Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s new KLEIN JAN Restaurant at Tswalu Kalahari opens its doors for a first peek inside!



In the latest issue of SARIE KOS (Summer 2020), the reader receives a detailed introduction to the new KLEIN JAN restaurant which Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, of Michelin one-star restaurant in Nice, plans to open in November 2020 at Tswalu Private Game Reserve in the Kalahari Desert. It will become even more South African in its cuisine than its big brother JAN.

Chef Jan-Hendrik grew up on a farm near Middleburg in Mpumalanga, where his father farmed with maize and cows. Whilst he built up a world class South African inspired restaurant in Nice in France in the past five years, he wanted to establish a local restaurant back home in our country, after having already opened the door to his second event restaurant MARIA across the road from JAN in Nice two years ago. He did not want to create a carbon-copy of JAN locally, which would have meant a location in Cape Town or Johannesburg. No, he lost his heart to the Kalahari, and the Tswalu Private Game Reserve in it in particular.

It is the dunes, the air, sand, and precious water sources that Chef Jan-Hendrik loves about the Kalahari, and with it the setting sun, and the canopy of stars above, which makes him feel ‘nederig voel en herinner my aan my plek in die wêreld’, making him feel humble and knowing his place in the world. The silence of the desert makes him think better. He fell in love with the open canvas of the area, with limited ingredients, making each precious and treasured, a contrast to the opulence of ingredients which he can find in France.

Sustainability is a key element of the new restaurant, matching the work done on the ecosystem in the Reserve. The restaurant will be using natural sources without eradicating them; the heritage restaurant building is ecologically sensitively enlarged and restored, described as a surprise as to what is inside. The plants and berries found in the Reserve have been researched, studying what can be used in the kitchen without impacting the environment. Seasonal produce is grown on the Reserve or sourced from nearby, the indigenous population also being encouraged to plant fresh produce and supply the restaurant. Jams, cheeses, meat, wines, brandy, vinegar, pickles, pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, Kalahari truffles, and more can be stored in a cellar, for months, so that the restaurant can take patrons on a visual as well as sensory journey of food availability throughout the year.

Nature forms the centre point of all planning at the restaurant, as to which furniture to use in the dry heat, the best time to eat, and more. Chef Jan-Hendrik has been involved with every element of the restaurant, and as a perfectionist it would not have been any other way. The restaurant will be honest and honourable, and unpretentious. The cuisine will be ‘Fine dining met ‘n twist’, such as roosterkoek baked in the sand, simplicity being king in this restaurant. Nostalgia-filled dishes will be served, including barbecued salted doves served as sosaties.

Recipes for some of the dishes to be served at KLEIN JAN are in the latest issue of SARIE KOS, including mushroom macarons filled with Biltong pâté, cinnamon and lime ice cream filled watermelon, sago pudding with Rooibos meringue, and dove and mushroom sosaties.

KLEIN JAN is 263 km from Upington, a journey literally and figuratively, and priced at top Cape restaurant level. Watch the 2021 Eat Out Top 10 restaurant unfold from November 2020, a new threat to our top local restaurants as it is sure to head straight to the top of our best restaurant list.

POSTSCRIPT 11/4/21: Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen opened his Restaurant KLEIN JAN at Tswalu last week, his first proper South African restaurant, something he had been encouraged to do for a number of years.

I have posted a follow-up story this week, summarising what we know about his new restaurant:

Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen finally opens his Restaurant KLEIN JAN in the Kalahari, most expensive restaurant in SA!

KLEIN JAN, Tswalu Private Game Reserve, Kalahari. Instagram:@restaurantkleinjan Opening November 2020.

SARIE KOS, Summer 2020. Instagram: @sarietydskrif @lensingherman R60. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein


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5 replies on “Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s new KLEIN JAN Restaurant at Tswalu Kalahari opens its doors for a first peek inside!”

  1. How I wish that the restaurant was close to where I live, how I would adore visiting it and savouring the unique cuisine. I have watched Jan’s programmes on his restaurants in Nice. I watched many episodes in each sitting and was mighty disappointed when this beautiful series ended.

    The photography was spectacular! I loved the music too.

    I wish Jan all the best in his new venture.

    Thank you Jan for coming back to South Africa, may you be blessed by your cooking in the land of your birth.

    Kind regards

    Heather Botha

  2. Never have I enjoyed a programme as much as the series of Jan in Nice. I binge watched it from beginning to end.
    Having been a flight stewardess for 14 years, I related to all the beautiful places in both France and Italy. Memories brought back by the beautiful scenery and Jan’s gentle humble demeanor made me shed a tear a couple of times.
    Well done Jan. I applaude you. You deserve your success.

    • My name is Jan Muntingh. I grew up as a young boy in that little white house. The farm belonged to my grandfather (also named Jan) We had the farm since the early 1980’s. Spend every holiday on the farm. We had wonderfull years on the farm. Water was a big issue. We had to pump water almost every day for the animals. There was only one borehole. Currently still supplying Tswalu with water. I visited the farm about 8 years ago.

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