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Getting to Know Justine Suntah

Getting to Know Justine Suntah
Chef Justine Suntah cooks a seafood feast at Tintswalo Atlantic, within sight and sound of the crashing ocean. We spent a bit of time getting to know her…

What was your scariest moment in the kitchen?

My scariest moment in the kitchen was when I was out presenting our menu we had planned for the day and suddenly I heard a huge bang, almost like a gun shot. I ran back into the kitchen to find out that a Spray and Cook can had fallen into our deep fryer and had exploded, almost burning a trainee and our sculler, who luckily fell to the ground in time.

What is your favourite food and why?

My favourite food would definitely be Indian Cuisine, I love the flavours that burn your mouth, open your nose and make you sweat. I love that each curry you eat is never the same.

I grew up in my Mauritian grandmother’s kitchen and the dishes of her island were full of rich spicey flavours.

Your favourite restaurant?

I would have to say Ragafellows in Hout Bay. What amazing burgers they serve. And Cheyne’s too. This is a small specialist style restaurant with fusion food and an interesting mix of tastes. Tapas style is always good for the light eaters.

Best cooking advice and who gave it to you?

Cook with love, because it comes through in your food, this is the advice that chef Jeantelle van Staden gave me when I worked with her when I first arrived at Tintswalo.

What are the most common mistakes that novice chefs make?

Cold pan syndrome and over seasoning.

In their anxiety a lot of novice chefs don’t heat their searing pans enough. They should be piping hot to sear, for instance, tuna correctly. TV chefs mislead people when they chuck in handfuls of seasoning. Always measure correctly so that you don’t over do things.

What is the most important tool in your kitchen?

My most important tool in the kitchen would definitely be my Chef’s knife, Robo coupe and our Sous Vide Machine.

When did you eat your last takeaway and what was it?

I had my last takeout last week sometime, I ordered a spicy margarita pizza, which by the way was a lot hotter than usual. I guess the pizza place is getting used to me saying ‘it wasn’t hot enough’.

What is your least favourite ingredient and why?

Star anise. I can’t handle the licorice smell, even its over powering taste reminds me of a bad experience I had when I was younger.

Do you follow food trends and if so which do you think are popular now and why?

I would say that people are going for healthier, more natural foods. People today don’t want their food messed with, the simpler the better.

I think that there are too many chefs trying to create new trends, but fail. People like simple, yet tasty food. Why would anyone want to change that?

What famous people would you invite to dinner and what would you serve them?

Gordon Ramsey. I would cook him one of two things – Halibut or Risotto because it’s one of the things most people get wrong.

Kevin Costner loves fishing, so I would cook a tasty Kingklip served with crushed chive potatoes, Sicilliana caponata and basil squid.

What is your favourite drink?

Dry lemon/ Castle Lite

Justine shares a few of her top tips for cooking seafood…

Words: Di Wemyss

Pictures: Johan Wilke and Di Wemyss

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