Chef Allan Bezuidenhout, owner of popular Port Elizabeth restaurant Muse and proud Capsicum graduate, visited the Port Elizabeth campus recently to chat to students about his food journey so far and what to expect from the industry. We asked Chef Allan to give us some insights for the rest of our readers. #LivingTheDream
Why did you choose this career?
I grew up in a house where food was a daily experience. My dad would prepare meals with exotic ingredients and often try new things. During school holidays I would spend time at my grandmother’s house and we would cook classic South African ‘boerekos’, so my love for food started at an early age. I never planned on becoming a chef, but after working in the UK as a barman, I did some extra shifts in the kitchen as a sculler and I was amazed to see the bond between the chefs, the smells and the adrenalin during service. I was hooked and the rest as they say, is history.
What was your time at Capsicum Culinary Studio like and how did it prepare you for industry?
It was great, I believe it’s important to get the basics right, and Capsicum did that for me. You can only become more creative once you know how to do the basics. I also met my wife, Simone at Capsicum!
When did you decide to open your own restaurant?
Muse has been our brainchild for the last three years, but we were waiting for the right spot to open our doors because we needed a space that had the right look and feel.
Explain the concept of Muse.
Muse restaurant is a place where you can relax and enjoy fresh food made from scratch. I use fresh produce and we make our own sauces, salts, cheese and ferment our own wines. I buy fresh meat and fish almost daily and avoid freezing as far as possible. We forage for herbs and roots when available and I believe that using small suppliers for quality produce also makes a big difference. It is cheaper to buy from the bigger retailers, but you can see and taste the difference in quality. We reinvent and modernise classic comfort meals for all to enjoy.
What is the most popular dish on the menu?
Beef short rib with dehydrated vegetables, chipotle and chilli aioli with a charred mielie.
What can you tell aspiring chefs looking to make an impact in the industry?
Creativity is not inventing something new. To do this you need to invent a new ingredient which is fairly impossible. Creativity is doing something in an unexpected way.
When you aren’t in the kitchen where can we find you?
Out in the ocean, surfing.
What is your stance on the farm to table/field to fork movement?
I am a firm believer in it. We need to respect our produce and stop wasting good food – use the whole animal for instance and stop discarding off-cuts that can be used in stocks, sauces and fillings.
Do you use local produce as far as you can? If so, what local producers stand out for you?
Yes I do, I have a young lady that grows herbs for me in her back garden and I love being able to compare her herbs with mass producers, it’s so much better.
What do you most love cooking?
I love cooking fish dishes.
What’s your fondest kitchen memory?
Washing dishes with my executive chef because the skullers didn’t come to work. It teaches you that the whole kitchen is your responsibility and that you are never to good to help out.
Who’s work in the industry do you most admire?
What characteristics set a good chef apart from the rest?
Put in the time, be the first in and the last out.
What is your top kitchen tip?
Keep your knives sharp, it is scary to see how many chefs do not pay attention to their knives.
What are your future plans?
I would love to get Muse into the top 50 restaurants on the Eat Out list.
Any advice for students just starting their studies?
Pay attention, soak up all the information, ask questions, keep a small notebook in your pocket and write stuff down. Read, read, read then practice.