A familiar face has taken over the reins in the kitchen at ON19 at The Westin Cape Town.
Chef Stephen Mandes has been appointed to lead the kitchen team and has already begun curating an innovative menu design and restaurant strategy as well as a new winter menu launching this month.
The 30-year old culinary arts graduate is also the 2014 winner of Ultimate Braai Master, the reality TV cooking show.
Mandes confesses he’s driven by new challenges and change.
“I am excited this is something I always wanted to do. This is a flagship dining experience for The Westin, the food is good, the views and setting are amazing a dream come true.”
Born on the Cape Flats, Mandes grew up in Parow and says he’s always been curious about food and cooking: “I started cooking when I was young, my dad was the cook at home and I was always helping.”
Starting out as a mini sous-chef at home, Mandes would help peeling veggies and preparing meals, and fondly recalls the first thing he made from scratch in the kitchen.
“I was young and there was this show on TV called Maak ’* Las, I saw this vetkoek recipe and told my mom: ‘I’d like to try that!’ She bought all the ingredients and I made it, it was quite good,” he says.
The vetkoeks were the perfect side to his dad’s curry and soon became a hit with Mandes family and neighbours.
His passion to succeed was fuelled when he walked off with the Ultimate Braai Master accolade in 2014 and now Mandes is at the helm of ON19.
Expect just a few tweaks to the menu, because it’s not really going to be overhauled.
“I don’t think the menu needs a complete overall,” says Mandes.
“Whenever we put menus together we tick all the boxes. Vegetarian and gluten free - it’s all there.”
Mandes says he has one favourite on the menu, which he’d recommend to any guest.
“A lamb shank would be my choice and some might pull their noses up at that, but I love slow-cooked cuts of meat,” he says.
By his own admission, Mandes recalls that it was a lamb shank that he prepared for his wife as their first meal after they tied the knot.
“She says it was so special and has asked me many times to prepare it again; maybe I will,” he quips.
Mandes is excited by the new adventures that await in the kitchen of ON19 at The Westin Cape Town.
At ON19 and in his own career, no matter where it might take him.