South African Chef, Chantel Dartnall, shares the secret to her success and why she is the best female chef in the world.
Chef Chantel Dartnall was named the World’s Best Female Chef at The Best Chef Awards in Warsaw, Poland in 2017.
Speaking about the “incredible moment” when she received the award, Dartnall said it was “a great honour to have been selected as the 2017 Best Female Chef by The Best Chef Awards.”
“I didn’t have a clue that I would win. It was just a privilege to have been nominated with people that I have looked up to and admired from afar,” the 38-year-old chef says.
This was not the only time the incredible chef put South Africa on the map. Dartnall has twice been named South African Chef of the Year at the annual Eat Out Restaurant Awards. She was also named the 2017 Chef of the Year for Africa and the Middle East by the prestigious Luxury Travel Guide Awards.
Her restaurant in Pretoria, Restaurant Mosaic, has also earned a 2018 Grand Award from the highly-acclaimed US publication Wine.
Marvin Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator said the restaurant’s wine list “is one of the best in the world and our inspection determined that Restaurant Mosaic also excels in food, service, and ambiance.”
Speaking about what makes her the incredible chef she is, Dartnall says she combines her classical French training with her love of nature.
Dartnall says she is also inspired by her travels abroad and is passionate about using organic and seasonal produce with her innovative approach to food preparation and presentation.
“For me it is vital to serve visually appealing dishes that tell a story and start stimulating diners’ senses from the moment the food arrives at the table,” the award-winning chef says.
She adds that “each dish is designed to reflect the beauty, balance, harmony and purity that you find in nature. It is not only about capturing natures natural nuances, but also to focus on how I can improve the experience for my guests by studying the medicinal properties of the edible herbs and flowers I include in the menu to aid in digestion, promote blood circulation and a general feeling of wellbeing – this is the inspiration for her use of edible flowers and unusual herbs.”
She adds that it’s important to enhance flavours of the ingredients you use.
“As a chef I find it of critical importance to respect the ingredients I am working with and feel that it is my duty to not only focus on the natural flavour of my ingredients but also to enhance those flavours.”
Dartnall says some of her favourite dishes include Song of the Sea (salmon, kombucha, yuzu); Some Birds Don’t Fly (ostrich, beetroot, plum); Tajine du Maghreb (capretto, prunes, argan oil) and The Clash of Constellations (passion fruit, mango, fresh berries).
She also enjoys her mom’s cooking.
“I love my mom’s traditional home cooking – there is nothing better than a hearty plate of roast chicken with sticky sweet potato and green beans with lots of potato.”
On some of the appliances and food that can be found in her kitchen, Dartnall says she can’t live without her “Vulkanus Knife Sharpener. It is just so quick and easy to use and always ensures a perfect sharp edge to my knives.”
She also says she can’t live without lemon grass and white Italian balsamic honey and avocado. She says she loves avocado “because no salad is complete without one. White balsamic because it is the perfect accompaniment to the avocado, and lemongrass because it is the essential ingredient to any good curry,” says Dartnall.
Her favourite appliance is a “beautiful bright red “Zjoerr” Machine – Bamix blender. It just makes the most beautiful sauce foams.”
Dartnall, who started cooking at age 17, says two chefs have inspired her to be the chef she is today.
“Internationally I have to say chef Pascal Barbot. He has a small 20-seater, three Michelin star restaurant called L’Astrance and only serves a set menu for the day. His food is light innovative and inspiring and the flavours that he combines in his dishes is an almost effortless and perfect merger of the exotic tastes of the Orient combined with classic European ingredients.”
“Locally – Chef Margot Janse is a true culinary legend in South Africa, and with her innovative style of cooking she was one of the first truly Inspirational local chefs that established fine dining and introduced the concept of the tasting menu in South Africa.”
Dartnall says the biggest lesson she has learned since starting work as a chef is to be consistent.
“The most important lesson I learned, not only in London but also from the local chefs that I trained under was consistency. The saying that you are only as good as the last plate you send out of the kitchen was drilled into us at every service in every kitchen I have ever worked in. Nothing except “perfection” was allowed to go out of the kitchen.”
Her advice to aspiring chefs is “never be content with what you have achieved today. Be constantly in competition with yourself and always push to go that extra step further every day. Only then will you reach great heights,” advises the world-renowned chef.
In the below video, Chef Dartnall prepares one of her favourite meals ‘By the sea side’.