Q&A with Roots head chef Adriaan Maree

Roots – one of last year’s 20 nominees for the Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards – hired a brand new head chef earlier this year. Joburg-born Adriaan Maree worked at Rust en Vrede and at London’s Michelin-starred Hibiscus restaurant under Claude Bosi before joining the team at Forum Homini.

Adriaan’s cooking philosophy is to make light and simple food, but with impactful flavours. His preference for seasonal and local ingredients, such as springbok from the Forum Homini game estate, means that the menu at Roots changes monthly.

We chatted to Adriaan about baking vegetables in salt crusts, the first thing he learnt to cook, and where he goes for pizza in Jozi.

I learned the most from Peter Tempelhoff (now executive chef at number one restaurant The Greenhouse) at Grande Provence, how important consistency and seasoning is. Claude Bosi at Hibiscus taught me how to use simple ingredients and turn them into amazing flavour combinations.

My failsafe week night dinner is pizza and beer at The Ant Café in Melville.

At the moment, I’m experimenting with local producers and local products. Baking vegetables in salt crust and using simple ingredients and presenting them in an exciting way.

I admire David Higgs, and his way of getting the right people in the right positions and his ability to build a team. I also admire John Shuttleworth and how he solves stressful situations with a great sense of humour.

The first thing I learnt to cook was scrambled eggs.

My favourite breakfast dish is salmon, potato rösti, chives and a poached egg on toasted brioche. It’s always a good way to start the day.

My favourite winter vegetable is the parsnip. The sweetness and versatility is amazing, and it works well with almost everything.

One of my favourite local suppliers and small producers is Rob the duck guy. He sends us duck and livers as fresh as they come from his farm down the road. The quality is great and he goes out of his way to accommodate us.

My favourite restaurants in SA are Rust en Vrede for a special occasion; Terrior for a great lunch; The Ant Café for the best pizza in Joburg; and Bismillah for great Indian food that’s always a treat.

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