December 19, 2018

Maximillien’s Head Chef Sylvester Nair Turns Heads


sylvester nair

Head Chef at Maximillien in the heart of Sandton, Sylvester Nair is turning heads and
enticing palates. We chat to him to find out what makes him tick.

With a burning passion for cooking that was ignited as a child, Chef Sylvester always knew a great dish when he saw it. A designer of flavours and composer of tastes, he has been in the kitchen since the age of nine, mastering the craft of creating delicacies to relish with his father – respected internationally renowned chef, Luke Nair, Head Chef of Oyster Box Durban.

Learning from the best, Chef Sylvester, who hails from Durban, has dedicated his life to the love of food and tallied up a perfect résumé, having completed his studies at the Culinary Academy at Backsberg Wine Estate before working at several of South Africa’s leading restaurants.

A dry sense of humour and a wicked laugh make Chef Sylvester a treat, and his clear pride and joy in every dish he creates is something to behold. He admits that he loves to make people happy, and he speaks through his food – when he sees people enjoying their meal and having a fantastic dining experience, it truly makes him happiest.

He not only brings top-notch culinary experience to Maximillien but will also be created and designed a new menu for Maximillien.  The new menu will embrace many of Chef Sylvester’s memorable ‘signature dishes’, such as butter chicken curry and pan-fried buttermilk squid tentacles to mention a few.

Chef Sylvester places his own touch on the dishes, including nasturtium garnishes, jasmine flavoured pearls and rice coloured with squid ink to give a different spin on a side dish.

How did you discover your identity as a chef?

I have followed in my Father’s footsteps who is the Head Chef of Oyster Box Durban, Luke Nair. I have been in the Kitchen from the age of 9 years old mastering delicacies to relish with my father.

When did you know what kind of food you wanted to cook?

I initially brought back old school cuisine with a modern twist, now  I’m still discovering that every day is a learning curve and currently just finished French cuisine and busy with New York style. I’ve introduced fresh clean flavours with fine dining that is still comforting but looks fantastic and is good for you. Modern and funky, yet still classical and full of flavour.

What ingredients are you experimenting with?

Right now, whatever is in season and fresh, definitely nothing frozen and we are one for four restaurants serving Wagyu. One of my favourite herbs to cook with is Coriander.

What do you hope your legacy will be?

My Authenticity – happy and passionate about food. When I see people happy and having a fantastic dining experience, I’m truly at my happiest.

Which food trends have you embraced?

Indian Fusion, French experimental, molecular gastronomy and right now New York.

What is your favourite part of your day in the kitchen?

Dinner service because of the adrenalin that I feel during service is very rewarding when you walk out and meet with the patron that is happy with what they have just experienced. And not forgetting the music of the pots and pans in the kitchen.

Which dishes do you cook for your family and friends?

Butter Chicken Curry this was one of the dishes that my father taught me.

What are the biggest mistakes up and coming chefs make?

They get tired too quickly, they have more concerns about the dots and lines on the plates rather than concentrating on the basic knowledge of the food and the actual flavour. You have to be passionate to be in this industry the hours are long

Do you engage with other chefs to share inspiration and learn from each other?

Yes, but I am new in Sandton so I am not familiar with very many chefs but being my father’s son and everlasting student, he is just a phone call away.

About Maximillien
Located in the bustling heart of Sandton, with easy access from Nelson Mandela Square and Sandton City, this is the place to go if you are looking for great food, attentive service and the gentle, melodic strains of a live piano playing in the background.

At Maximillien, our meticulous attention to detail and relentless pursuit of service excellence are of equal importance as serving only the most mouth-watering dishes. All dishes are prepared using only the finest ingredients that are sourced and our friendly, polite and attentive waitrons aim to make every dining experience a memorable one.

Maximillien provides a variety of dining opportunities ideal for a hearty breakfast, a quick business lunch and a leisurely dinner. A convivial atmosphere, warm lighting, and contemporary meets classic aesthetic welcomes diners at the door and is beautifully complemented by an ethic of providing a high-quality dining service to accompany fine quality food.