Neill Anthony on the pros & cons of being a jet-setting 'Private Chef'

The South African TV chef reveals the good, the bad and the ugly parts of his job travelling the globe to feed the rich and famous

20 May 2018 - 00:00 By jess brodie
South African chef Neill Anthony's cooks in kitchens all over the world.
South African chef Neill Anthony's cooks in kitchens all over the world.
Image: Supplied

South African chef Neill Anthony spent 10 years in Europe, honing his skills in the professional kitchens of Gordon Ramsay, Alyn Williams, Jerome Henry and Marcus Wareing.

As a private chef, his clients include Madonna, Victoria Beckham, Elton John and U2.

His TV show Private Chef is syndicated by the Food Channel to 160 countries, and its third season premiered this week on DStv.

Filmed on location, this season focuses on the Cape Winelands and features big, relaxed dinner parties. These are juxtaposed against episodes featuring Johannesburg's stark urban aesthetic.

We spoke to the chef on the phone from Cairo, where he had just landed to prepare to cook for middle-eastern royalty during Ramadan.

What's the appeal of private cheffing?

"I have such wanderlust. I really responded to the idea of permanent creation and destruction, of arriving, making a wonderful moment for people and then disappearing again.

"I considered how, as a private chef, I am in such close quarters with the guests. I love cooking for people and seeing their reactions, and being a part of their lives for a few hours."

WATCH | The trailer for season three of Private Chef 

The good, the bad and the ugly parts of your job?

"The good is seeing the world, and doing what I love. This year alone I've cooked in Johannesburg, Cape Town, London, Riyadh, LA and Cairo. I'm living the dream - constant exposure to new cultures. Beyond broadening my palate, I'm being exposed to an entirely new world.

"The bad is the near-constant lack of sleep. The hours can be gruelling. I get travel fatigue and keep losing my double adapters.

"The ugly? Admin! Keeping track of paperwork. It's hard enough when I'm at home, but on the road it's impossible."

What do you love about feeding people?

"Food has the most amazing transformative power. You can bring a mismatch of people together, strangers, different cultures, different walks of life and if you put them at a table with food and good wine, it blurs all lines, black and white, rich and poor. Food brings us all together."

I hate washing up, so I'm always trying to optimize by using as few pans as possible
Chef Neill Anthony

Do you cook for yourself?

"I love cooking at home. It's one of my joys. My missus is vegetarian, so I cook lots of vegetables, which pushes my creativity.

"I hate washing up, so I'm always trying to optimize by using as few pans as possible.

"This time of year, I love an Indian-inspired one-pot-wonder. Freshen it up with a crunchy side salad."

Essential kitchen tools?

"My top chef holy trinity are the real chef tools: Pacojet, Thermomix and a vacuum sealer.

"When I am cooking at home I would say a mandoline, a sharp chef knife. Oh, and good, unperforated, strong clingfilm. Also, a big wooden chopping board. I could conquer the world from my kitchen with those things."

What's always in your fridge?

"Parmesan cheese, local butter, cold Maltesers."

Team butter or team olive oil?

"I cook with more olive oil, I use it to start the cooking process, but I like butter for finishing. I really love butter. I don't think that's a fair question, those two are soulmates, they belong together!"