In Search of Hidden Gems

For this year of indulgence we have chosen to take you on a gastronomic journey orientated around some of the most talented Chefs of the continent.  Some of the chefs featured on the itinerary of the month are known worldwide and have a long-term reputation.

But let us not forget that the New Year is all about novelty and new discoveries.

For this reason Travel by XO has decided to present to you a rising star on the South African  restaurant map whose restaurant is rapidly growing in prestige and popularity due to its outstanding menu and great location – drum roll please for Chef Pieter Vlok and his restaurant Mont Marie.

Nestled within a Wine Estate in the heart of the Cape Winelands , the restaurant Mont Marie is a place with a feel of casual luxury that will surprise all your senses.

View from Mont Marie

View from Mont Marie

Mont Marie is a visual delight:  Enter through the white gates of the estate and drive along the small road surrounded by vines before you arrive at the restaurant.

You are received with a warm welcome and if you wish you can take a seat on the terrace. The restaurant interiors are  very chic with stylish pieces of furniture beautifully  arranged to make you  feel comfortable and allowing you to admire the spectacular view of the dam and the surrounding mountains.

Indoor seating area

Indoor seating area

The dining experience is completed by a  masterful set of waiters who make sure every guest is satisfied and the atmosphere stays relaxed and joyful.

Chef Pieter Vlok and his team of chefs bring to the table an explosion of flavours and textures .

29 years old Chef Pieter Vlok was born and raised in Stellenbosch. He originally studied commerce before deciding that his real passion was to cook.

He graduated from  Warwick’s Chef School before starting to work for some of the greatest chefs in South Africa such as Bertus Basson (chef of Overture at Hidden Valley). He opened Mont Marie in 2013 and started creating his own  menu of wonderful, tasty dishes. The menu changes seasonally according to the availability of local produce.

Allow us to present you this young and dynamic chef in this month’s exclusive interview with Travel By XO:

Describe yourself in 3 words

Creative, local & passionate

Chef Pieter Vlok

Chef Pieter Vlok

What is the major quality of a great chef?

The ability of thinking while creating and ending up with something more amazing than what you had envisioned in the first place

What experience do you want your guests to have?

Mind blowing and simple at the same time to create a true explosion of flavours

Could you describe the culinary masterpiece on your menu?
The springbok loin for 4 people

Editor’s Note: As a gift for the new year here the recipe:

Ingredients:
200g springbok loin
50g Butter
20g Fresh Italian parsley
10g Fresh thyme leaves
10g Fresh rosemary
10ml Olive oil
Pinch Salt and pepper

Method:
Preheat the oven at 180C
Mix all herb crust ingredients in a food processor until smooth
Roll smooth herbs into chopping board with rolling pin
Leave overnight in the fridge to set
Once set, cut in square (according to the loin portion)
Season the springbok with spice rub and seal in a pan with olive oil
Place portioned herb crust on each portion of loin and place in the oven till cooked to your satisfaction

Serve with beetroot, pea puree and baby potatoes.

Christmas is coming up, how are you planning to create a festive feeling with your menu?

Christmas is about spending time with family, friends and loved ones. For this reason we created a non-fussy, mouth-watering but yet simple menu with dishes that everybody can relate with.

What is the perfect Christmas dish for you? And how would you personalize it?

My perfect Christmas dish is a roast leg of lamb with red wine juice and grilled vegetables. It is something for dad, which mom prepared with love and friends and family can enjoy as well.

Did you always know you wanted to become a chef?

I always knew that I wanted to cook and prepare good food for friends, but I did not wanted to be a chef… I thought it to be too hard and that it was too much of a ladies world until I had my first experience in a restaurant’s kitchen. The rest is history leading to Mont Marie.

Macaron and Ice Cream

Macaron and Ice Cream

Would you like to share a favourite kitchen disaster story?

I overslept one morning on a function day where I was supposed to start at 8h00 and showed up at 9h00 for work. My boss made me peel potatoes and clean the fat traps for the whole week.

You’re stranded on a desert island. What four items would you want with you?

My braai (barbecue) tongs, a good steak, great wine and fishing rod

If you were being executed tomorrow, what would be your last meal?

I would like to try my own pork belly with a glass of Bordeaux blend

Pork Belly

Pork Belly

What could you not work without?
My knives and chefs

Where do you create new recipes?

My kitchen at home is my ‘test kitchen”, so whatever I have in mind, goes to my menu after being tried out in my personal kitchen

Are you curious about foreign cuisines? Have you ever adapted a recipe from another country that inspired you?

I love the thrill of learning new cuisines, but with the products that are available in South Africa, “local is lekker” (good in Afrikaans) and being creative in such an amazing country, is such a challenge and honour

What is your personal favourite restaurant? Where do you like to indulge?

Editor’s Note: Chef Pieter clearly has a sense of humour

My favourite restaurant is Mont Marie, I have not eaten there yet, but from what I heard, it is the place to dine and have great wines!

What’s your favourite thing about the Winelands and Stellenbosch?

I love the Winelands because of diversity of restaurants that shoot up over the last 3 years. Everybody have something different to offer and I enjoy the fact that you can sit on a wine farm under a huge tree with a fabulous view. For me, this is unbeatable

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