Best birthday present EVER!
At my age I’m beginning to divest possessions – although most things edible like chocolates, coffee, cheese and wine are all still very welcome … and, of course, so are books. So when my son and his wife gave me an evening at The Cookery with Secret Jozi Chef, I was delighted. But nothing could prepare me for what a fabulous evening it was. Situated under Pronto in the Colony, Craighall Park, it’s the brain-child of Paul Maciel. Paul started Pronto in 2004 and sold in 2016 to start this fabulous cookery school with a difference.
The night we went there were about 20 of us I think, and we each worked in our own ‘groups’. You take your own drinks but are given bubbles and snacks when you arrive.
Then each group (2 or 3 in a group) has its own workstation with 3 recipes (starters, main and a pud) and all the ingredients for these dishes, set out at the work station.
There’s plenty of room in this fabulous kitchen-space equipped with top-end Whirlpool and KitchenAid appliances as well as 3 ovens, 5 gas burners and stunning kitchen ‘tools’. Even I managed that fancy quick professional move of ‘hands-on-either-side-of-knife-chop-chop-down-the-bunch-of-parsley’. And the fabulous team of Paul, Emilio, Sicelo and Carlos buzz around constantly: overseeing, adding a helping hand, and giving amazing preparation advice and cooking tips.
While cooking, there’s ample opportunity to taste and check out other people’s dishes; plus of course loads of wine gets consumed (not quite as much as Floyd, but almost!). And the best is to then have all the dishes laid out buffet-style and we all helped ourselves and sat down to a fabulous convivial meal. Such a frabjous evening.
They have themed evenings varying from Thai to South American to Indian, you name it. Ours was just a general ‘easy cooking to be with friends’. Our meal comprised a delish starter of grilled artichokes marinated and laid on toasted bruschetta with creamed feta and coriander. This was followed by pasta with a fabulous brinjal, tomato and, of course garlic, sauce and a baked chocolate pudding. We won’t talk about the chocolate dessert– we don’t know what happened and Emilio assured us that it was the recipe that needed retesting, not our cooking.
Very impressive professional operation
And don’t be misled by the seemingly laid back, utterly hospitable, bon-homie of the Secret Jozi Chef team. In 2017 they served up 6500 meals. Over one particularly busy period they had 40 functions in 29 days. During this time they counted an off-day as one when they had only one function a day. They offer two meals a day – either brunch and dinner or lunch and dinner ie 11-3 and 6-10. They work hard, they work smart, they are utterly professional and their enthusiasm is entirely infectious.
Make and evening and take a large group of friends
It is a wonderful thing to do with family, with a small group of friends or even take the entire function over with a larger group of 20. But be warned – book WELL in advance. It’s busy … and you can see why. I cannot wait for our next evening at the Cookery School with the Secret Jozi Chef. We will be back … again and again! Thanks Paul, Emilio, Sicelo and Carlos. And of course to my gift-givers: Andrew and Claudia.