In 2015 I met Chef Kevin Grobler at JAN Restaurant in Nice, the now one Michelin star restaurant, a week after he had started working in South Afrca’s Best South African cuisine restaurant. He had left Delaire Graff Restaurant to join dynamic and creative Chef Jan-Hendrik at JAN, and last week he went full circle, in starting at Delaire Graff as Head Chef again.
When Chef Kevin worked at Delaire Graff previously, he reported to Chef Christiaan Campbell, now at Boschendal. In what must have been a blow to Delaire at the time, two colleagues from the same kitchen, Scott Armstrong and Rutger Eysvogel, joined Chef Kevin in the JAN kitchen. They worked hard with Chef Jan-Hendrik in elevating the restaurant to one Michelin star level, awarded in February 2016 for the first time, and every year thereafter. What I admired about Chef Kevin was how he ran the restaurant kitchen so admirably, despite this new award pressure, with Chef Jan-Hendrik’s numerous travels to South Africa.
It was a shock to read on Social Media accounts last year that two of the three chefs were leaving JAN restaurant, with Chef Kevin joining the new Le Petit Manoir restaurant and guest house in Franschhoek, which opened in July last year. Chef Scott joined one Michelin star Lympstone Manor in Essex owned by Chef Michael Caines for a while, but had left by the time my son and I ate there in June last year. Chef Scott returned home, and joined Chef Kevin in running the restaurant kitchen.
I ate at Le Petit Manoir in July last year, soon after its opening, and was very impressed, especially in having the company of Chef Kevin at my table during the lunch. Unfortunately I did not write about the lunch at the time, focusing on completing my second SwitchBitch Book. In November I returned, whilst spending a few days in Franschhoek, and was joined by two friends. It was a disaster, a surprise, as most of the dishes were the same as my July lunch, but far less well plated and presented, and our waitress made things even worse. A further surprise was that we were served dishes from the winter menu, in the height of summer! I had to question Chef Kevin’s chef capabilities, and whether he could create his own dishes, given this disastrous meal, in part due to the restaurant experiencing its busiest night since opening, and very few patrons having booked a table. But soon I saw new Summer dishes presented on Social Media, and I liked what I saw, colourful, and well presented.
After just over eight months Chef Kevin has left Le Petit Manoir, to return to Delaire Graff, after four years away from its kitchen. Chef Scott remains at Le Petit Manoir, heading its kitchen now, while Chef Rutger is the Head Chef at JAN Restaurant. It is unknown where former Delaire Graff Head Chef Kieran Whyte has moved to.
It will be interesting to see how Chef Kevin runs the Delaire Graff Restaurant, for the first time heading up its kitchen.
Delaire Graff Restaurant, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 885-8160. www,delaire.co.za Twitter: @DelaireGraff Instagram: @delairegraff
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein