Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen is a master of many crafts and believes this is the secret to his success. He chatted to Susan Reynard during a recent trip to South Africa for the launch of “Jan the Journal”.
Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen is a busy creative. In addition to his eponymous Michelin-star restaurant in Nice, France, he launched his inaugural, biannual “Jan the Journal” on 9 May 2018, following on from his first television show last year, and is a curious, travelling, epicurean storyteller.
Jan the Journal is a luxury bi-annual publication that reflects the many facets of this famous young chef,
with 250 pages dedicated to recipes, lifestyle, photography, travel, professional and home cooking, culinary information, products and profiles. Issue 1 is split into six sections: The Table, The Land, The City, The Coast, The Outdoors and The Village. Jan Hendrik says that the Journal is able to keep up with food trends and is better able to reflect his current thinking around food than a traditional cookbook, of which he is also a fan.
Jan Hendrik is a firm believer in the value of the “slash generation” – people who work in a variety of specialist fields at once, hence a slash between their different roles – and is fascinated by the variety of interests that appeal to people in creative professions. “What I really want to tell chefs is that it’s ok to do more than one thing. It’s fine to not just be a chef for the rest of your life. You can be a restaurateur, as proven by David Higgs and Luke Dale Roberts. It’s ok to be a photographer, an artist, a writer. All of these things eventually come together and bring in inspiration from the outside world,” he explains.
Jan Hendrik is social media savvy. “If someone posts a picture of a plate of food and they tag me, we pick it up immediately at the restaurant and check that the table has sufficient light. Rather than discouraging people from taking photos of our dishes, we provide the tools they need to benefit us all. We learn as much as we can about our guests before they arrive and if they are active on social media we allocate them a window table. We also offer a service whereby diners have access to stunning, downloadable, professional photographs of all of the dishes they have just enjoyed, ideal for sharing online,” he explains.
While Jan Hendrik is not a fan of referring to culinary evolution as trends, he highlights a few:
- Return of the dinner party: The Journal starts with a ten-course dinner party with all courses clearly detailed, including one to remove and rest, music playlists, and tips for the host or hostess to achieve maximum enjoyment for guests. In this world, Jan Hendrik looks through the eyes of chef, host and diner.
- Etiquette is coming back: “Life has become too fast, quick, instant, disposable. To have a beautiful, sit-down, ten-course meal that’s light and beautifully orchestrated is the life we should be going back to. Slow down. And don’t forget the flowers.”
- Presentation innovation: He uses old fashioned portraits as platters and presents mignardises as a crown or garment on the person in the image. He uses edible flowers and fruits as vessels for his dishes, including white chocolate and chestnut tulip with kirsch coulis stuffed into a tulip bloom; salmon, beetroot and rose in the centre of a fresh rose; and melon soup in a half-melon.
- Green kitchens rule: He encourages suppliers to his restaurant to deliver in reusable boxes to minimise excess packaging; vigilantly avoids food waste; and stays on top of the latest thinking in water management, green operations, staff training and technology.