Whilst I wrote SwitchBitch 2 in Apricale in Italy last year, I saw JAN the JOURNAL Volume 1 lying in the Apricus Locanda B & B in Italy. I was intrigued by its look and feel, and content, knowing Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, Chef and co-owner of the one star Michelin restaurant JAN in Nice to be highly creative and meticulous in everything that he does.
I had tried to connect with Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, whilst he was in Cape Town to launch JAN the JOURNAL, but due to his busyness and my packing up my house in Fresnaye, we did not manage to connect! I wanted to gift him a copy of my book, as he features in it as the unplanned connection between Graham Goble and myself at the launch of his second cookbook at the One&Only in 2016, and he wanted to give me a copy of his Journal. I brought along a copy of my book, knowing that I was flying to Nice to get to Apricale, but thanks to the striking air control staff in France I did not get to Nice, having to travel via Turin in Italy. Chef Jan-Hendrik had already told me that he would be in South Africa on the date that I was booked to fly out of Nice, so it was perfect that Ina and Klaas van Wyk, guests at Apricus Locanda whilst I stayed there, agreed to take the copy of my first book ‘SwitchBitch: My journey of transformation from Sour to Sweet’ for Chef Jan-Hendrik with them, to leave for him when they went to eat at JAN.
I was surprised in seeing the cover photograph of the Journal, and also the name struck me as strange, as a Journal in my opinion is a book into which you write entries of things you experience or spiritually record your feelings, something I have learnt to do daily. The Journal is intended as a magazine, but is far too thick for that, and it devalues the intention that one keep it as a special publication. It is 258 pages thick, marked as ‘volume 1’, for 2018. The cover photograph shows Chef Jan-Hendrik in a dress suit, holding a peeled orange in his hand, looking rather stern and facing away from the camera. In the Journal he is not presented as a one-star Michelin restaurant Chef and owner at all. The inside front cover shares that this is a bi-annual publication, that media releases are welcomed but ‘curated’, and that Ilana Swanepoel is the Editor, Producer, and Creative Director. I had not heard of her before, but in Hermanus her mother Sanmarie, owner of Oskars Deli, shared this with pride. Chef Jan-Hendrik is however listed as the Editor-in-Chief, Chef, and Photographer. A number of photographers have been used, reflected in the credits, only the names of Jac de Villiers and Daniela Zondagh being familiar to me of the eight listed. I noted the name of Chef Jan-Hendrik’s company, reflecting that it is growing to far beyond JAN restaurant, being ‘The Jan Hendrik Group (Pty) Ltd.
I was shocked to see the commercial nature of the Journal, with it containing advertorials. Whilst more subtle than advertisements, and perhaps belonging into something that is intended as a magazine, I was still surprised at the commercialism this represents. The advertisers are JAN organic wine, his own new wine brand made by the family of his husband Grant Bacon at Org de Rac. Discovery Vitality HealthyFood Studio, Africology, Amarula, Krone MCC, Musgrave Pink Gin, The Botanist Islay Dry Gin, Mercedes-Benz, Stellenbosch Academy of Design & Photography, La Motte, Ellerman House, Gays’s Guernsey Dairy, Buffalo Ridge, Imhoff Pepe Charlotte goat cheese, Bouchard Finlayson, Tokara, Gautrain, Black Forest Bakery, KitchenAid (the only photograph in the Journal in which Chef Jan-Hendrik is dressed as a chef), Graham Beck MCC, Haute Cabrière, Rovos Rail, Tswalu Kalahari, Caeserstone tiles, KWV The Mentors, Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, and Rémy Martin Cognac.
The Journal introduces fine dining, and the Chef’s introduction to the Journal is entitled ‘Time to Dine’. He challenges us to take time from our busy life, to dine, and through this to celebrate the butchers, the bakers, the candlestick makers, the botanists, the horticulturists, the harvesters, the winemakers, cheesemakers, farmers, and growers, ‘who have made it their life’s work to give us these magic moments’, a lovely introduction, and expressing a spiritual gratitude. He dedicates the first issue of the Journal to his ‘dear friends in Apricale’, where I wrote this summary of the Journal, which went into my second book ‘SwitchBitch: My journey of transformation in walking the Camino, Sole to Soul’.
A section of the Journal is dedicated to Apricale, and features a recipe of Apricus Locanda B&B owner Jeanette van Manen, Chef Jan-Hendrik having introduced me to the village and to Jeanette in 2015, after I first ate at his JAN restaurant. He dedicates the Journal to his late father, who must have passed away during the preparation of the first issue of the Journal. The introduction to the Journal ends off with the following words by Chef Jan-Hendrik: ‘I invite you to go on this journey with me, dining to honour the life of food, because everything should lead back to the table.’
