Eat & Drink – Out and About with Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen

As you’ll know by now, one of our absolute favourite things in life is food. We’ve covered the best burgers in the world, the history of the Hirata pork bun, and where to find the best restaurants in great cities like Seoul, Stockholm and London. We’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing Niklas Ekstedt, who cooks all of his food using simply soot, ash, smoke and fire – and ultimately earned a Michelin star for it. 

Today we’re beyond thrilled to interview his culinary colleague, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. Born and raised in South Africa and spending much of his childhood in the kitchens of his mother and grandmother, it might sound like the beginning of a classic culinary story.

But Jan is not your ordinary chef, far from it in fact. His creative restlessness has taken him from culinary studies to a degree in photography, as well as working as a contributing writer for magazine ELLE. Today, he splits his time between Cape Town, Paris and the South of France, doing everything from freelance photography to food styling. Oh, and somewhere along the line, he found the time to start his very own Michelin-starred restaurant in Nice.

Basically, Jan is a great guy doing a lot of great stuff. Which is why we met up with him in sunny Nice for a quick chat…

Q: You’ve had quite a busy life so far, it seems. Tell us the one thing that everyone should know about Jan Hendrik?

Ha! Staying busy is easy when you’re having fun. The one thing… Well, I eat creamy scrambled eggs every night the moment I get home. It’s delicious and one of few guilty pleasures that have stuck with me – and hopefully always will.

Q: You were raised in South Africa and currently split your time between Paris, Cape Town and the Côte d’Azur. Is there a common theme, or is it simply the perfect combination?

The places you mention are very much the perfect combination of cultures, trends, and great weather. But apart from that the place I really call home is next to an open campfire in the middle of the bush on our family farm in the Northern part of South Africa. Time stands completely still there – it’s just pure and simple tranquillity.    

Q: In a recent interview a colleague of yours, Gordon Ramsey, said that one of the best decisions he ever made was to take a year off and go work as a chef on a yacht. You did the same! What did you learn from this time in your career?

I have to agree! The small space you work in as well as the timing is to the extreme. Four guests can change their mind and affect the menu, and to improvise and provision in advance is part of the skills I learned then. It was a great few years though and I was very fortunate to work for an awesome family from Stockholm.

Q: An old friend visits Paris for the first time, where do you take them for dinner?

I’ve always been a big fan of the now classic Brasserie Lipp, in Saint-Germain des Pres. The food is as awesome as it its simple, and they’ve been serving it to great people since 1880. I will also, without a doubt, stop on my way home through the night for a crepe with nutella, banana and coconut at a local street vendor.

Q: And what about Nice? We get the impression that you have to dig deep to find the real culinary gems of this city?

I don’t really have time to explore the city and the culinary scene… There is however a small Italian town nearby, which the family I worked for on the yacht introduced me to, called Apricale. It’s only 20 or so minutes away, and it is where I go for my “happy food place”. Restaurant Delios has a menu that hasn’t changed in 10 years. Everything is just delicious.

Q: What should one expect when dining at your restaurant in Nice?

I think from my answers above there’s a clear theme as to what I like. Great food shouldn’t have to be very complicated. Imagine having dinner in your grandmother’s house, served by a French butler. We serve a fixed set menu, which changes every two weeks depicting the market and seasonal produce. Although the food itself is not complicated, the flavours are complex and a lot of attention goes into the presentation.

Q: We’re notorious burger lovers and recently wrote a post about the best burgers in the world. Who serves your favourite burger – and why?

Spur is a family chain restaurant in South Africa… They make a sublime double cheddar mushroom burger with crispy onion rings and fries. When in South Africa, nothing beats this!

Q: Lastly, what made you wear your Corniche watch today?

Time is important to my schedule, and I appreciate aesthetic design and beauty. The Heritage 40 very much delivers on both fronts!

If you’d like to win a free trip to Nice with a tasting menu for two, head over to our Instagram account and join our Valentine’s competition!