Recently Chef’s Warehouse branched out from it’s central Cape Town location to taking over the food program and setting up shop in the hills looking over Beau wines in the breathtakingly beautiful suburb of Constantia. I came by on a drizzly afternoon to join the team for their staff meal and talk with Chef Ivor Jones about his journey, starting the new chapter for Chef’s Warehouse and why feeding the staff is such a crucial obsession for him.
WHAT WE DO
We opened here 4 months ago, still growing and working out the fine details. We serve a small plate menu of contemporary modern cuisine guided by the seasons. We have 2 gardens onsite and work with an NGO running workshops to help educate people about growing fresh produce. We get the staff involved also which helps them understand what happens on the journey from seedling to plate. The staff love working in this location, I mean just look out the window, it’s stunning and every day it’s a different view!
EVOLUTION OF STAFF MEALS
10 years ago, the norm was that staff food was really average. I would go into the kitchen starving, see it and be like, nah I’m OK. One pot wonders, soggy and sloppy, from people who couldn't be bothered to serve something nice. Today that perceptions has changed. You make things with proper ingredients and then your staff are like, ‘fuck that was good, thank you, That was amazing!’ they feel appreciated. I know from my time coming up the ranks in the kitchen how important it is. I was in the UK at Dinner By Heston, their staff meal was massive. They have around 50 chefs and everyone shut down and went into the massive canteen and had this amazing food. Pot Luck Club started forcing it’s staff to sit down, I wanted to do that, but you need to make time, it can be hard as we get so absorbed in work. We also did that at Test Kitchen and was brilliant, you could see the changes it made to the staff morale.
MY DREAMS OF MAKING A GREAT STAFF MEAL
Here we started with big dreams to do an amazing staff meal. Initially the turn around time between lunch and dinner was an hour in which to totally reset. We were all so busy there was no time to do it properly, it was mental running around and trying to eat. I thought no no, not cool. I was getting upset that we couldn't just sit down for 5mins. Now we extended the time so we can have an additional 30 minute break to do it properly. It can be long hours working here, double shifts are a reality so this time to turn off, eat your meal and relax are so important.
NO SLOPPY SECONDS FOR OUR STAFF
For our Staff Meal we come up a with roster, every day a designated chef or section of kitchen does the staff meal. On a Tuesday its drawn up and they can order in specifically what they want as long as its not crazy expensive items.
Today was these delicious lamb sandwiches, last week we did something similar and we thought it was an absolute belter and today the boys went in and improved on it!
Yeah there’s a bit of competition between the chefs, challenges going on over who can make the best staff meals. We mix it up, salads, meats, vegetarian meals etc. But always the emphasis is on putting love into what is served, no one here is getting a bowl of slop.
Stewed lamb Curry, with shaved vegetables on sourdough
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