2019 Eat Out Nederburg Rising Star nominee: Jason Kosmas of The Pot Luck Club

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.) The first is Jason Kosmas, who’s been the head chef of Woodstock’s The Pot Luck Club for the past nine months and is, at heart, really just a big lover of his Italian mom’s olive oil. (View all the nominees here.)

What does this nomination mean to you?

Professionally, it means recognition for all the hours and passion I put into my work. I’m ecstatic and super stoked.


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When did you realise you were in the right industry?

After my first placement in the kitchen, working under PJ Vadas at Vadas Smokehouse & Bakery at Spier in Stellenbosch. Although it was hard work, I loved the energy, creativity and camaraderie. I realised I had the right temperament for the job because, having been to boarding school, I understood hierarchical systems – and how to cope with constant bollocksing and batterings! The banter and fun behind all the hard work is amazing, and the bonds you create in the kitchen are next level.

What’s your earliest childhood memory of food?

Cooking creamy scrambled eggs with my gran. I grew up in Tuscany and we always sat down together for a full breakfast as a family. There’d be cereals, fresh juices, yoghurt and – always – a hot, full breakfast. My mom’s side of the family is Italian – and she still lives on the property, with 400 olive trees. I go back to visit every year and get a quota of her olive oil sent to South Africa. My early introduction to food included shopping for ‘peasant’ ingredients at the local market with my mom, gran and aunt. It was all about simple dishes that relied on the beauty and flavours of ingredients from small cultivars.


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Worst rookie mistake you ever made in the kitchen?

Overcooking a 25kg leg of lamb for a brandy industry function. We’d set the temperature incorrectly – and I got it in the neck! We salvaged the meal by making a great ragu.

Pet peeve when it comes to restaurant customers?

Everyone is gluten-free nowadays and everyone else has [some other] dietary requirement. What happened to just going out and enjoying a plate of food?


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Biggest guilty culinary pleasure?

Ordering Bacini’s pizza on a Sunday night with salami, anchovies and olives. The bold, salty flavours are delicious – especially when washed down with a cold beer.

Which international chef would you most like to meet?

Probably Thomas Keller, the American chef who was a real pioneer when it came to classic French cuisine. I’d cook him a really basic pasta because I think he would appreciate simplicity. And I would definitely use my mom’s olive oil.

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