Chef Chantel Dartnall makes magic at Restaurant Mosaic.
LISA VAN DER KNAAP
Chantel Dartnall, executive chef at Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient boutique hotel in Gauteng, has loved cooking since her early teens. Her extensive training and experience have culminated in what she refers to as “Botanical Cuisine”. “It’s the pairing of East and West,” she says, “where the aroma of exotic spices from the Orient intertwines with the principles of the Occident.”
Chantel attended Pretoria’s Pro Arte Alphen Park school (with hospitality studies as one of her subjects), then studied at the Prue Leith’s famous academy, before being awarded a scholarship from the World Association of Chef’s Societies to studyat Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island in the USA. From here she went to London.
“I went through the Michelin Guide and emailed every two- and threestarred Michelin chef. Half an hour later, I got a reply from Chez Nico at Ninety Park Lane, asking me when I could start.”went to work for Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park Hotel in Devon for six months. With this stellar experience behind her, Chantel returned to South Africa and established the 40-seater Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient boutique hotel in 2006.
Describing the food she creates, she says: “Life is so serious and people forget that they were children once. My food is a trip for the imagination and people’s own interpretation.” This philosophy is illustrated in today’s lunch, for which Chantel has prepared pan-seared Dorado with mango coulis and coconut foam, and a dessert of berry jelly and chiboust (see page 16 for an explanation). “This menu represents the way I like to cook at Mosaic,” says Chantel. “It’s playful, fresh and colourful.”
Chantel likes to bring people into contact with nature through the ingredients she chooses and the way she creates her dishes. She always likes to have something representing nature on every plate, and she uses herbs and edible flowers with medicinal properties.“
Restaurant Mosaic is known for its eight-course grande degustation menu. There is also a five-course version and a petit version with a choice of three dishes. There’s also an à la carte menu, which changes seasonally and might include dishes such as star anise scented lobster bisque and roasted duck with vanilla salt crusted baked pear. For comfort-food lovers there are things like macadamia and caramelised quince parfait, or traditional baked pudding with Madagascan vanilla custard.
Chantel says her global travels have helped to develop her palate and challenged her to experiment even more with food. “Each season we have a theme, such as Cambodia, Burma or Paris in the springtime – for this I made steak tartare macaroons – we called them ‘French hamburgers’. I like to have tongue-in-cheek dishes on my menu.”
Chantel says one of the best pieces of advice she’s received was from fellow chef Franck Dangereux of The Food Barn in Noordhoek, who said: “Cook food that makes you happy.” “Some people sigh when it comes to cooking,” she says, “but I’ve always loved playing with food. I love the smells, flavours, textures and coming up with new ideas for dishes.”
Restaurant Mosaic, The Orient Boutique Hotel, Francolin Conservation Area, Elandsfontein, Pretoria. Call 012-371-2902 or visit www.restaurantmosaic.com.