Emile Fortuin of the Robertson Small Hotel.
Where did you grow up?
What were your earliest food influences & memories?
I loved spending time in my godmother’s kitchen especially when the whole family had to roll up their sleeves in preparation for the big church bazaar. My job was to prepare the makataan or as we call it, kafferwaatlemoen, for the jam as well as the tripe for the curry brawn terrine. With Aunt Niesie’s biryani, Grandma’s coconut doughnuts, Godmother’s spicy tomato noodle salad and Mom’s chocolate and strawberry lamingtons we casually cooked up a sumptuous feast in no time.
So how did you start?
After my matriculation in 2006, I was discovered during a brief working stint at the Bread and Wine Restaurant at the Moreson Estate in Franschhoek by none other than Susan Huxter, the owner of this establishment along with the world-renowned Le Quartier Francais luxury hotel. I was peeping through a wooden fence to see what the charcuterie chef, Neil Jewell, was doing and Susan saw me and offered me an in-house training job at her 5-star hotel on the spot. During that period I met the likes of world-renowned culinary genius, Margot Janse, Executive Chef of Le Quartier Français and Chef Chris Erasmus of Pierneef á La Motte and this is then when my passion for cooking really ignited. In search of an adventurous culinary career, I landed a job at Reuben’s Restaurant in Franschhoek in 2008 where I worked my way up from barman to an assistant chef before filling the shoes of Executive Chef at Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel.
What excites you about food?
I normally cook with fresh local organic produce, it keeps your passion and love for food so alive. If u think what is in season or what is available around you your mind already jump a mile with ideas, creating something beautiful and tasteful with these local produce and seeing how people really enjoy what you presenting them with is sheer bliss, no need to say more.
What is your favorite dish to eat?
Well working with food on a regular basis it’s a bit hard to have a favorite dish because everything is so good, but if I have to say what is my favorite dish to eat I would definitely say my mom’s curry bunnies (Kerrie Vetkoeke)
What’s your favourite dish to cook?
I like to cook slow tasteful dishes like a lamb/beef stew or a nice Cape Malay curry.
What is the best thing about your job?
Seeing an empty plate come back to kitchen with nothing on it. Sign of enjoyment!!!! Makes me happy.
What is the worst thing about your job?
I think that any chef would agree if it is service time and you get a guest who has a lot of dietary requirements and didn’t inform the restaurant beforehand. So I would definitely say dietary requirements on the spot.
What are today’s customer’s looking for in a restaurant experience?
My vision of a restaurant experience is just expecting a good plate of food.
What other eating spot do you rate outside of Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel?
Well I am working a lot but, if I must say Fraai Uitzicht about 4 km outside Robertson is definitely worth a try.
What advice would you give any young person thinking of entering the world of professional cooking?
(Smiley face) just do it for the love and passion you have for food. And most important you have to enjoy what you are doing. HAVE FUN!!!!
If you were not a chef what would you be doing?
A Formula 1 racing driver!
Describe your style of cooking at Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel?
Elegant Cape classics that are honest and without frills yet vibrant in taste, colour and texture.
Describe Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel in five words.