Father’s Day Focus: Chef Henry Vigar

Henry Vigar

In the lead-up to Father’s Day, we’re looking back on the interviews we did with five of our favourite foodie dads and their little ones (who may not be so little anymore). Keep an eye on our social media channels to see who will be featured next!

“As a chef, you have practice being sleep deprived,” laughs Henry Vigar. Father to Isabelle, nine months, and husband to Mari, Henry says the biggest challenge is working nights and not having enough hours in the day. Chef-patron of La Mouette in Sea Point, he began his culinary career when he was just 14 years old. The British-born chef has sharpened knives in kitchens across France, Australia and London – crafting his special brand of fine dining: a touch French and a whole lot modern-creative.

He met Mari (front-of-house) when he was the head chef at Kensington Place in London’s Notting Hill. The pair quickly fell in love and relocated to Mari’s native South Africa to pursue their shared dream of opening their own restaurant. The couple lucked out with their setting: an old Tudor-style building in Sea Point’s Regent Road. The grand, double-storey house once belonged to the mayor of Cape Town. They opened the restaurant in 2010 – with business partner Gerrit Bruwer – and have never looked back.

How has Henry’s life changed since becoming a father? The red-haired chef says he takes a lot of inspiration from his daily environment – with walks along the ocean-fresh promenade to even the name of the restaurant, which means ‘seagull’ in French. “Since becoming a dad,” says Henry, “there’s more integrity on the plate, with a focus on clean flavours and less ingredients and garnishes.”

It’s difficult fitting everything in. Mari works during the day as front-of-house, while Henry works nights. “The bonus is, of course, being off on a Monday – the shops are so quiet!” Though a juggling act, Henry says having a baby is “the most life enhancing, enriching thing you can do. It means the world to me, to leave a legacy. To watch them grow and develop, and see little bits of yourself in them.”

At home Henry also does the cooking. At nine months, Isabelle is slowly gravitating from purées to more solid types of food, such as slow-cooked lamb with beetroot. Henry says her first food was a butternut and carrot purée. His top tip is to make baby’s purées with chicken stock to increase the protein intake.

What was his favourite childhood dish? “My mom used to make roast chicken every Sunday. It was so simple, but it
has always stuck with me – one of my favourite meals of all time. I do tap into that memory in my own cooking and I use similar flavour profiles, like, say, in a chicken jus, I’ll incorporate lemon and thyme, just like she did.”

Would he like Isabelle to follow in his cheffing footsteps one day? “Definitely not,” he says, chuckling. “I’d like her to know how to cook, to have an aroma of cooking in her house, but she should rather become a doctor or lawyer.”

By Malu Lambert Photographs by Karl Rogers

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