I have just started training as assistant chef (aka apprentice/ Cheflette/ slave/ disciple) at the VegTable Private Dining Room in Rheenendal. Lord only knows why owner and head chef, Brett Garvie, hired me, as I am a self-confessed novice with nothing more than a fervent desire to re-establish a loving relationship with food. I am also an ex-CrossFit gym owner, would be Yogi and wishy-washy Raw Vegan, who’s middle name is definitely not “Patience”.
WHAT AN ABSOLUTE BLESSING it is to learn to savour the preparation and the consumption of food!
Each pear carefully sliced, each egg lovingly separated, every snake of parmesan grated with just the right amount of pressure and patience for the longest, fattest strands. Hours and hours of cooking for just 10 -15 people! Now that’s “Slow Food”.
There’s no wilting, sagging or sulking allowed in Brett’s kitchen – from the chef to the chard and chevin – we’re all on a mission to stay vibrant, fresh and energised in our desire to lovingly nourish each guest who arrives.
My first few days on the job were so inspiring that I have started cooking again at home. And for those of you who know me well, by “cooking” I do indeed refer to REAL cooking – not just microwaved beans on toast.
Scattered through this blog is photographic evidence (albeit hurriedly taken, and hence a little out of focus) of my attempt at Brett’s signature Gnocchi di Gorgonzola (created at home with a standard sieve not a Mouillinette – but I think they turned out pretty well nontheless), served with a Fresh Green Salad sprinkled with toasted walnuts and parmesan, and accompanied by Chargrilled Aubergines, and locally grown Olives Slow-Roasted in Red Wine.
We were all thoroughly stuffed after the main meal but managed to squeeze in a Honey-drenched Pear Tatin with a scoop of Woolies (shhhh) vanilla ice cream. (I’m not making homemeade ice cream … yet!!)
Brett’s homemade Gnocchi is sublime. I will go out on a limb here and say that it’s up there with the best Gnocchi in the world. Period. His dumplings are so light that they melt in your mouth, but you choose to chew them anyway “just to prolong the pleasure”!
And, unexpectedly, making the Gnocchi is a treat!
Yes, it’s a little nerve-racking for a first timer, and extremely time consuming, but there is nothing more delightful (and by that I really do mean ‘full of delight’!) than handling the potato, free-range egg and parmesan dough, then slicing and coaxing it into long gnocchi worms, and finally dividing the worms up into individual gnocchi-tjies! I have learnt that with gentle yet firm crafting these cute little buggers retain their pert disposition – crucial for the perfect gnocchi dish.
A “perfectly imperfect” avo let the salad down in the photographic looks department, but it tasted as good as any avo could just the same.
I was pretty impressed with my first attempt at this culinary bedazzlement! As were my guests 🙂 Granted, I kept it safe by inviting just my mum and a close friend who have not had more than a salad from me in many a moon. But when I busted my mum indulging in leftover Gnocchi for breakfast on Sunday morning (which is highly out of the ordinary for my mum whose breakfast usually consists of fruit and muesli), I knew her enthusiasm the night before hadn’t been mere maternal kindness.
This is just the beginning of an exciting culinary journey, and no doubt many more wonderful slow meals will make their appearance on the dinner table as I rediscover the joy of nourishing friends and family with wholesome vegetarian meals.
But for me this is more than just learning to cook. This is part of a journey of deep healing. My abuse of and disconnection from food is a dramatic tale that we can go into another day. It is enough to say for now that this venture into the VegTable Private Dining Room is repairing my damaged soul in ways that I cannot put into words.
I look forward to sharing my culinary tales with you. And better yet, I hope to prepare and share some of this glorious food with you in person one day.
The VegTable Dining Room
Reservations are essential!
Cancellations are heart-breaking!!
Preparation of the evening’s meal begins in the morning and dishes take shape during the course of the day. As such Brett cannot suddenly add another ‘party of 6’ at the last minute, and similarly the impact of a last-minute cancellation is devastating.
Every day Brett designs a new menu. Each course is something he’s never tried before or he’ll add a new twist to a crowd favourite. Brett prides himself on not serving the same dish to a guest twice.
Call ahead to find out what’s on the evening menu so that you can bring the correct wine to accompany your meal. Brett is a seasoned sommelier – so his wine recommendations are worth heeding.
Tel: 074 833 9516
Directions: Take the Rheenendal Road turn off from the N2 and drive a few kilometres. Turn right at the Mother EarthWorms sign which is approx 1 km after the Phantom Pass turnoff.
Follow the signboards to the VegTable. Easy Peezy.