Peter Tempelhoff, first Sunday Times Chef of the Year in 2007, tells Hilary Biller about his favourite kitchen skill, sous vide
What is sous vide? It is vacuum packing an ingredient in a bag containing a flavouring - such as olive oil, butter, stock, syrup, seasoning - then cooking it at the desired temperature (usually below 85°C) in a water bath for the correct amount of time. It was first used in the US in the 1940s and more recently has been adopted by European professionals, most notably the French scientist and chef Bruno Goussault.
Is it not just "boil in the bag"? The water is never above 85°C so it is more like poach in the bag.
Why do you believe the sous vide method gives you the edge in the kitchen? It eradicates a lot of the human-error factor. If applied correctly, it ensures absolute consistency, which is vital in a kitchen.
Can sous vide be done at home? Absolutely. If your oven can go down to 60°C and you have an oven thermometer, it is a cinch. Simply place a deep tray of water in the oven and heat until the water reaches 60°C. It is ideal if you can get your meat vacuum-packed by your local butcher. If not, roll it tightly in plastic wrap and tie the ends to ensure that no air is in the parcel. Immerse the parcel in the hot water and cook for about 40-90 minutes for prime cuts, and 3-5 hours for tough cuts.
Does cooking in a plastic bag for a prolonged period pose any health risks? There are a couple of tips when using the sous vide method. Always work with clean equipment and the freshest ingredients. If cooking temperatures are below 60°C, it is necessary to pasteurise before or sear after cooking. Chilling products fast after cooking is key to better shelf life, health and safety.
What has been your best discovery in applying the sous vide method? It is great for tempering large quantities of chocolate.
Peter Tempelhoff is executive chef at the Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort in Constantia, Cape Town.
Sunday Times Chef Of The Year 2012 in association with Foodcorp
THE 2012 Sunday Times Chef of the Year competition, in association with Foodcorp, presents challenges that test skill, dexterity and imagination in the kitchen.
The Sunday Times launched the Food Awards in 2007, and every year the number of entries and level of skills have risen, making this one of South Africa's most coveted titles. This year the categories have shifted slightly to encompass a range of ages and stages of expertise.
All entrants must be resident in South Africa and must submit an original menu reflective of modern South African cuisine, using ingredients from a specified list (see entry forms), including full recipes and a photograph of each dish.
*CHEF OF THE YEAR (first prize R50000, second R15000, third R5000) is open to professional chefs over 30.
*YOUNG CHEF OF THE YEAR (first prize R20000, second R5000, third R2000) is open to qualified chefs between 25 and 30.
*JUNIOR CHEF OF THE YEAR (first prize R10000, second R2000, third R1000) is open to qualified chefs under 25.
*STALWART OF THE KITCHEN (first prize R10000, plus R1000 for each finalist) is open to cooks and chefs over the age of 35 who have never entered a competition before.
This is for those whose work forms the backbone of the kitchen. They do not need a professional qualification.
HEAD JUDGE: Andrew Atkinson (executive chef at Michelangelo Hotel and MasterChef SA judge)
KITCHEN JUDGE: Arnold Tanzer (Sunday Times Chef of the Year in 2008 and culinary producer for MasterChef SA)
Hilary Biller, editor, Sunday Times Food Weekly; Jackie Cameron, executive chef at Hartford House, KwaZulu-Natal; Michael le Borgne, executive chef at Foodcorp's Innovation Centre, The 7th Floor; Reuben Riffel, chef patron of Reuben's Restaurant, Franschhoek; Andrew Unsworth, editor of Sunday Times Travel Weekly.
HOW TO ENTER:
. Entries must be received by Friday September 14 2012.
. Finalists will be notified by Friday September 21.
. The finals will take place at The 7th Floor, Foodcorp's Innovation Centre, from October 2 to 4.
For full details, rules, guidelines, lists of required ingredients and competition entry forms, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit and Like us on www.facebook.com/sundaytimeschefoftheyear PLUS follow us @STChef2012