & Co, for shaping her culinary ethos and leadership skills. She emphasises the importance of continuous learning, cultural immersion, and dedication in the demanding hospitality industry.

Isla’s future plans include compiling a recipe book inspired by her global travels and local experiences, while continuing to innovate and share her passion through social media and culinary ventures in Cape Town.

For aspiring chefs, Isla advocates for curiosity, resilience, and a love for hard work. She draws inspiration from chefs like Raymond Blanc, Jackie Cameron, and the late Bill Granger, whose dedication to their craft continues to influence her culinary style and philosophy. Despite her busy schedule, Isla remains an avid viewer of food shows, finding inspiration and enjoyment in their storytelling and culinary creativity.

Isla Rechner’s journey from a young enthusiast watching cooking shows to an accomplished chef and mother in Cape Town exemplifies the transformative power of passion and perseverance.

Her story not only celebrates culinary excellence but also underscores the profound connections food creates across cultures and continents.

As Isla continues to innovate and inspire, her culinary creations promise to delight and nourish, embodying the essence of creativity and hospitality in every dish she creates.