The Journal is introduced with the title ‘The Table’, and presents a ten course dinner, as well as flowers, and sweet treats. One is reminded to starch the napkins, polish the crystal, and bring out the best dinnerware, in preparation for the dinner, the ten recipes presented in the Journal which ‘ooze history and refinement’. Course one is an hors d’oeuvre of Grapefruit kingklip blini and mampoer White Russian. Course two is a Caramel, prawn, and tomato consommé. The third course is a cold starter of Cape Cider and haddock terrine. The fourth course is a fish one, Dullstroom Trout, served with pomegranate and pear relish. Karoo lamb roast served with whole apples, mint, and roasted rainbow carrots with caraway seeds is the delicious-sounding fifth course. The sixth course is a palate cleanser of Melon sorbet served with Caperitif or Pimms. Course seven is a Caesar salad, made with egg yolks, anchovy fillets, Dijon mustard, Parmesan, and lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. ‘Course’ eight is entitled ‘Remove’, challenging one to not serve something, but to rather observe the sweeping off of the breadcrumbs and prawn shells, the swopping of used sideplates for fresh ones, to put on new music, to bring out a cigar, if desired, add a refilled carafe of water, and bring out more candles. Course nine is a dessert of Steamed marmalade pudding, which should be kept small, it is advised. Course ten is a Cheese one, serving soft cheese with baked fruit and honey roasted almonds. One is reminded to add flowers to a table, which ‘breathes new life into your home and suffuses your table with joy’. The dinner feast should be concluded with Mignardise, a ‘culinary encore’, a parting gift from the kitchen, with three South African suggestions offered: Sweetie pie, Ouma Maria’s Melkkos and Guava macaron, and a koeksister.
A new section is entitled ‘The Land’, paying tribute to the produce that comes from it: Rooibos, with a recipe for a salmon, roasted fennel and mozzarella with Rooibos broth; oranges, lemons, and limes, with recipes for a Lemon and Coconut Tart, as well as for a Lime and Vanilla natural lip balm; apples, with a recipe for a classic Dutch Appel Taart, a pie made with apples and walnuts, which was supplied by Apricus Locanda owner Jeanette van Manen; pears, and a recipe for delicious-sounding Coffee, chocolate, and Amarula tart with macadamias and pears; edible flowers, including lavender, rose petals, zucchini flowers, tulips, chive flowers, and the dandelion, with a recipe for a Salmon, beetroot and rose treat, which my son experienced at a dinner at JAN last year, as well as a White chocolate and chestnut tulip with kirsch coulis; sweet melons, with a recipe for a beautiful-looking and unusual chilled melon soup, which includes ingredients such as lemongrass, jalapeño pepper, ginger, onion, coconut milk, and fried shallots; organic eggs and chicken, with guidelines of how to boil an egg, and a recipe for a cinnamon, date, and orange chicken; blackberries, with a recipe for a Sago pudding, with meringue and blackberry; and cheese, with a recipe for cheese fondue with roasted garlic, with Emmentaler, matured white cheddar, and Gruyére; as well as Roasted leeks, goat’s cheese mousse, popped buckwheat, and an egg yolk; as well as suggestions for a cheese trolley with port jelly, and Cape seed loaf.
‘The City’ is a section which feels built around the Gautrain advertorial, and is focused on streetfood, such as Mielies, bowls of fruit sold on the street, the bananas looking past their sell-by date, and comes across as Johannesburg-focused, with no representation of Cape Town and its food and restaurant-dominant Bree Street. One recipe only appears in this section, for Biltong Lamingtons. Continuing the Johannesburg presence, is a subsection of locals who shared their answer to the question ‘What did you have for breakfast?’. The section is concluded with a recipe for making pretzels, described as a ‘trickier’ item to bake.
‘The Coast’ obviously refers to seafoods, and recipes are provided for pickling cucumber, to serve with crayfish; for pickling fennel, recommended to be served with mussels; for pickling turnip and lime to serve with West Coast oysters; and for pickling beetroot with allekrik. Recipes are also presented for Prawn cannelloni with naartjie beurre blanc; for Tuna, mieliepap panna cotta, and chakalaka; and for salted baked fish.
’The Outdoors’ emphasises cooking with fire, offering recipes for Grilled oysters with a tarragon and Chenin butter; smoked mussels; rosemary and amasi rusks; and for a beef marinade. Having grown up in Wellington, but not related to my old home town, is a recipe for Springbok Wellington.
I like the use of black and white photographs of Apricale, to represent how old this Italian village is, in the section entitled ‘The Village’, with photographs of older locals in the main, as well as some of its produce, of apricots, radishes, potatoes, peaches, and more. A recipe is provided for Limoncello, showing Jeanette removing the lemon zest, and adding it to water, leaving it for 40 days, whereafter it is boiled with sugar for a short time, and then vodka is added. A recipe is provided for a caper and green peppercorn pesto; as is one for an Apricale speciality of Zabaglione con Le Pansarole. The connection of Coconut and Black sesame popsicles to Apricale seems less clear. Recipes are also offered for Focaccia with green olives and anchovy; for Napolitana Sauce; for a local speciality Rabbit Stew with olives; and Edible candle with mosbolletjie aniseed bread. Apricus Osteria & Bar is featured in this section as well, the venue at which I watched some of the 2018 World Cup soccer matches.
Overall, I am confused about what Chef Jan-Hendrik is wanting to achieve with this publication, a recipe book added to his collection of two current ones seeming to be far more logical. Surely the publication format cannot be to justify the advertorials? The photography and styling does not seem to be of the quality and standard we have become accustomed to in the work by the Chef.
The reviews of the three meals I have enjoyed at JAN Restaurant in Nice are included in both my SwitchBitch Books, while this review of Volume 1 of JAN the JOURNAL, and a summary of the JAN viaTV series. are included in my SwitchBitch Book 2.
JAN the JOURNAL is available at leading book stores and at Woolworths outlets. JAN the Journal Volume 2 was published late last year.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein