Acknowledging artists in the kitchen

Theo Mannie, at Granny Mouse

How often do you go to a restaurant and enjoy, really savour a wonderful dish, something you could never have created at home? It happens, and those moments are special, unforgettable, you’ll be talking about them in years to come.

But how often do you stop to acknowledge the creativity, the thought process, passion and hard work that goes into putting that piece of, let’s call it art, together. And to do so on a consistent basis.

Eating out is a popular activity in the Midlands because we get the chance to taste some of the best cuisine from the chefs who work behind the scenes in local restaurants and eateries, making use of some of the finest local ingredients.

International Chefs Day

Come October 20 – International Chefs Day – diners will have the perfect opportunity to delight in and acknowledge the culinary heritage of the KZN Midlands.

The region has inspired many a cookery book and is known for wholesome ingredients that include fresh seasonal vegetables, cheeses, pork and trout. These are transformed into wonderful dishes by a host of chefs.

These gastronomic gurus include the wonderful chefs at Granny Mouse. On October 20, you’re invited to spend some time in the beautiful countryside before stopping by for a bite to eat.

Professional artistry

Of course, not everyone who enjoys the wonderful dishes that exit kitchens across the world knows just how extensive this form of professional artistry can be. Perhaps the best indication of the degree to which chefs can specialise is the many titles that they enjoy.

The term chef quite literally means “the chief” in French. Every kitchen has a chef or executive chef who is responsible for the operations of the kitchen. However, this head of the kitchen is far more than just a person who can cook well – and the fact that every cook is a chef is a fairly common misconception among those who aren’t in the know when it comes to all things culinary.

The sous chef is the second in charge. Translated, it means “the under chief” in French and indicates the person who takes responsibility for kitchen operations if the chef is absent.

The Chef de Partie keeps an eye on the various kitchen specialists which include the poissonier who cooks all fish and shellfish dishes and their related sauces, the rotisseur who is responsible for everything that is roasted, the saucier who turns out sautéed items and many different sauces, the grillardin or grill cook, the potager who cooks soups and stocks, the entremetier who handles the vegetables and the friturier or the deep fry cook.

The tournant is a cook who rotates throughout the entire kitchen and fills in where needed while the patissier is the pastry specialist. The confiseur is the candy cook and the boulanger, the bread cook.

Granny Mouse at Balgowan in the KZN Midlands, the perfect place for a weekend breakaway, or a warm and inviting holiday in the country. Picture: Garth Johnstone

Of course, not every restaurant or resort has all of these and, often, the number of specialists will also be determined by the type of cuisine served as well as the size of the kitchen and restaurant.

Granny Mouse’s most recent culinary adventure started with the renaming of its chefs as “culinary artists”. The reasoning is that every dish that finds its way to the dining tables begins with a sketch and ends as a special creation.

Journey to the top

The hotel’s culinary artist and sous chef, Theodasious Mannie, born in Zimbabwe, completed his schooling in England before studying at Canterbury College. His culinary career officially began in 2003 at a bar restaurant called Bar Vasa where he was an apprentice/commis chef.

Theo, pictured top, had worked his way up to head chef by 2010. During that same year, he moved to the Sandgate Hotel as their sous chef. He also worked as a development chef for a café called Canteen for three years, helping to develop dishes as well as creating signature sauces for mass distribution. This also branched into functions and outside catering work. In 2012, he worked as a consultant to Roksalt, which was owned by Mark Seargant.

In March 2013, he moved to South Africa where he spent two years working as a contract chef before taking on the role of head chef for a pub in Pietermaritzburg. After a brief stint as a consultant helping struggling small kitchens turn their businesses around, he joined Granny Mouse as a junior sous chef in 2017 and is now head culinary artist.

So come celebrate International Chefs Day at Granny Mouse, just another excuse to enjoy world class cuisine in the countryside and get a taste of Theo and the team’s absolute passion for good food.