Chef David Higgs left the services of the Saxon Hotel this morning, after having been Executive Chef at the five hundred restaurant for four years, a restaurant which he helped create. He took the restaurant to the number two position in the Eat Out Restaurant Awards last year, the best restaurant performance for a Johannesburg-based restaurant ever! This year it took the 5th position.
At the Eat Out Restaurant Awards last month, Chef David said a strange thing – that he is looking forward to cooking again when he opens his new restaurant in Rosebank in March. In an interview he referred to the five hundred clientele, saying that half of the 30 patrons eating there ‘have no clue what they’re eating‘. On average the patrons spend R1600 per head (it is the most expensive restaurant in the country based on a per course price), ‘but half the people don’t get it, and half of those who don’t get it don’t want to get it’! His frustration in not seeing his patrons enjoying fine dining at five hundred led him to resign and to plan the creation of his own restaurant.
Chef David has not made it easy to find out more information about his new restaurant or its location.
What we do know is that it is planned to open in March; it is located on Jan Smuts Avenue in Rosebank, next to the Circa Gallery; Gary Kyriacou is his business partner in the venture; a large part of the space will be dedicated to a bar, with a focus on cocktails, for which he visited New York last month to find inspiration; it is a 200 – 250 seat restaurant; it does not yet have a name (officially); Union Square Café is his benchmark, owner Danny Meyer meeting with Chef David and Gary during their New York visit; the food style is unknown as yet, but the hashtag which Chef David used during his New York trip was #fire, relating to the wood fire cooking method, but also the concept of a fire being central to a gathering of people in our country; it will offer casual elegant yet affordable dining; it will feel warm and welcoming to women, without any pretension; it will be authentic and honest; and importantly, it will reflect Johannesburg rather than South Africa; they plan to revitalize the area around their location, which is home to many art galleries; and a roof deck will offer fantastic views for sundowners.
Chef David is heading to Namibia (the country of his birth) for a holiday break, having been extremely busy this year in participating in the Cape Epic, cooking for the first South African cycle team participating in the Tour de France, mentoring Chef Angelo Scirocco of Chefs Warehouse for his participation in the S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2015, cooking at the Taste of Melbourne, and supporting his Food Cycle non-profit organization in the Diepsloot community. During this year he has left the running of five hundred to his able head chef Candice Philip, who has worked at the Saxon for more than ten years. Chef Candice took over the five hundred restaurant kitchen in November.
We wish Chef David all the best with his new venture, and look forward to receiving more details about his fiery new restaurant.
POSTSCRIPT 15/12: Chef David has released a video today, announcing the delay of the opening of the restaurant to May! He is more diplomatic (he is a Sagittarian) about his reason for leaving The Saxon and for opening his own restaurant, saying that he wants to connect with his patrons on the floor!
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here