Executive chef at The Wanderers Club, Leanne Middlewick’s journey in the food industry is one of passion and success
By Zaza Motha
From cooking Sunday lunches for her grandparents at the age of 12 and dreaming of owning a restaurant with her dad to studying at one of South Africa’s prestigious cooking schools and leading a team at The Wanderers Club,
Leanne Middlewick’s food adventure has reached culinary heights. “Cooking brings out the best in me,” she says. “After graduating from Wits with a hospitality diploma and obtaining a Professional Baking and Cooking Diploma from the Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA) in Stellenbosch, I took a culinary trip to Thailand.” The holiday reinforced her love for cooking as Leanne ate her way through this Asian wonderland, inspired by the travels of American food author Anthony Bourdain.
Leanne returned from her travels to intern with caterer Karen Short at By Word of Mouth, determined to build her catering experience and put all the theory she had learnt into practice. “Karen pushed us to be creative by offering challenges where teams competed against each other,” she says. A minor foot accident sent Leanne from the kitchen to the office, where she focused on procurement and how to deal with suppliers.
Stints at The Bay Hotel in Camps Bay, La Colombe in Constantia, the Kitchen Bar in Fourways and lecturing at the HTA
School of Culinary Arts broadened her knowledge and experience, and Leanne now heads up the catering at The Wanderers in Joburg. Here, quality ingredients and a strong team have resulted in a solid reputation for the sports club’s catering and restaurant facilities. “Of the 75 000 people served at The Wanderers Club during 2012, we received three complaints,” she says.
Quality is an element that was instilled in Leanne by lecturers like MasterChef SA judge Pete Goffe-Wood and food editor
Vickie de Beer, while an interest in the science of food encourages Leanne to experiment. “I’m really creative with my food and I enjoy the scientific part of it, understanding why foods react the way theydo in certain circumstances.” This interest in molecular gastronomy makes it easy for Leanne to teach and groom her staff.
A recent highlight involves catering for the Spar gsport Awards, an event making its way onto South Africa’s social calendar thanks to Kass Naidoo and Spar. “It’s one of my favourite events as it celebrates women who are striving in a male dominated field.” Leanne conceptualised and presented the dishes for the awards event to the founder of the gsport initiative, Kass Naidoo. The dishes (on the following pages) were based on the colours of the event, from the red and green colours of the sponsor to the pink from gsport, and gave Leanne the opportunity to showcase her talents.
“When I cook I love showing off and making food stand out,” says Leanne.
The Wanderers Club, 011-788-5010; thewanderersclub.co.za