Two Brothers from Another Sea: What Wolfgat’s Kobus van der Merwe cooked with Belgian chef Willem Hiele

In May we reported on Wolfgat’s chef Kobus van der Merwe partnering with Belgian chef Willem Hiele in a two-leg cross-continental collaboration. Steve Steinfeld, The Joburg Foodie, writes about the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Chefs Kobus van der Merwe and Willem Hieles Two Brothers from Another Sea shines light on the beauty of a shared ethos and the power of collaboration. The event was the second of the two collaboration lunches, the first taking place at Restaurant Willem Hiele, organised by Swenden Creative with the assistance of South Africa’s own Tamsin Snyman (daughter of the late and beloved Lannice Snyman, founding editor of Eat Out.).

The event saw gastronomes embark on a culinary pilgrimage within the small village of Paternoster. It is here where van der Merwes critically acclaimed seaside eatery Wolfgat played host to the day.

We begin our journey, ceramic tasting spoon in hand, at the quaint Oep ve Koep (a bistro first helmed by van der Merwe, now in the capable hands of chef Adel Hughes) before descending down the dunes and the beach then finally wandering up to Wolfgat, the final stop on our culinary crusade. Along the way we are treated to different snacks, all produce sourced from the region. Some are van der Merwes creations, others are Hieles and then a few are a team effort.

It’s beautiful, for as different as the landscapes of a small South African fishing town and that of the cold coastal region of Belgiums North Sea may be, it’s evident that the respect these two men hold for the land, sea and all they provide is one and the same. Its this energy that carries through the day.

Down on the beach – as Hiele is preparing a truly superb dish of black mussel, avocado and dune celery and a clever little limpet creation – van der Merwe takes off his vellies and wades into the ocean. A small dinghy has just rounded the corner and from it he collects a box of fresh crayfish.  The two chefs, working together, create the most glorious crayfish ceviche of sorts. Its simple but stunning, and as fresh as can be. Its a dish of utmost restraint, the delicate shellfish showcased for what it is, nothing more and nothing less.

Then the main meal begins. The bread course is the stuff of legends – a combination of two chefs’ popular dishes sees Kobuss bokkom butter paired with Willems white mussel soup and a rooibos cream. Its delicious and packed with flavour; exactly what you want to be lapping up with chewy sourdough while drinking bubbles and looking out at the ocean after a walk along the beach.

Hiele brings out a tray of jacopever and prepares a twist on one of his signature dishes called Sea Fire. He steams the fish whole under coffee bags on top of a braai then serves the soft smoky flesh with the most flavourful sauce. Its a revelation to say the least.

The rest of the meal continues in the same vein, each evident of honour, respect and working with the land, the sea and the community. Two brothers from different seas, indeed.

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