October 17, 2019

Time Square’s Ashraf Rodriques prepares food fit for presidents

His love affair with food started at the age of just eight years and Time Square’s newly appointed Executive Sous Chef, Ashraf Rodriques, says he does not foresee this affair ending.

Ashraf has done exceptionally well in the food industry for someone who initially had no intention of making a career out of cooking. 

He has prepared meals for the likes of former US President George W Bush and his family, accomplished food authors and business based overseas. Working in events for the Natal Rugby Union for a short while is where the industry really took hold of him. He relocated to Cape Town to “cut loose” but it was there that “sanity” prevailed.  

“I decided that I needed to settle into a career. As I had always had an interest in cooking, I found a short course being funded by the Cape Town provincial government and signed up,” he tells.

Ashraf completed this course and graduated top of his class which was then followed by him being employed by Beluga Restaurant in Green Point, Cape Town.

“During a very rough time in our industry, when certain restaurants were being bombed in Cape Town, I left to return to Durban.” 

This is where everything changed for Ashraf. Immediately this passionate chef on his intimate journey with food was employed by Marco Nico to head up his new Italian Restaurant, Ciao Itallia. Marco Nico became the biggest influence in Ashraf’s career, “I learnt the most about flavours from him.”

A short four months into his new role at this restaurant, Ashraf received a wonderful accolade when he was rated by a KZN food critic as one of the top 10 chefs in KZN. This was published in The Mercury newspaper.

“This milestone would lead to another huge milestone in my career as I was headhunted by Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve to be the Group Executive Chef, overseeing all three of their lodges.”  Ashraf could not refuse this offer and worked for Sabi Sabi for about two years before relocating once again, this time to the Madikwe Game Reserve. 

At this reserve he was granted a privilege which does not present itself to many chefs on their career paths.  Ashraf had the opportunity of cooking for former US President, George W Bush and his family during their stay there.  I made the Bush family the Ceviche of Swordfish which remains one of my favourite dishes to this day.

Accomplished food author, Rachel Ray, would subsequently publish a recipe of Ashraf’s in one of her books in America, Everyday with Rachel Ray. This is not the only place Ashraf’s recipe knowledge was shared.  He also worked as a recipe consultant for Chef Conrad Gallagher for his business based in Qatar which he says was another career highlight for him.

This dynamic chef’s inspirations can be attributed to his love of fresh flavours and clean meals. “I do like some of the new trends leaning towards Molecular Gastronomy, but I am swayed by my preference for clear flavours over too many components in one meal.” 

His favourite ingredients are basil, tomato and olive oil, and his go-to piece of equipment that he cannot do without is his induction cooker.

Ashraf says that the best advice he could give anyone looking at entering the culinary field is, “If you have a flair for creating wonderful flavour combinations and creative food but also have the temperament to stick to it, then this could be for you. It is tough but very rewarding work.”

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