A SERIES of childhood travels through Africa with his grandparents inspired a talented Bay youngster to embark on a career in food.
James Hogg is this week’s featured chef on The Global Table, so don’t miss our profile and Q&A on him and, more importantly, his foolproof recipe for what he calls his Thai Tendency Tender Tasty Chicken.
Free-range is best for this delicious stove-top casserole, which is ideal as a hearty winter meal.
The laid-back and likeable 22-year-old, who matriculated at St Dominic’s Priory in the Bay, said his love of food and cooking began during holiday trips to countries like Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
“My favourite countries from a food point of view were Mozambique, for it’s awesome, fresh seafood and rich Portuguese influence, and Namibia, for its unique combination of German, African and Afrikaans cooking,” said James.
“We went every year from when I was about five or six. Also, I was always first on the list for camping and weekends away with my friends. I’d like to believe it was because they wanted me there, but I think it was just for my food,” he chuckled.
After taking a gap year to work as a chef at the popular Bush Camp functions venue in Port Elizabeth, where he had helped out since school, James trained at the Alfresco International Academy of Food and Wine in East London, “which was amazing”.
“Annette van de Water, the chef there, was very knowledgeable and made it really enjoyable.” James also cooked at Nosh in Central for a few months before starting Rent a Chef, his own business, which has seen him cook for everyone from busy execs and mums to couples wanting a romantic dinner in the comfort of their own home.
“The idea was inspired one evening, when I was fresh out of chef school. My mom asked if I would cook for her dinner club and that was my light-bulb moment.”
James intends spending time in France next year to “learn and grow” in one of the world’s most exciting food capitals.
* Calling all chefs! Mail us at email@example.com if you want to be considered for inclusion on The Global Table blog, which is updated every Saturday.
Q&A with James Hogg
1) When did your love of cooking start?
I was very young and can’t even remember the exact age. My mom was a single parent while we were growing up, and often had to work late in the evenings. I took the role of dinner maker for my younger brother and myself.
2) What is your approach to cooking?
I’m very hands on and practical – definitely not a fan of cookbooks. I’m creative in the kitchen and always inspired by fresh and exciting ingredients.
3) You’ve set up a business called Rent-a-Chef. How does it work?
It’s a way for people to escape from always having to go out to experience good food. Also, a lot of people get overwhelmed when having to cook for a number of guests at a dinner party. I take care of all the preparing, cooking and even the washing up so the hosts can really enjoy their evening. I’ve been told it’s quite a hit for people to have a personal chef in their kitchen during a dinner party. I also do exciting, upmarket cocktail-type snacks for parties and offices, which I either make on site or deliver.
4) Who makes use of Rent a Chef’s services and why do you think the concept has caught on?
Busy moms who don’t have time to prepare healthy meals for their families. Dinner clubs and parties. Cocktail parties. Birthdays. Special occasions. Office parties. Romantics wanting a nice, quiet dinner at home… I think it has caught on because it’s not just your average home -style cooking, but still simple and honest enough for the average tastebud to enjoy. And it always looks great on the plate!
5) What has been the most interesting or unusual function you’ve had to cook for?
I once went camping with a few families as their personal chef for a long weekend. It was great fun – I really enjoy cooking outdoors.
6) Give an example of a three-course winter menu you would prepare for guests.
Duck spring rolls with a warm, spicy, orange dipping sauce to start with; then my stove-top, Thai influenced whole chicken casserole served with roasted mint and black pepper potatoes and some slow-roasted cherry tomatoes finished off with feta. This could by followed by my Crème Brule with a Twist – and no, I’m afraid I can’t divulge the twist!
7) When simply cooking for yourself at home, what do you eat most of the time?
I recently got my hands on a pasta maker, so lately I have been enjoying fresh pasta with basil pesto or fresh cherry tomatoes and herbs from my garden with balsamic vinegar.
8 What are your favourite ingredients at the moment?
Anything out my herb or veggie garden.
9) Which kitchen tool or gadget can you not live without and why?
My pestle and mortar – it’s ust so fun bashing up fresh ingredients.
10) What is the best advice you can give someone who wants to become a chef?
Always opt for fresh and seasonal ingredients, and try experience as many different types of food and cooking as possible. There is so much out there.
11) What are some of your favourite local foodie haunts and hunting grounds for ingredients?
Any good deli like Morton’s; Westvill or Valley Harvest, to name just a few in my area. And of course the harbour for fresh fish and seafood.
12) When not cooking for yourself, what your favourite restaurants and why do you like them?
The Greek in Jeffreys Bay is one of the few places I have been to where the person who constructed the menu and the chef have their traditional Greek foods and cooking spot on. They also have an awesome array of wines. In Port Elizabeth I enjoy Natti’s Thai Kitchen – I dig Thai cooking and their simple family type menu is great. Lastly there’s Cubata, also in PE – their prawns are great!
James’s Recipe: Thai Tendency Tender Tasty Chicken
1 medium-sized whole free range chicken (preferably spatchcock); 450ml good chicken stock (warm); 150ml soya sauce (this quantity is for the reduced salt Kikkoman sauce – if using normal soya sauce then halve the amount); 4 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce; 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar; 1-3 red chilies, thinly sliced (amount of burn is up to you); 3 spring onions , thinly sliced; 5 peppercorns; 3 cloves garlic (whole); 1 cinnamon stick; 3 sprigs of thyme; 3 onions, cut into quarters; 1 thumb-size piece of ginger (grated); Salt to taste (at the end)
Seal the top side of the chicken in a hot, oiled pan or under a grill for 10 min, to give it some colour.
Place the chicken in a round, shallow casserole pot over medium heat. Add the rest of the ingredients, starting with the liquids.
Put the lid on and leave for about 1 hour and 45 minutes; make sure it doesn’t boil rapidly.
About 1 hour and 15 minutes into the cooking time, take off the lid and up the heat slightly so the liquid can reduce.
Garnish with thyme sprigs and sliced, mild red chilies.
Ingredients for the Minted Roast Potatoes
8 potatoes, cut into medium-sized cubes and par-cooked in salt water; 100ml olive oil; a handful of fresh mint; 1 Tbsp dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste
Method for the Minted Roast Potatoes
Pre-heat the oven to 200C, place all the ingredients in an oven tray and get it into the oven.
Regularly shake and toss the pan until the potatoes are golden and the mint is crispy. Garnish with fresh mint.