POPULAR cafe owner Jennifer Kerr gave up a successful career in IT to realise her vision of having her own upmarket cafe and deli.
Fast-forward seven years and Deli on Main in Main Road, Walmer is a comfortable, trendy and ever-popular spot where Jennifer’s beautiful smile and winning way with food keep bringing customers back for more. Its success is quite an accomplishment given an economic climate that has seen many restaurants and cafes come and go.
“It was my love of fresh, healthy and simple food that urged me to leave a career in IT and follow my dreams,” said Jennifer, the latest foodie personality to be featured on The Global Table blog, which is updated every Saturday.
“Over the past seven years we’ve gone through quite a few changes to adapt to the Port Elizabeth market and trends,” said Jennifer. “These include closing the deli section to expand the restaurant, pursuing catering for functions and updating the decor with the help of Tania Mourant, of Crank Design (whose beautiful repurposed furniture is also sold on the premises).
“Deli on Main has become an institution in the Bay and we have an extremely loyal following, with many of our regulars having been supportive since the first day.”
The cafe is open for breakfast and lunch, and is also a popular venue for birthday parties and corporate functions. Jennifer conceptualises her own dishes and one firm favourite is her “guilt-free burger”, which is made up of an extra-lean patty flavoured with herbs and baked – not fried – then served on a rye bun and topped with low-fat mayo, rocket and red onion.
Scroll down below to learn how to make Deli on Main’s spicy chicken curry – “a recipe our clients are always asking for”, she said.
Also on the blog is a Q&A section in which she shares some of her favourite ingredients, foodie haunts and kitchen tips.
* Calling all chefs! Mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be considered for The Global Table! – Louise Liebenberg
Recipe: Deli on Main’s Spicy Chicken Curry
800g skinned chicken breasts or whole roasted chicken, shredded; 5 T vegetable oil; 2 tsp mustard seeds; 1 tsp fenugreek seeds; 3 green chillies, finely chopped; 12 curry leaves, finely chopped; 10cm fresh ginger root, grated; 2 garlic cloves, crushed; 2 onions, finely chopped; 6 tomatoes, skinned and chopped; 1 tsp turmeric; 1 tsp chili powder; 400ml coconut milk; 1 bunch washed spinach, roughly chopped; salt to taste; basmatic rice and fresh coriander for serving
Heat the oil in a wok and add mustard seeds. When they pop, add the fenugreek, green chili, curry leaves, ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few minutes.
Add the chopped onions and fry till soft and brown. Add chili powder and turmeric and fry till fragrant.
Add the tomato and cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the coconut milk. Simmer for 5 minutes till thick and creamy; adjust seasoning.
(At this point you can cool the sauce and refrigerate to use the next day.)
Slice the chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and lightly stir-fry in butter until just done.
Stir the chopped spinach into the sauce; place the chicken in the sauce and warm through.
Serve with basmati rice and fresh coriander.
Q&A: Jennifer Kerr
1. Where and how did your love of food and cooking start?
It began with my good friend John Bell who has the uncanny knack of taking any crazy ingredients and whisking up something delicious – very inspiring!
2. What is the biggest myth about running your own establishment?
That it is easy to socialise with people all day long.
3. And the biggest reward?
The biggest reward is a happy customer who compliments your food and the venue – it really makes my day. It is especially rewarding when people travel from far and make a point of visiting because they’ve heard great things. I’ve sat on a plane before and overheard two ladies from Johannesburg talking about a great lunch they had at Deli on Main. I realised “Hey, that’s my place!” – what a great compliment that was.
4. Which dish or dishes on your menu are your personal favourites and why?
It constantly changes, but at the moment I am addicted to our Vietnamese Chicken Salad as the flavour combination is fantastic. However, my ultimate favourite has been the Saltimbocca – tender beef fillet medallions wrapped with fresh sage and proscuitto – which is on our Christmas season menu.
5. Which dishes are the patrons’ favourites and why do you think they enjoy them so much?
Our gourmet burgers and fresh salads are still the most popular. There is still a very strong trend to eat light for lunch and to watch the fat content in meals from a health perspective. We have always been very flexible with customers’ dietary requirements and make adjustment to meals to accommodate allergies and special diets. For example, we make our own 100% Rye Wraps for those with a wheat intolerance. For more decadent customers our Eggs Benedict are still the most popular breakfast.
6. How would you describe the style of your cafe and the food that is served?
The décor style is very eclectic, relaxed and fun and features a combination of retro and contemporary pieces. The food is casual bistro style with an emphasis on healthy, although there are a few naughty, decadent meals too.
7. Besides your own spot, do you have a favourite restaurant in the Bay and/or Eastern Cape/Garden Route?
I don’t eat out much as I’m so often working and busy with functions. However, I have a terrible weakness for pizza, so locally I would definitely head to either Mangiamo in Walmer or Vovo Telo Pizzeria in Richmond Hill.
My absolute favourite restaurant would be Emily Moon in Plettenberg Bay. The ambiance in winter or summer is gorgeous and it’s great for a romantic date.
8. What would you choose for your last meal on earth?
Without a doubt, home-made gnocchi with basil pesto and lashings of parmesan.
9. Which three ingredients would one always find in your kitchen?
Only three? That’s tough as I’m always well stocked, but if I had to choose… onions, garlic and olive oil.
10. Which kitchen tool or gadget can’t you function without?
A very good-quality, sharp chef’s knife.
Deli on Main is at the Ninth Avenue Shopping Centre, Walmer, Port Elizabeth. Contact them at email@example.com or 083-646-9888.