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“Let food start the conversation” – Chef Sherwyn Weaich

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By Josephine Wawira

 

Sherwyn Weaich is a government school educated, township raised, coloured citizen, and a proud product of the new South Africa with, “old school values.” His love for food began when he stood on his tip toes staring over the counter watching his mother cook for his family. This is the foundation of Weaich’s passion for blending travel, family, friends, and South Africa’s unique heritage into his cooking journey that has since evolved into ‘The Gourmet Bushie’ brand.

Find out more about this chef’s love for food, travel experiences, and connections with amazing people.

Q: Firstly, congratulations on featuring at the Good Food and Wine Show (GFWS) for the 11th year running! How was the experience for you this time around? What, if anything, made it different to previous years?

A: The past 11 years have been amazing! I recall my first time stepping on stage representing The International College of Whiskey, having recently qualified in Scottish Whiskey making. It was a dream come true. I was so nervous and inside I shook with hesitation not knowing if the crowd would love me or hate me. After all, I was just a guy wanting to share my knowledge and experience, and it turns out the crowd loved me.

Fast forward 11 years later and I’ve just finished off my second show of the year as one of the Headlining Celebrity Chefs from South Africa – under my local brand, The Gourmet Bushie. I’ve had the privilege of growing alongside the show and I can firmly say that the show in Johannesburg was by far the best show I’ve performed at in my entire journey with GFWS. The sights, smells, and tastes. I get excited just thinking about it. From sushi-infused oysters to a simple milk tart recipe, passed down four generations, I’ve shared it all with my followers and each and every show I get to share a little taste of my foodie culture across the country, my home and the cradle of my culinary inspiration, South Africa.

 

Q: In your experience, would you say more people are taking an interest in the culinary world in recent years?

A: Simply answered, yes! We live in a country filled with different flavours, spices, and people from all walks of life but I look at it as a family. Seems confusing but let me break it down further: in every family, we have the aunt who doesn’t like chilli or the cousin who hates eating rice or green beans or some sort of food. However, despite all those differences we all come together and sit around the table and share a meal, creating new experiences. So, each time we sit down, we fall in love with food over and over again. It’s that love of food that’s igniting the passion inside of people to embrace the culinary world and it’s why I love what I do. Each time I prepare a meal or perform on stage, I get to inspire.

Q: When did you realize that you wanted to become a chef, and had you wanted to pursue a different career path before then?

A: I attended The University of KwaZulu-Natal and studied my Bachelor of Laws, LL.B. Whilst studying, I cooked – but I started cooking a long time before that. Well, according to my grandmother and great-grandfather – both chefs and bakers – I was five years old when I demanded my own pots and pans, for the only purpose of cooking alongside them with ‘real’ potatoes and ‘real’ ingredients. So, I would say cooking and being a chef chose me, and in saying this I can’t help but smile. My being in the kitchen is generational: some people have doctors and lawyers, we have a generational line of passionate people: we have chefs.

Q: How did you come up with ‘The Gourmet Bushie’?

A: The Gourmet Bushie name came to me after a day of running down sand dunes in Sossusvlei in Namibia. I was sitting down with an iced cold drink to quench my thirst and a friend of mine, Justin, came over and we shared a silence. He looked at me and said simply, “You cook over a fire but your food amazes me.” So I sat there thinking and it hit me: in this home I call South Africa, we have a history of indoor and outdoor cooking, from braai’s to potjies we South Africans do it all. We are bush cooks and love exploring our country; we go to the fire and want that sizzle. So why not show people how to tap into our heritage of bush cooking – whether your grandmother prepared a family dinner over coals or after the latest Springbok game with the guys. So, The Gourmet Bushie is my way of taking my four generations of culinary history and sharing my experiences with food and providing a space where people can learn how to be a gourmet bush cook like me, The Gourmet Bushie.

Q: It is stated on your website that you have travelled internationally – which country has fascinated you the most in terms of food culture and why? Where is the next place you’d like to visit?

A: I’ve been fortunate to see over 8 countries around the world and it might sound weird but my home, South Africa, has always fascinated me the most. I’ve been to every province and city and in 2010 spent two months traveling the length and breadth of our home and it’s amazing how many flavors we have right here. Madiba believed in a rainbow nation and that is truly what we are; we are a melting pot of flavours and we blend cultures and tastes and that’s what brings us together. It’s all those flavours that make South Africa one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world. As for visiting, I want to go to Morocco. I have a traditional clay Tajine, bought for me by my aunt on her travels there and the stories amaze me. A Souk is the Moroccan market where locals set up their stalls and sell their goods; I want to walk through a souk and eat sticky dates, fresh guavas, and rich cheeses. I don’t need a big fancy hotel, just good food, family and friends; that’s how memories are made.

Q: What is your favourite dish to prepare and why?

A: I always get shouted at for this but I really do not have a favourite dish that I like preparing, I just believe each and every dish I prepare deserves as much love and dedication as the last. I cook with passion and love, the way my mom and grandmother did. On another note, I do have a couple of favourite dishes I enjoy eating and that my mother’s creamy mac and cheese or my grandmother’s biryani – but I will always eat it the next day because it tastes so much better.

Q: Do you cook lavish dishes for family and friends?

A: It depends, there is a time and a place, I suppose. I eat lavish foods quite often but there are times when we can just have a sandwich and a cup of tea at night, talking for hours. On the other hand, there are times when all of us are together – and most times there’s over 30 of us together – and lavish food is basically demanded. Every time, they get my grandmother to ask me because if there’s one thing I learnt growing up is to respect your elders.

Q: Do you have any tips for those who aren’t as handy in the kitchen, perhaps go-to easy dish ideas?

A: Tips for the kitchen? It’s easy. Try and if you fail, you know what not to do the next time around. Just have fun. Don’t be afraid to experiment and play with different ideas and flavour combinations. No great recipe or dish was made perfect overnight. It took practice and patience. There are still times when I over-salt my food but I adjust, I learn. Just enjoy the experience and when you sit back and watch a brother, sister, child, or friend lick their fingers and wipe the bowl after your 40th time of trying the dish after those 39 times it failed, those failures become irrelevant and it’s only the 40th that counts.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Life is a journey and we need to enjoy it. I just finished off the Good Food and Wine Show, for the 11th consecutive year. One thing I’ve learnt from life along the way in the culinary world is to take some time and spend it with those you love. So, over the next few months, I’m doing that – the only difference is, instead of stepping out the kitchen, I’m pulling my family into it. I am busy with my cookbook and bringing a Culture of Tastes into every home across our Rainbow Nation. I’m cooking and plating over 100 different dishes and food from my childhood and my own culinary journey, with everything from milk tarts to amagwina (deep fried flour based buns) and dombolo (steamed bread), showcasing foods from the cradle of my culinary inspiration and home, South Africa, Durban.

 

 

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