Stellenbosch chef Pieter Vlok of Mont Marie loves the outdoor pleasures of braaiing and fishing and produces dishes that have the same wholesome simplicity
Never underestimate the power of the public to nose out a good restaurant. And many of them have been eagerly following their noses down the Blaauwklippen road just outside Stellenbosch to enjoy the food of up-and-coming country chef, 33-year-old Pieter Vlok.
Pieter hasn’t had much time to advertise in the two years since he opened his restaurant in an “empty shell” of a building on businessman Whitey Basson’s mountainside vineyards, Mont Marie (named after Whitey’s youngest daughter). Pieter’s just been too busy cooking and creating some very tasty dishes. So much so that, over season, every table in the 140-seater restaurant has been occupied all day.
“I cook simple, real food and offer bigger portions,” he says, but that’s just half the story. The rest is a carefully thought-out juxtaposition of flavours with textures (his particular hobby horse). Every dish, he maintains, should contain something crunchy. So his chicken liver parfait comes with toasty brioche, his springbok loin with crispy leaks. Deep-fried squid garnish
his fish of the day, and his most delicious gazpacho is given an added crunch from lemon and garlic breadcrumbs.
Pieter is 100-per cent local, born and schooled in Stellenboch where his father is a clinical psychologist and his mother runs her nursery school. Pieter bowed to his father’s insistence on a degree, a B Com, but once that was done he rushed off to do a short course at Warwick’s Chef School in Hermanus. He then was lucky to work with the best in the business, firstly at Rust en Vrede under David Higgs and then with Bertus Basson at Overture, where he stayed for three years.
He says he shares Bertus’s passion for braaiing. “I just love it. I also built the first smoker at Overture.”
Try chef Pieter’s easy potato gnocchi recipe.
Words Diana Wemyss
Photography Johan Wilke