The West Coast Fossil Park on Langebaanweg, approximately 150km north of Cape Town, is home to the well-preserved fossil remains of animal life dating back five million years. Also nestled in this historical site is the West Coast Chef School – a restaurant run by chefs Heinrich and Fransa Mouton with their group of students.
This destination eatery offers a laid-back, bistro-style dining experience perfect for days out in the wonderfully scenic and tranquil environment of the park.
Simplicity with a lot of care is the ethos that runs through the food at West Coast Chef School, so much so that you can taste the love in the dishes. It is this quality that won the restaurant a spot in McCain’s Foodservice Solutions’ “Dishruption Challenge”. Chef Heinrich has been in the industry for over 20 years and he passes on his wisdom to new generations of culinary leaders.
The dish that he entered into the McCain challenge is the spinach and mushroom rotolo, which links itself to the restaurant’s location and the spirit of the times.
“With the pandemic forcing us to take more personal time, it gives you time to refocus. I wanted to create a really amazing vegetarian dish that fits into the beautiful natural ecosystem vibe our restaurant is situated in,” Chef Heinrich explains.
His businesses were not spared from the devastating effects of the pandemic. But the silver lining was in the support that he received and the ideas that had him adapting to the changing times.
“We had to close our beachside restaurant due to COVID as we could not afford to keep the doors open. Fortunately, we could keep going with Fossil Park. Getting the trust of customers that we are doing our best to ensure safety for all went a long way. However, our location made it impossible to do takeaway, and if the park or museum had to close due to restrictions, it made it very difficult for us to survive,” says the chef.
To adapt, the team set up a tuck shop selling ice cream and cool drinks for patrons walking in the park. They extended on this offering with the inclusion of homemade cookies, rusks, sweet treats, freshly baked sourdough bread and other deli goodies that people can buy and take home.
Chef Heinrich says he has learnt a lot from what other restaurateurs are doing to overcome the challenges and has been encouraged by the industry to keep a positive mindset.
McCain contributed to the tangible spirit of “strength in community” by creating a communal platform for the industry to connect and share ideas through the McCain Foodservice Solutions’ Insider Club initiative. With the McCain Foodservice Solutions “Dishruption Challenge”, the aim was to give monetary relief to independent restaurateurs during these difficult times. The 10 winners of the “Dishruption Challenge” each received a restaurant support package.
On future strategies and what he plans to do with the prize, Chef Heinrich says: “We want to add a new glass display to our tuck shop area so we can increase our grab-and-go product offering. Our marketing needs more attention and we’re looking into venturing into the events sector due to our location being so unique.”