Chefs Warehouse Tintswalo Atlantic’s Head Chef Cameron Smith is just 29 years old yet has worked at fine dining restaurants, including La Colombe, Protégé and CW Maison, under the mentorship of some of the country’s top chefs, among them Scott Kirton, James Gaag, John Norris, Liam Tomlin, David Schneider and Ivor Jones.
Why did you want to become a chef?
I was born in the Eastern Cape and moved to Cape Town to pursue a BCom in Finance. While studying, I opened a stall at the Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay – I was ‘the lamb guy’ – where I discovered my passion for food and flavour. So, I changed course, training at the South African Chefs Academy.
How did you feel about following in CW Tintswalo Atlantic’s former Head Chef Braam Beyers’s footsteps?
I was fortunate to spend a month with Braam before he left because his cooking style is classic French, whereas mine is playful, fun and experimental when combining different cultures.
My starting point is always ingredients because I love how diverse they are from one culture to another. Cape Malay flavours on our current menu pay homage to the Hout Bay community, such as spiced dahi (Indian curd yoghurt) and Bo-Kaap sour curry.
How do you transition seamlessly between cultures?
A dish should never entirely focus on one culture. You might have ponzu [a citrus-based sauce] and furikake [a crunchy salty seasoning, thanks to bonito flakes and seaweed nori], both commonly used in Japanese cuisine but prepared using French cooking techniques.
How have you captured the idea of wintry weather and stormy seas in food?
Our menu starts with a ceviche with a bit of heat and more richness than in a typical lighter-flavoured accompaniment, a cashew-mint chutney and a sesame-seed-chilli crunch.
Then we move on to our second course, off-the-hook tuna with charred tomatoes for smokiness and a pastrami-style carpaccio with Catalans for warmth.
Our main course is venison fresh from the recent hunting season. We also serve a beautiful line fish dish inspired by Hout Bay’s harbour.
Your favourite dishes on the menu?
The line fish, due to its simplicity and classic French roots. We serve kingklip and smoked mussels in an apricot glaze and a beurre blanc, an elegant take on braaied snoek.
Our risotto is like a paella with clams from the nearby beach and good-quality saffron. It’s moreish!
Our beef carpaccio is Lebanese-inspired with burnt aubergine, lavash and a date-and-raisin puree. We use a cut of meat most people don’t know about, the bottom round, which is like a fillet but with more marbling.
Mine is roasted duck in bourbon jus. How did you get the meat so tender?
Score the skin down to the flesh, but not through it. Render the duck’s skin or fat down to where it cooks past the sinew line underneath the fat, and that should give you a lot more of an even cook.
What do you want diners to experience when they eat at CW Tintswalo?
I want to create a moment in guests’ holidays, or when they bring their families together or dine with their partner, that they won’t forget. Tintswalo’s ocean views do half the job for me!
What do you cook for your friends and family?
I’m originally from the Eastern Cape, so I grew up braaiing, and it’s my favourite way to entertain, with massive cuts of meat such as lamb shanks. I love cooking paella and Thai-infused curries for friends and family.
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Words by Lisa Abdellah