Duncan Welgemoed has launched his brand new restaurant in Norwood, sister branch to the very popular Africola restaurant.
After popular demand, Africola Canteen has been designed for casual dining but with the same big, bold and delightful flavours from Duncan’s dishes at Africola. Takeout will also be available to customers who fancy a night in, too.
Joel Tisato, previously the senior sous chef for Africola, has taken on the role of canteen head chef.
The food style combines a variety of cuisines, as Duncan’s cooking career has so far taken him worldwide and covers a wide range of ingredients he loves working with.
The idea behind the food, explains owner and chef, Duncan Welgemoed, is creating dishes that are sugar and carb-free to give customers a multi-cuiine healthkick – all with quality ingredients sourced locally.
Everyday eating for the over educated and under paid, as he puts it!
“My food style is completely my own. Africola itself is a single narrative restaurant and that narrative is big flavours and laser-sharp cooking using the best militantly-seasonal ingredients,” he says.
The canteen also stocks zero-alcohol drinks including organic sodas and kombuchas.
On the menu includes sashimi with buckwheat, mullet and falafel with tahini cream.
And seeing the menu, there’s no doubt of the African influences through the dishes, among others.
As a proud South African, Duncan describes his culinary range as a love letter to his childhood. Born and bred in Johannesburg, South Africa and, where his father was also a chef, Duncan was immersed in cooking from the day he could roll a meatball! Growing up eating and cooking both Portuguese and African dishes, Duncan cultivated his palate from an early age.
Duncan’s training began in the UK where he counts himself lucky to have worked under some quality chefs, including Michael North, currently at the Nut tree in Murcott. Michael was a huge influence in his training and his cooking.
“I still regard him as one of the best cooks in the world,” Duncan recalls.
It was by the age of 21, while working as head chef at The Goose at Britwell Salome, Oxford that Duncan was awarded a Michelin Star.
The ideas for new creations spring come from everywhere…and nowhere.
“I can look at an ingredient that reminds of a dish I ate in Oaxaca 4 years ago, which would go well with a ferment we made 12 months ago,” says Duncan.
“I’ll mix the two and season it with something that’s exciting us today.”
To source ingredients, Duncan travels extensively throughout the state and no further. Whether it’s oils, salts, sugar, spirits, wine or vegetables, every ingredient is local.
His food is cooked on ashes or on fire using traditional methods, such as in cast-iron pots. Duncan uses a variety of ingredients to conjure up homemade biltong, smoked mackerel, tahini sauce and whole smoked pig South African/Australian style. Duncan has published his book, Slow Food, Fast Words, containing some of his most popular recipes.
“My food philosophy and life mentor is Marco Pierre White, someone who means a great deal to me. He’s a man that can create the most romantic ideas from gastronomy, juxtapose it with razor sharp wit and season it with a healthy dose of cynicism.”
Raymond Blanc is another of Duncan’s role models. “The feminine, natural touches of food, the respect of Mother Nature, the importance of seasoning is something I’ll always carry with me.”
The freedom of being a chef
Despite how the industry can grind down even the most dedicated chefs, Duncan recognises that with the hard work comes the freedom of travelling in his career and watching his staff develop.
Travelling the world three times over, Duncan feels he has connected with the earth and the world around, has met some of his heroes and is building a long-lasting legacy for his children.
“The connections you make with your staff and watching them go off and grow is something I also hold dear. “It’s a tough industry but it’s home,” he says.
Historically, hospitality jobs are perceived to have high hours and low pay, but the industry is slowly changing. Duncan runs a rota that ensure his staff work no more than 40 hours per week and pays above the average wage.
To cut down on resources, Duncan works directly with growers, which also makes sure they keep more of their earnings. Duncan believes in zero waste, composting leftovers and using only what he needs.
When it comes to ingredients, the team use shellfish, such as clams, oysters and invasive river fish. The beef comes from old dairy cows or buffalo steers.
“Being connected with the food you cook is the first and most important step in addressing better practices in the kitchen and everything flows from there.”
Duncan’s book of recipes, including roast rib of beef with pap (polenta), kingfish muamba and firepit sausages, can be found at:
Duncan can be found on Instagram at @africola or check out the website at www.africola.com.au