Restaurant Showcase - Chef Absa Wows at Just Cuban
Patrons can enjoy great food styled by consulting chef Absalom Kotsokoane (Chef Absa), as well as a broad palette of whiskeys and luxury refreshments, while live entertainment provides the backdrop for new friendships and partnerships. Kim Crowie, Editor of SA Chef, caught up with him to find out more.
Tell me about your journey into cheffing and how you landed at Just Cuban. What do you enjoy about the venue and its kitchen?
Cooking is being an inspiration from mother, grandmother and aunts. When I was asked to cook for group of women on Women’s Day I realised I love it. Furthermore, I was booked to do catering and everyone would be asked if I am qualified. In 2016 i qualified to be on sponsored course through red meat industry forum and trained at HTA Culinary School and South African Chef Association, and the rest is history.
Just Cuban was honestly a referral from a friend of mine to assist with kitchen. However, I was already gaining momentum with clients so I thought it would be a short-lived, and so I move with my work. It has become a home, a training base for other young chefs and also an opportunity to show customers what I love about this industry and my passion and skills. I love the diversity of people, the willingness of customers to explore more than what they know. Furthermore, the ability to change things and bring innovative ideas and cooking – that’s my ultimate favourite!
You style each plate yourself – what goes into the creative process when it comes to food styling? (and as a side note, I love the dish presented on a sword!)
I am inspired by small, odd things, and the easy way to explain is that I am an artist before I am a chef. So colour, texture and instruments all play a role in concept development. What people hate is what interests me. It’s never broken until I have used it!
You’re all about bringing sophistication through simplicity. Tell me how the menu came together?
It’s not as simple and easy as people would say. It’s a holistic approach to ensure that you cover all angles, as well as the vision of the restaurant and where you want to take it. Customers are part of kitchen, and that experience of finishing a dish in front of them is absolutely a treat and a treasure.
I love that there are so many options on the menu – from vegetarian and vegan to game meat. Why the variety? And how does it feed into the current food trends in the industry?
The world is moving into anything healthy, options that suit current trends and food that leaves you speechless. We have different ways of cooking and it’s important to communicate that with guests. South Africa is such an interesting piece of art that needs to be celebrated, and also we need to know what we have, taste it, eat it and share it. Our approach is to celebrate SA’s diverse ingredients in sophisticated and healthy ways.
What are your thoughts on the wider culinary sector, where do you see an opportunity, what can we do better?
I adopt five young chefs every year that I work with for functions, life and mentorship, and one in culinary school that I am paying for. We have so much to give back and train even beyond the school. ‘Each one, teach one’ is a concept that we need to live by and practice. Share knowledge and information as much as possible.
Opportunities are there, but we need to understand what it means to give ‘service’, presentation and quality of products. Word of mouth is the best tool you can use. You are as good as your last event.
If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?
Well I have cooked already for famous actors, celebrities, soccer players, musicians. I think dinner with the President is next on my list!
A Taste of Just Cuban’s Menu
- Spicy Cauliflower Bites with mummus, mixed peppers and roasted nuts
- Pea Pesto With Beetroot Chips served with beetroot puree and sweet potato skin
- Chicken Lollipops and Chicken and Prawn Croquettes with soya and honey glaze/BBQ sauce with chilli
- Slow-Cooked Duck served with noodles and mixed vegetables
- Ropa Vieja – slow-cooked beef, tomato, onion, spices served with black beans and herb salad
Congri – white rice and black beans with onion, garlic, spices and parsley, broccoli and butternut
- Cous Cous and Roasted Butternut served with oven-baked beetroot and garden salad
- Peri-Peri Prawns and Calamari dressed in dill and tomato sauce
- Pangasius served with a medley of steamed vegetables
- Kudu Fillet served with traditional pap croquettes, tomato radish and herb salad
- Crocodile Croquettes served with chilli, coriander and red onion, with herb and beetroot side salad
- Impala Fillet served with sweet potato puree, baby carrots and green beans topped with a rich jus
- Ostrich Fillet with garden pea puree, crispy potato skins, orange and cinnamon flavoured butternut, drizzled with a hearty juice
To view the full menu, visit www.justcuban.co.za. Just Cuban is located on 129 Duxbury Road, Tshwane.