South African Chef Hylton Espey has received a Michelin Green Star

April 13, 2023

South African chef Hylton Espey has been awarded a Michelin Green Star for his restaurant in Falmouth, in the UK. Green Stars are awarded to restaurants that hold themselves accountable for both their ethical and environmental standards and work with producers and suppliers to avoid waste and even reduce or remove non-recyclable materials from their supply chain.

Espey opened Culture Restaurant eight months ago, aiming to run it purely his way and create an experience where food curates the evening, taking guests on a culinary journey served with wines from across the globe.

Michelin Green Star winners Hylton Espey (Culture), Dan Cox (Crocadon), and Chantelle Nicholson (Apricity). Picture: Supplied

Born in Cape Town, Espey says his love for restaurants, food and wine began with his mother, who used to work in the wine industry. ‘I was lucky to have visited a lot of the iconic restaurants as a youngster and even worked for some of the chefs later on. My first chef job was at Olympia cafe in Kalk bay and I loved every minute; after that I went to study at the ICA chef school in Stellenbosch. I have since worked all over South Africa and on three continents, it is a great profession if you love travel.’

Though his restaurant is located in the United Kingdom, Espey’s dishes certainly feature South African influences. ‘I have a custom made braai in my kitchen which I use for some of the menu and have even managed to source local sustainable oak and charcoal to grill over. It is a bit softer and burns down quickly but it is a great option for me. I only use local produce direct from the farms so that really controls the flavour profile of the menu. I have snuck some Biltong onto the course which I am currently making with a retired dairy cow paired with wild garlic capers on a sourdough crumpet.’

Inside Espey’s Culture restaurant. Picture: Supplied

Culture’s open kitchen is situated inside an old quayside warehouse. Each dish is named after the inspiration behind it. Espey says his biggest inspirations are farmers and nature. ‘I try to spend as much time outdoors enjoying nature, this is something I grew up doing surfing, hiking, fishing and climbing. I visit the farms often to watch the progress and catch up with the farmers. These interactions inspire most of my menu.’

The Michelin Green Star was awarded to Espey for his sustainability efforts. ‘We look at all aspects of our business to fine tune our impact on the environment. We removed all gas and installed induction to reduce power waste. Our plates were all made a block away and delivered by foot. The coal and wood used on the braai is from woodland management less than 5km away. My granite kitchen pass was quarried 4km away. We refurbed the existing tables and managed to recycle most of the old equipment to other restaurants.’

Espey’s menus are also only tasting menus, which reduces food waste drastically. It also allows him to serve ingredients that are not as popular in new and exciting ways. In addition, Espey’s restaurant educates diners on where the food comes from as well as on important issues such as soil health.

Culture’s open kitchen is situated inside an old quayside warehouse. Picture: Supplied

‘It will be through educating our guests that will help pave the way for local food heroes, sustainable farming and amazing flavours. We feel so grateful to be recognised so early into our journey and look forward to what the future holds.’

ALSO SEE: Fourth South African chef receives coveted Michelin Star

Fourth South African chef receives coveted Michelin Star

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