The tapas transformer: 2017 Eat Out S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year

Chef Liam Tomlin. Photo supplied.

The winner of the 2017 Eat Out S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year is Liam Tomlin of Chefs Warehouse & Canteen, Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia and Thali, all in Cape Town.

When Chefs Warehouse opened on Bree Street in January 2014, it offered something hitherto unheard of in Cape Town: communal tables and tapas-style dishes served at fine-dining quality.

Vietnamese dressings popped with flavour, risottos were silken, and that lemon posset – still on the menu – seemed to punch way above the weight of such an informal setting. Word spread fast and Chefs Warehouse quickly became the kind of place where chefs – and those in the know – ate.

It was by no means Liam’s first restaurant triumph: Born in Dublin, he ran acclaimed restaurant Banc in Australia, where he developed a reputation for impeccable standards – and for not mincing his words – before moving to South Africa several years ago.

dishes prepared and served at Chefs Warehouse

Tapas to share at Chefs Warehouse & Canteen. Photo supplied.

More recently, Liam opened up two restaurants in November 2016: Thali, an Indian tapas restaurant, and Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia. Acclaim followed quickly, culminating in all three of Liam’s restaurants being nominated for the 2017 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards. So how does the chef maintain standards across three restaurants at once?

Part of his success seems to rest on his belief in developing his staff. After Banc closed, The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story entitled ‘The town that Banc built’, speaking to no less than nine of Liam’s proteges, who’d worked at Banc and gone on to run their own successful restaurants. From the way he’s managed the growth of his stable in South Africa, it seems he’s bent on achieving the same thing here.

A selection of tapas from Thali. Photo supplied.

“Liam is a phenomenal chef who empowers younger chefs,” says chief judge Abigail Donnelly. “He showcases their talent in his restaurants and gives them the culinary recognition they deserve.”

Up next, Liam is set to take his tapas concept to the winelands, with plans to open up a Chefs Warehouse at Maison in Franschhoek in November 2017. Watch this space.

A lemon posset from Chefs Warehouse. Photo supplied.

About the sponsor

Distributed in over 130 countries on all five continents, S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna represent excellence and Italian style. S.Pellegrino, a world-famous sparkling water, is synonymous with gourmet food and wine culture in particular, and is renowned for its support of emerging and established chef talent. The Eat Out S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year Award is one such initiative, recognising an outstanding chef working in South Africa. Read more.

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