Bennett worked alongside some of Cape Town’s most celebrated culinary masters - the likes of Michael Deg, Bertus Basson, Reuben Riffel and top pastry chef André Steyn - but this is his first stint leading a team.
“I saw Grande Provence as a bona fide project - a blank canvas of sorts,” says Bennett.
“It has its own reputation and people had a perception of the place. So the idea was to go in a completely different direction.”
The 31-year-old chef has achieved this and during a Chef’s Table introduction to his menu, the only criticism was that he seemed a bit nervous.
The menu remains fine dining and there is something for all tastes, from local line fish to lamb neck. The cold roast beef sirloin with pine nut, mustard, oxtail kromeski, Boland cheddar and shallots is a great addition to the menu.
But it’s the braised Karoo lamb neck and sweetbread, butternut squash, dukka and BBQ jus that is a real triumph.The lamb is tender and perfectly cooked and all the vegetables and spices are perfectly paired.
Bennett says: “I’m a South African, I’m cooking food here in Cape Town I’m highly influenced by my surroundings.”
“I’m leaning towards the less is more philosophy, simplistic with different kinds of influences even in one dish; a little bit of French, a little bit of Asian and Cape Malay.”
The Heritage Wine Estate on which Bennett is cooking was established in 1694 and there is no shortage of inspiration. He’s taken to foraging and says it’s easy to do in Franschhoek.
“There are these little secret spots around here,” says Bennet.
“It’s dry at the moment but this estate is heaven, there’s little micro herbs popping up everywhere and all kinds of edibles like dangerous and not so dangerous mushrooms. The space is a gold mine.”
A young chef leading the team in the kitchen is a good move for the estate. Bennett is not making radical changes to the menu, but he is clear about his approach.
Sourcing the best seasonal ingredients and working closely with local suppliers and farmers is another important aspect of his food philosophy: “I like to know where the produce comes from, who grows it and how they go about doing that.
“I need to know what I’m working with and that ethical practices were involved.”
Engaging with artisanal suppliers and fellow chefs also fuels his creativity: “We are always bumping information and ideas off each other which inspires me.”
“I mix things up, I don’t want to stagnate and get comfortable. No plate needs to be the same.” he says about his approach to the menu.
The Restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. The à la carte menu includes a 3-course lunch at R450 per person and a 4-course dinner at R725. Call: 021 876 8600 or e-mail [email protected]