Despite his name, there is nothing even remotely dangerous about tall, bear-like chef and owner of The Foodbarn, Franck Dangereux. Unless, that is, you’re a sun-ripened tomato or a perfectly plump chicken and he’s in the mood for making one of his family’s favourites, poulet a la ProvenÇale.
Dressed in his summer uniform of shorts, T-shirt and sandals, this awardwinning chef looks more like he recently sauntered in from the beach than just finished cooking fine French cuisine for the lunch crowd who, at 3:30pm on a Monday, are still happily sipping their wine and lingering over dessert. But just because he’s relaxed and wears a beaded bracelet doesn’t mean he’s not the business when it comes to food. Born in Cannes, Franck attended hotel school in Nice before training at Michelin-star restaurants in Paris and on the French Riviera. After travelling around Europe, the Caribbean and South America, he bought a one-way ticket from Brazil to Cape Town and arrived at what he calls his ‘spiritual home’. He says, “I arrived in Cape Town and was blown away. This place has something special. I think it’s the African soil that did it for me. There is something radical and wild about this country.”
Franck admits to being “obsessed” with the ProvenÇal cooking of his birthplace. The cuisine of this south-east region of France, adjacent to Italy, is the result of a warm, dry Mediterranean climate and a rugged landscape with poor soil that can’t sustain large-scale agriculture. It’s what Franck calls “a cuisine of resilience and necessity”, which relies heavily on seasonal produce and an abundance of seafood. The basic ingredients of ProvenÇal cooking are olives and olive oil, tomatoes, sardines, octopus, lamb, chickpeas, strawberries, grapes, peaches, apricots, cherries and the famous melons of Cavaillon. It’s from this region that such beautiful dishes as aïoli, ratatouille, bourride (garlicky fish stew), rouille (mayonnaise with red pimentos) and bouillabaisse originated. Its flavours are large, intense and immensely satisfying, and this respect for simple, honest and seasonal food is at the basis of what Franck likes to cook and serve. He says, “Give me a slice of bread, olive oil, ripe tomatoes, salt and pepper – it doesn’t get better than that.”
After a stint at Constantia Uitsig, Franck was eager to go it alone and opened the esteemed La Colombe restaurant in Constantia, which rose to become one of South Africa’s best restaurants and number 28 on the list of the top restaurants in the world. He ran it for 10 years before deciding it was time to downscale and do something that didn’t require quite so much of his time.”I loved La Colombe, but I was away all the time. I was tired. My family needed me, and La Colombe was getting more of me,” he explains. Together with partner, Pete de Bruin, Franck purchased the old farm stall at Noordhoek Farm Village, gutted it and built The Foodbarn, which has become a favourite among locals and visitors to Cape Town.
Over and above wanting to be a stone’s throw from his home and family (and being able to show up for work in baggies) was a desire to expand his clientele. “La Colombe’s food, fine dining, is beautiful, but I was only serving oneper cent of the population. I wantedmore people to experience this kind of food.”
The Foodbarn serves mouthwateringly delicious food, but in a setting where “children, pets and sandy bare feet are welcome…” as his Twitter profile reads. Franck’s food is civilised and beautifully prepared, but never pretentious. And, considering the quality of the dishes, very reasonably priced (you can get a starter, a main and a dessert for R220).
For those who don’t have time to linger, Pete runs the deli just a few metres away, which serves a magnificent array of freshly baked pastries, breads, cheeses and meats. But, be warned: when you experience the homely vibe, see the bookshelf groaning with classics and get a whiff of croissant straight from the oven, you might just decide to grab a table and stay.
Franck’s warm, open-hearted nature is evidenced in his conviction that good recipes are there to be shared, and this was one of the reasons behind his release of Feast, a collection of La Colombe’s most sensual, delectable dishes – and why he hosts his cooking demos, where guests are invited to watch him prepare trickier dishes before sitting down to enjoy dinner. To break the monotony of dreary winter evenings, and to give his guests more reason to make the trek over Ou Kaapse Weg, from May The Foodbarn offers a fun and popular dining experience where Franck gets a winemaker to provide him with some of his favourite vintages and designs a menu to go with them. Think: fresh fish, sashimi with seared oysters, croutons, Béarnaise mayo and watercress with Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2008 and 2010… heaven. Bookings are limited to no more than 15 guests, and Franck and the winemaker “eat, drink and fall down” with their guests. There can’t be too many better ways to shake off the cold.
The Foodbarn, Noordhoek Farm Village, Corner Village Lane and Noordhoek Main Road, Noordhoek. Call 021-789-
1390 or visit www.thefoodbarn.co.za. Twitter: @foodbarn
By SUSAN HAYDEN