And there’s little wonder why. Not only is he the biggest driver behind the annual National Braai Day on 24 September, but he also has six acclaimed braai cookbooks to his name, a popular television show, several large events and tours throughout the year, and a range of wildly popular sauces on shelves nationwide. It’s safe to say that he knows a thing or two about the fine art of braaing.
But as most good stories go, he went on quite the journey before he found his calling. Born and raised in Stellenbosch, he went on to complete his studies in accounting and entered the world of finances. After cutting his teeth at PwC-one of the country’s largest financial firms – he soon realised that he was destined for a different path. So at the age of 25, he traded a suit for an apron, the office for a fire – and he hasn’t looked back since.
He then joined as head of the National Braai Day and has, in just a few years, turned it into one of the country’s most beloved Heritage Day celebrations, rallying more than 20 million South Africans to light up a fire every year. And that’s just on September 24th. Throughout the rest of the year, many more people turn to him for recipes, tips, and, of course, that undeniable charisma.
Across the country – and indeed, even the world – his celebrated braai cookbooks are a mainstay among chefs and foodies alike: among them are Braaibroodjies and Burgers, Red Hot, Shisanyama: Braai Recipes from South Africa, and of course, The Vegetarian Option – in which Jan proves that even veggies get new life when basted and thrown over the coals.
From bookshelves to TV sets, Jan is also a weekly regular in millions of homes, with his popular show, Jan Braai Vir Erfenis on DStv. For over 10 years, Jan has led the show with great stories, spectacular travel destinations, and of course, mouth-watering recipes. For those looking to bring the magic to the fireplace, Jan also launched a range of sauces, available in retailers around the country and online, as well as his very own lan Braai Boerewors, available exclusively at Food Lover’s Market. This is only the tip of the Jan Braai empire, with merchandise, events, and tours filling up his already busy schedule.
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Besides being a foodie at heart, there’s no doubt that he’s a businessman at heart too. In between his work (and his knack for business), he’s bagged two MBA qualifications, and even employed several creative teams to bring it all to life, including a permanent production crew for his show. It’s no surprise then that he has been celebrated by some of the world’s biggest publications and institutions like The New York Times and The Economist.
While it may sound like there’s no minute left outside of work, Jan still manages to find time to do the things that are closest to his heart. He’s an avid sportsman, taking part in cycling, pedaling, running and paddling. He’s even launched a couple of events for his love of movement and the great outdoors: The Jan Braai Marathon, and the lan Braai Cycle Tour.
But of course, even though braaing might be a full-time job, it remains his favourite pastime, too. So when he invited us to join him around a fire along the picturesque Cape Coast, we knew we were in for a real treat.
ALSO SEE: Jan Braai’s Roosterkoek Recipe