Celeb chef David Higgs is cooking up lots of exciting new things

The busy chef dishes about the latest season of 'My Kitchen Rules SA', his collaboration with UCook, gourmet convenience store and more

03 October 2021 - 00:01
Chef David Higgs.
Chef David Higgs.
Image: Christoph Hoffman/Sunday Times

Acclaimed chef David Higgs has two — about to be three — top restaurants in Joburg, stars as a judge on the third season of the competitive cooking show, My Kitchen Rules SA, and has signed on as a guest chef for the popular meal kit delivery service, UCook. To top it all off, he's working on opening a new style of convenience store.

We caught up with him to find out more:

You've got a lot on the go right now. What fuels this energy?

Adrenalin! No, really, we do have a lot going on. But I have an incredible team at Marble and Saint restaurants, and we're busy building up the teams for Zioux [our new restaurant] and The Pantry [our new convenience store].

My business partner Gary Kyriacou is incredibly supportive with the work I am doing as guest chef for UCook and judge on My Kitchen Rules SA, and so it makes it easier.

Is there an element you enjoy most — bring behind the stove, sharing your skills or being on camera?

I think one of my favourite things about the My Kitchen Rules SA TV show is that I get to work with my friend J'Something. This is our third season together and we really do have a lot of fun.

That teaching element is what I really enjoy, from the feedback on My Kitchen Rules SA, to the online stuff I do, to partnering with UCook — I've even owned a cooking school. I love sharing knowledge.

It's not often one gets to cook and learn all the tips of a top chef in a virtual cooking class. What inspired you to partner with UCook on this venture?

This is the second time I've partnered with UCOOK, and it's provided the most incredible opportunity for me to take my recipes into people's homes. It means they can experience the recipes and the cook first-hand. (Scroll down for one of Higgs' Ucook recipes.)

You made the most of lockdown with all the innovative YouTube clips and cook-offs for charity. What's it like being back at work, and how have you and partner Gary's restaurants survived this particularly tough time for the local hospitality industry?

Being back at work is great, but through the lockdown we've gained a lot of perspective and it was a break that was probably needed. Maybe not the length, but just the timing. We've had incredible support from our customers since reopening, and our team really appreciates everyone dining out again.

The new series of My Kitchen Rules SA has just kicked off on M-Net. What are the dishes that have stood out for you?

I can't think of one particular dish, but I do know that the winning dishes all have a back story — there's meaning behind the dish, the menu and where it originates from. And then alongside this originality we also want to see an element of creativity. It must be authentic, and flavour is everything. All these elements must be present.

With all cooking/food shows, particularly in SA, TV practice seems to make more perfect. What can the viewers expect from this series of My Kitchen Rules SA?

With everything that's happened over last two years it's been an opportunity for the producers and production company to rethink the show a little bit and give it a fresh angle.

Also, for me to make it a little bit quirky — both J'Something and I have been doing a lot of stuff during lockdown which we've been able to incorporate into the show.

Coming through lockdown, we saw a lot more people cooking — skills are up, and people have really developed an interest in cooking both from a contestant and a viewership point of view. The show itself was filmed in a bubble, with maximum precautions being taken to ensure everyone was Covid-19 negative and safe.

Marble restaurant is famous for cooking over that unique wood fire. What do you think this brings to the table?

Fire brings an entirely new angle to cooking — the flavour and dimension that fire gives the food, and how the smoke provides such a variety of options with flavour profiles, make it unique. Besides meat, what I love most about fire is how it gives amazing flavour and character to vegetables cooked over the flame.

What are your popular choices for cooking over the coals when you braai at home?

I love a good steak, or even chicken cooked on the braai. And then my favourite side, something I ate in Sweden a good couple of years ago and makes a great meal, is a classic creamy potato bake layered with good quality white anchovies and topped with gruyère cheese. So it's a beautiful combination of salty, sweet from the cream and garlic, and such a simple dish — but the addition of the salty anchovies changes the whole thing. It's a great dish alongside anything from the braai.

You have a passion for veggies cooked over the fire — something we South Africans forget about.

Everything tastes better when cooked over the coals! Some of my favourites are cauliflower, aubergine, asparagus, peppers and corn. Cauliflower steak is one of the nicest things together with thin lamb sausage.

What's next for you?

There's still a good couple of things on the radar — Zioux will open in November, and The Pantry will open around that time too. That's something I'm really excited about — it will offer everything from apples to zucchini and we're trying to collaborate with as many food entrepreneurs as we can. We're also busy developing our hot food, deli and takeaway offerings, so there's lots on the go. Maybe if I have some free time I'll ride my mountain bike!

David Higgs's Golden Chorizo Mussels
David Higgs's Golden Chorizo Mussels
Image: UCOOK

TRY ONE OF HIGGS' RECIPES FOR UCOOK

GOLDEN CHORIZO MUSSELS

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

Olive oil and butter

200g corn

60g chorizo, sliced into rounds

10ml (2 tsp) vegetable stock powder

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, grated

125ml (½ cup) white wine to which a small pinch of saffron has been added

175ml fresh cream

400g half shell mussels

Salt and pepper

1 lemon, zest and juice

A small handful of parsley, chopped

To serve:

1 lemon cut into quarters

Baguette rounds, 2-3cm thick, spread with garlic butter and toasted

Method:

  1. Place a pan over high heat with a drizzle of olive oil, add the corn and fry for 3-5 minutes until charred. Season, remove from the pan and set aside and keep warm.
  2. Return the pan to medium-high heat and when hot add the chorizo rounds and fry for 3-5 minutes, flipping them halfway through. They must be golden and crisp. Remove from the pan, drain on paper towel.
  3. Dilute the stock in 200ml boiling water.
  4. For the mussels, place a pot over medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil and a knob of butter. When hot add the diced onion and fry for 3-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add in half the garlic, chorizo and half the corn and fry for 1 minute until fragrant, shifting constantly.
  5. Stir through the golden wine and leave to reduce until almost all evaporates. Reduce the heat to low and stir though the cream and stock. Mix until fully incorporated.
  6. Add the mussels and some seasoning to taste. Pop the lid on and leave to simmer for 3-5 minutes until the mussels are heated through and cooked.
  7. Remove from the heat, stir through the lemon zest, check for seasoning.
  8. Divide into bowls and sprinkle with parsley, the remaining charred corn and chorizo. Squeeze over lemon juice and serve with lemon wedges and golden, garlicky baguette slices to mop up the lovely juices.

Wine pairing: Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir


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