Dedication and passion for the hospitality industry have seen Wesli Jacobs climbing the cheffing ladder, and the 33-year-old can now proudly claim the position of Executive Chef at Sun International’s flagship property, The Palace at the Lost City.
Durban-born Jacobs cooked alongside his mother and grandmother from the age of seven, and holds a three-year diploma in cookery and kitchen management from the International Hotel School in Durban and is studying a bachelor’s degree in business administration in hospitality management. He was previously Executive Chef at Sun International’s The Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, and moved to Sun City with his wife and two children in November 2023.
“At The Table Bay, I learnt how to deal with five-star guests and VIPs from around the world. I would meet them to discuss menus for private events on their yachts parked in the V&A Waterfront, and work at a five-star level to create unique dishes.”
He now brings these learnings to his new position at the helm of Sun City Resort’s biggest kitchens.
“It’s hot,” is his reply to how he is finding Rustenberg.
“I’m enjoying the new culture and languages – from Xhosa and Afrikaans in the Cape to Setswana and Sesotho here. I am adapting to my employees and understanding what they need to do their jobs well.”
His portfolio includes eight departments, with 85 people reporting to him. Jacobs is responsible for feeding guests at the 30-seater Tusk Bar, 240-seater breakfast buffet Crystal Court, 300-seater Banqueting space, 50-seater Croc Lounge at the golf course and 70-seater The Grill Room. “I also oversee catering staff, where we can do 300 meals each day.”
In keeping with the ethos of the legend of a lost African tribe, The Palace’s menus lean heavily on local dishes, with Jacobs keen to incorporate more locally-produced vegetables such as African spinach and mielies as he refreshes the menus.
“In the North-West Province, we are surrounded by the Big Five, so it’s all about serving the country’s finest game meat.” The Grill Room features ostrich, kudu, impala and springbok, and once the new menu is introduced, dishes like tripe, chakalaka and pap which are unique to South Africa, will be added.”
Jacobs describes the menu as “Contemporary Afro-Asian Grill” as he looks to create experiences which guests will not have anywhere else.
“Our pool menu now offers Neapolitan-style wood-fired sourdough pizzas, and we have played around with flavour profiles to offer luxurious combinations – think caviar, smoked salmon, cream cheese and pickled cucumber for something different.”
Tusk Bar, a social environment, offers a number of tapas platters for two – a meat platter with boerewors wheels, steak, as well as salmon poke bowls. “We changed up the burgers to include pulled beef shortrib, smoked bacon and mature cheddar, and when you order a drink, you get a corn snack, game biltong and spiced nuts to add a luxurious touch.”
High tea at The Palace will have a new menu in March, with a chocolate-focus ahead of Easter, while the breakfast menu also sees the introduction of new, on-trend dishes including chia seed pudding and charcoal bread.
Each day is different, and presents its own challenges from both staff and guests which Jacobs views as opportunities. “I have daily meetings with the Floor Manager, where we discuss what training is required for waitrons.” Staff ‘master classes’ are held, where training on new dishes and cooking techniques, such as using nitrogen, foams or sous vide cooking, is done. “We are bringing modern day chef techniques into the kitchen and teaching the team.”
He applied for the job at Sun City hoping to be part of the team re-establishing The Palace as a “six-star level” property within South Africa. “We want to be known as the pinnacle in luxury and set the standard for others in the industry to follow.” The hotel’s rooms and suites have enjoyed a make-over, and a new spa opened. “I am influenced by the legacy of Sol Kerzner, who was a trend setter, and I look to replicate that in food and service.”
Issued by Corporate Image
Feature image supplied by Corporate Image