It’s that time of the year when restaurants unveil their summer menu.
This year, there’s even more pride involved as most restaurants are just starting to gain traction after the financial setback of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Tristan Marc Latouf, the head chef at Radisson Blu Sandton’s Vivace restaurant, was happy to chat about how they are tantalising the taste buds this summer.
First, he revealed a bit more about himself and his culinary journey.
“I am of French and Lebanese descent and come from a big foodie family, who are proud that I’m carrying the torch. I grew up in Pretoria, across the road from a little Italian restaurant where I started washing dishes for pocket money. It was there that I fell in love with the restaurant business, the high-pressure vibe of being in the kitchen and idea of expressing myself creatively through food.
“As soon as I was finished with my studies, I borrowed some money from my uncle to open a little restaurant which taught me the basics and some valuable business lessons. After about a year, I decided it was time to broaden my horizons, so I packed up to travel through America and the UK to gain international hospitality experience.
“It was on this international adventure that I found myself a position as the sous Chef for London-based Italian chef, restaurateur and food expert Antonio Carluccio’s flagship restaurant.” He says Carluccio is known as “the godfather of Italian gastronomy”.
An ode to his South African roots, the head chef creates a ‘Zamalek’ beer-battered hake. Picture: Supplied
On taking up residence at the Vivace restaurant, he said: “When you stand in your open-plan kitchen and you look out over the richest square mile in Africa, you realise that all the years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears have really paid off. Running the Vivace kitchen is exactly where I want to be now – it feels so right.”
As for the inspiration behind the restaurant’s summer menu, he said: “I read an article once of a hero of mine, Charlie Trotter, that stated: ‘Your menu should be an extension of what you as a chef like to eat’. I’ve always done exactly that. I love fresh flavours, I love Italian food and I, of course, grew up loving South African food. So I simply went on what I love to eat and what I enjoy cooking. Then the menu becomes an extension of yourself and your personality and I believe, that that’s how you build up a clientele.
The arancini – risotto rice balls stuffed with smoked mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. Picture: Supplied
“Food just tastes better when it’s in season – simple as that. People say fusing flavours, I call it just having fun. When you pair seasonal, home-grown produce with your passion for cooking, the flavours come through on their own, they speak for themselves. I always say you can taste when a chef enjoys making a particular dish, or when a chef is having fun.”
Foodies can look forward to tucking into several mouthwatering dishes, including: arancini – risotto rice balls stuffed with smoked mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes (R95); Fairview goat’s cheese and home-grown plum tomato risotto (R120); the Grilled Chicken Supreme – two pieces of crispy, grilled chicken with pepper-crusted, hand-cut potato chips and a delectable bearnaise sauce (R195); a ‘Zamalek’ beer-battered hake with hand-cut peppered potato chips (R165); 800g Tomahawk steaks that serve two (R590); and giant coconut-encrusted, home-made marshmallows (R95).
Each dish is wonderfully paired with a fine selection of wines.
The head chef pointed out: “South Africa produces world-class wine and it’s our responsibility to showcase this to our international and local guests. The wine industry took a beating during the lockdown. We need to support them now as best we can.”
Round off the meal with something sweet yet unusual giant coconut-encrusted, home-made marshmallows. Picture: Supplied
While he is partial to a “risotto of anything, loaded with Parmesan” as the perfect summer dish, he shed light on his unusual dessert offering.
“Marshmallows are like ice cream, you can eat them all year round. My kids love those coconut marshmallows that you buy from the shops and I remember eating them growing up as well, so I thought it would be really cool nod to our childhood to have a home-made version on the menu.”