Chef Name: Chantel Dartnall
Title: Patron/Chef Owner.
Chantel Dartnall and Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient have been awarded a wide variety of international and local awards. Some of these include:
LaListe – 2020 Country Winner 94 %
LaListe Top 200 International selection 2020
LaListe The Best Wine List 2019
Wine Spectator – Grand Award 2019
The Best Chef Awards 2019 Top 300 in the world
The Best Chef Awards 2018 Top 300 in the world
The Best Chef Awards 2017 – The Best Lady Chef 2017
World of Fine Wine “World’s Best Wine Lists Awards” 2019
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
17 years old.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
Francolin’s forest fungi. Francolin Conservancy forms part of a small sliver of South Africa’s ecosystem called the Middleveld, wedged in between the Highveld to the south and the Lowveld just across the ridge to the north. It’s a small but geologically complex region that lies north of Johannesburg and is known for its dry winter grasslands, thankful for every drop of rain received during the (normally) wet summer seasons. This is when it is a delight for me to disappear into the forested ravines draining the numerous small fountains from the high rugged cliffs onto the fertile plains where the antelope roam. It is in these gullies, in the coolness of the shady overhangs of the White Stinkwood and Wild African Olive trees, where you will find lush ferns, wild lilies and extraordinary grass orchids surrounded by the most stunningly beautiful exotic fungi and mushrooms, creating their own miniature wonderland. In that moment I was so inspired to present this scene in my restaurant that I headed to the kitchen and started cooking . . . and most of my experiences are like that.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
When discovering more about my personal style of cooking on my return to South Africa, the advantages of the information age led me to discover one of the great pioneers of botanical cuisine, Chef Michel Bras, in Aubrac, France. Although I did not work in his kitchen, I studied his book, his recipes and his philosophy. With the ease of travel today, I have been fortunate to make the culinary pilgrimage to his restaurant on two occasions.
Later during my career, annual visits to prominent chefs around the world led me to discover Martín Berasategui, Pedro Subijana at Akelarre, Pascal Barbot at L’Astrance and Peter Goossens at Hof van Cleve in Belgium, to name but a few. Although I did not work in any of these kitchens, I have been fortunate enough to have met these chefs in their kitchens and ask questions about their food philosophy. In some or other way they were all mentors who guided me at different points in my career.
But since I had the great pleasure to visit to the misty and floral plateaus of Aubrac to discover the botanical creations of the great master Michel Bras, he has been the greatest inspiration for my own cuisine throughout my career.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras. I received this book from my parents when I returned from England, where I worked as a commis chef. At that time it was only published in French and was very hard to find. The book is now 15 years old and is still one of my most beautiful cookbooks featuring Chef Michel Bras’ botanical cuisine
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Lemongrass and white Italian balsamic honey.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
Eleven Madison Park. This restaurant has always been on my bucket list and I have always been an incredible fan of Chef Daniel Humm but I have not managed to explore America yet.
And who would you take as your guest?
Without a doubt I would say my family, as they have shared every step of my culinary journey with me, but recently I have encountered many young chefs who require career guidance and could benefit greatly from an experience at a Three Michelin Star establishment.
What do you look for in a good chef?
Passion, a creative eye, the uncontrollable desire for knowledge, and a burning eagerness to succeed.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
Develop your palate – it is the most important tool and aspect of being a chef. I always say to each new chef that enters my kitchen ‘taste, taste and taste again, don’t let anything pass you by without having a taste’.
Chantel Dartnall is Patron/Chef Owner at Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient.
Address: The Orient Boutique Hotel in the Francolin Conservation Area, Crocodile River Valley, Elandsfontein, Pretoria, South Africa.
Telephone: +27(0)12 371 2902/3/4/5