Each month Source profiles a prominent chef working in South Africa to discover their personal stories, motivations, and to share their advice with aspiring and seasoned chefs working in the industry. This month, Source profiles Chef Craig Cormack, co-owner and Chef Patron of The Goose Roasters, partner at Overture restaurant, member of the South African Chefs Association, and vice counsilier culinaire for the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Bailliage du Cap. Wow, busy guy!
Craig Cormack has been in the restaurant industry for the past 25 years. After working at most of the Cape’s top 5 star properties for 16 years, heading up some of the top kitchens in the country, like Ellerman House and the Cape Grace, he went into partnership with Bertus Basson in 2005 to open a private cheffing company . The partnership has since expanded to include investments such as Overture restaurant, The Goose Roasters, The Worsrol Food truck and Bertus Basson signature foods as well as the Betsie Says wine label and Amoleh salt. Craig has even written hs own textbook for students of the food industry.
Chef Cormack was inspired to become a chef after landing up in the kitchen during his National service, “I was lucky to be in the officers’ mess in the air force and we did a lot of functions for international delegations. I was hooked on preparing food. I loved the adrenalin, the knowledge and the excitement involved with food preparation.” “I am still inspired in the same way as I was all those years ago.” he adds. When asked about his biggest inspiration in the food world today, Cormack says, “Charlie Trotter and Raymond Blanc were a great inspiration to me in my junior years, and in South Africa, my favourite chefs are George Jardine and David Higgs. There are also a few youngsters doing really well and taking food to great heights in SA and I am excited to watch them grow.”
His advice to young, ambitious chefs is that owning your own restaurant is not for the faint hearted, “make sure you know what you are in for.” he says. “Ensure you have planned well financially, especially in the Cape as our ‘off’ season is tough. You must not only be able to cook well, but manage your staff, costs and make sure your front–of-house staff are super talented and knowledgeable.”
His pet hate in the kitchen is lazy, unenthusiastic people, and people that don’t have common sense. And adds, “My number one kitchen rule is to never send a dish out that isn’t up to standard, redo it if you’re not happy.”
He believes that food is in a good place in South Africa and is of a very high standard but there isn’t any food trend that is really blowing him away at the moment. He adds, “I think there is a new trend on its way and I cannot wait to see what it will be.”
His top three ingredients to cook with are onions, lemons and salt and he believes that salt is the most important ingredient in food, one that is not given enough gravitas by other chefs. He admits he has a huge fascination and obsession with the mineral which he says has only grown over the years. He hosts dinners paired with salt and wine, he gives talks on salt, and has created a fantastic range of salts called Amoleh, which we love.
The most adventurous thing he has ever eaten was lambs brains, which he adds is the one thing he would not want to sample again.
Chef Cormack focuses on produce from the local region, combined with fresh, simple and tasty dishes with a creative and fun flair. His food philosophy is undeniably present in his style of cooking. “Cook with flavour, keep it simple and use your ingredients to their best potential’’.