The Sport of Cooking
When 23-year-old Peter Duncan was growing up in the small town of Saron in the Western Cape, he had little interest in fine dining and no thought of cheffing as a career.
“I was only really interested in sport,” he says, “and I had a family and a community that supported and encouraged me in my sporting ambitions.”
All that changed however when Duncan visited Franschhoek at the age of 15 and was offered a holiday job at Reuben’s Restaurant & Bar, working under Chef Maritz Jacobs.
“To be honest, it was the worst experience of my life, but oddly enough I fell in love with the idea of food service being a sport and decided to pursue a career in food and hospitality. I researched a number of different chef schools while I was busy with my matric, and came across The Private Hotel School in Stellenbosch. But I arrived a day late and I was told that my tardiness meant that I could not be accepted,” he recounts.
“I was bitterly disappointed and when asked what I should do for the next six months before the start of the new semester, The Private Hotel School arranged a work opportunity for that period under the mentorship of Chef Constantijn Hahndiek. When the six months were up and I eventually enrolled, I did an advanced certificate in hospitality management and culinary specialisation.”
During his studies, Duncan – along with fellow student Carmen Eksteen – who went on to work with top US baker and cronut inventor Dominique Ansel in New York last year – represented the school at the One&Only Reaching for Young Stars Competition in 2015 and was placed second. (Another Private Hotel School student – Rutendo Ruth Marovatsanga – won the top award of Young Star Chef of the Year at the same competition last year and now works in Dubai.)
So how did Duncan land his first post-graduation job at the acclaimed (but now closed) Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek under chef Margot Janse?
“I had read and heard so much about Chef Margot and The Tasting Room so I asked The Private Hotel School’s director of academic development, Susina Jooste if she could help get me a position at the restaurant. She arranged for me to meet with Chef Gerald van der Walt and luckily I got the opportunity to start my internship placement there.”
When The Tasting Room closed its doors in April 2017, Scott Kirton, executive chef at La Petite Colombe snapped up the rising young star and Duncan found himself part of the La Colombe family as chef de partie. In a short space of time, Duncan worked his way up to the position of junior sous chef and then moved to the award-winning La Colombe in Constantia to take up the position of Junior Sous Chef. Recently, Duncan was promoted to Senior Sous Chef at La Colombe, proving that this young man is on the up and up in the culinary world!
With his ambition to work even harder and be at the top of his game within the next five years, the Franschhoek-based Duncan is certainly one to watch. He may even become a name known in local culinary circles joining the likes of Jacobs, van der Walt, Kirton, Janse and his other food heroes.