Join celebrated chef Franck Dangereux and his friends-in-wine at these monthly events taking place this summer at The Foodbarn in Noordhoek
Words Malu Lambert, photographs Pete de Bruin
What happens when a chef and a winemaker get together? In the case of Franck and his vinous contemporaries, the answer is pure epicurean magic.
“We share a deep appreciation for one another’s craft,” says Franck.
I was lucky enough to attend the first Chef’s Table of the season with Avondale Wines. These lunches always take place on a Friday: long and indulgent, it’s the opportunity to steal a few hours away from the busyness of life—to devote your attention to the love of food and wine.
The Foodbarn is Franck’s altar to gastronomy. A double-volume converted barn that’s wall-papered on both ends with a design in the theme of ‘food of the gods’: a rich, lush riot of artichokes, pomegranates, star anise, pineapples and guinea fowls that bounce off from a coal background.
Inside two long tables have been set up. As the guests trickle in, they’re welcomed with Avondale’s Blanc de Noir MCC.
Once everyone is seated, Franck addresses the crowd explaining his thought process when it comes to pairing food and wine. “I pour, smell and taste the wine… the wine hits my taste buds and my whole mouth. I aerate, I swallow and I wait a little; then a first thought comes to me: a scent, a memory, an ingredient. I hang on to this because this is the pairing. I always follow that first impression.”
He elaborates: “Food and wine pairing is about finding a way of using the acidity in the wine to elevate the food beyond its original taste. You can either pick up a prominent flavour in the wine and run with it or, simply—and this is where it gets tricky because I cannot explain in words what goes on in my head—pair it. This must be where experience comes in, the fact that I have been eating delicious food and drinking delicious wines for over 40 years, means I have a memory bank at my disposal.”
It’s thanks to this ever-evolving memory bank of Franck’s that you’ll never eat the same dish twice. Every dish is created specifically for the wine pairing—and much like seeing a shooting star—the enjoyment of these pairings are like brilliant flashes into this chef’s mind. Also like a shooting star, the memory of it, remains behind, like so many light trails.
Such as the combination of yuzu and truffle with the first course: a play of light and dark, acidity and earthiness; paired with the strawberry tang of the blanc de noir.
The Anima Chenin Blanc 2015 was a chorus alongside the fermented pineapple on the scallop dish. Another moment for the senses was the fragrance of hot coconut oil with the yellowfin tuna crudo that permeated the restaurant. This was paired with the Cyclus 2014, a field blend that played very nicely with the coconut, making the lightly wooded wine creamier than it would’ve been on its own.
The dish of the day was the flame seared peri-peri swordfish with cauliflower brandade and almond aioli. It was at once familiar—fish braai anyone?—and completely new. This was paired with Franck’s favourite South African rosé, the Camissa 2017—not a small compliment from a Frenchman hailing from the South of France.
I loved the Luna 2012 with the lamb “welly”, the wine augmented the dish layering on spice and fragrance, with an undertow of earthiness beautifully matched to the porcini duxelle.
To finish, the lime posset with bergamot tea sorbet paired with the Armila MCC 2011 was sheer genius. The lime made the bubbles sparkle brighter, while the tea took things to a more serious place—clever, artful layering of flavour, which Franck is so revered for.
How did these Chef’s Tables come about? “The concept was born over 10 years ago,” explains Franck. “A good friend of Pete’s [de Bruin, co-owner of the Foodbarn] came back from the Napa Valley with a whole bunch of wines and challenged me to add a few local wines and create a pairing menu. This took place on a Friday lunch and we enjoyed it so much, we turned it into a tradition.
“I want my guests to feel as if they are at a family table; I hope they enjoy feeling a part of the process that the winemaker and I go through when we plan the whole thing. And I hope that everyone has a moment of pure delight when the food and wine come together and just make sense.”
Next up is the Cape Point Vineyards’ Chef’s Table: “It’s one of the most unique terroirs in the world!” enthuses Franck. “It’s an all white wine Chef’s Table and I’m excited about showing how gracefully sauvignon blanc and semillon can age.”
More on this summer’s Chef Tables at Foodbarn and how to book: https://www.thefoodbarn.co.za/menus/chefs-table/