A Q&A Session with Chef Alex Poltera of Fern Hotel Inn

  1. What’s your earliest cooking memory (of yourself cooking)?
  • Cooking roast chicken at home for my family. A big feat for me actually cooking something rather than microwaving.

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  1. Favourite food as a child? Favourite food now?
  • My favourite food as a child was what my aunty Gill used to make for me; melted cheese on toast cut into fingers with tomato sauce in the middle for dipping, resembling a sun. Now, my favourite foods would have to be artichokes and avocado.
  1. Have you a story of a flop turned grand success?
  • I was given four sheep tongues as part of a Slow Meat event/competition, to cater 40 portions. I had initially tried to make a sausage, but since the quantity wasn’t enough, I turned it into a colourful terrine served with toasted seed nougatine, pickled beetroot and crème fraiche. The dish won the competition for me. 
  1. Do you have a signature dish?
  • My 36-hour crispy sous vide pork belly. Served with cider pickled apples, granny smith puree, apple crisps, pave potato and honey & wholegrain mustard sauce.
  1. Vegetarians and vegans are no longer considered to be on the lunatic fringe. Do you make a special effort to ensure vegetarians/vegans can enjoy a gourmet experience too?
  • I pride myself on being the first chef in the midlands to offer a solely vegan menu as part of our normal a la carte offering. I often change and add onto the menu and have found that our vegan guests are always very excited to be able to order something off our menu 7 days a week without having to phone ahead and organise something with us.

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  1. Who inspires you the most?
  • Locally, I must say that that would be Chefs Liam Tomlin and Chantel Dartnall. My ultimate inspiration however is Michel Roux Jnr.
  1. If you could work in any restaurant in the world, which would it be and why?
  • Le Gavroche in London. I have dined at this restaurant a few times amongst most of the other Michelin star restaurants in UK, and I find their approach to food incredibly inspiring and exciting.
  1. Where would you choose to have your last meal? Why?
  • Difficult one! I would probably go to Eleven Madison Park or The Fat Duck again as I feel that they are both more than just a meal, but rather a multi-sensory experience.
  1. Your idea of comfort food?
  • Roast chicken with the trimmings, Nachos, a good curry, or a braai.
  1. When disaster strikes – e.g power outage; equipment failure – what do you do?
  • Make a plan.
  1. What’s always in your fridge – both at work and at home?
  • Kimchi, preserved artichokes, olives, courgettes.

12. Three essential pieces of equipment in your kitchen – other than a cooker and a fridge/freezer.

  • Thermomix, stand mixer, sous vide machine.

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