This year, we’re announcing nominees for the Eat Out Nederburg Rising Star. (The winner will be announced at the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards on 17 November.) Upper Bloem’s André Hill is the last nominee we’re spending ten minutes with to find out everything from his biggest rookie mistake to his five-year plan. (View all the nominees here.)
What does this nomination mean for you?
I’m grateful – and really happy for our team. Any nod towards me and the restaurant is a true reflection of the work the team puts in.
Earliest childhood memory of food?
My uncle was a fisherman on the West Coast and I spent a lot of time out there as a kid for family holidays. I vividly remember cooking snoek and kreef that he caught. We also picked periwinkles off the rocks.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I fell into the industry completely by accident. An apprentice position opened up at a hotel where my cousin was working. He asked if I would be interested, I went for the interview and the rest is history. I hated it for the first six months, but then it somehow got to me.
Do you feel you are in the right place right now?
Definitely. I feel as though I’ve come full circle. This is the first time in my career that I’m cooking consistently good food and taking inspiration from the community where I grew up.
Any advice to others planning to enter the food industry in South Africa?
Learn as much as you can as fast as you can – knowledge is your greatest tool. There will be many hardships, but learn to value them.
Worst rookie mistake you ever made with food?
I was so proud of the very first plate I completed myself. While taking it over to the pass (the long, flat surface where dishes are plated then picked up by wait staff), I slipped and landed with it on top of me. Being laughed at by my fellow cooks and having my chef tell me I’m an idiot was not my most glorious moment.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Retired on a beach enjoying all the cuisine the world has to offer! But seriously, by that time, I’d really like to have my own school (hopefully on the West Coast). Kids in difficult life situations, who can’t afford to go to cooking school, could stay and learn the trade. It’s really hard in some communities – even when kids are given an opportunity, they still face all the same challenges when going home at night. This makes it hard to break a bad cycle. If they could stay at the school, it would give them a bit of breathing space, which I think we sometimes take for granted.
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