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 interviews Chef Emma Hofmans, Head Chef at Hallelujah in Tamboerskloof, Cape Town. Emma Hofmans (25) was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland. She moved to Cape Town in January 2012 to acquire her Food and Wine Chef’s diploma from The Culinary Academy (now known as The Hurst Campus) in Paarl. Hofmans did her traineeship at The Cellars-Hohenort in Constantia, first at The Conservatory under Head Chef Ryan Josten, and for the last month of her studies she trained under Executive Chef Peter Templehoff and Head Chef Gerald Van Der Walt at The Greenhouse. After completing her studies Hofmans continued on at The Greenhouse working through different sections in the kitchen and in May 2014, Hofmans moved to the Pot Luck Club to work for Luke Dale-Roberts under Head Chef Wesley Randles. The change opened her eyes to a new type of dining which was slightly more laid back but still focused on ingredients and incredible flavour combinations. In October 2014, at the young age of 25 she was privileged to be offered the position of Head Chef at Hallelujah. Source Food (SF): Was there anything that you thought you wanted to do before you started cooking? Emma Hofmans (EH): I’ve got a masters in Mechanical Engineering which I got before I came to South Africa for my chef studies. I thought my studies at The Culinary Academy would be a gap year because I would absolutely hate the professional kitchen…..apparently not, as three years later I’m still here! SF: What is your food philosophy? EH: Simple, fresh and seasonal……oh and delicious of course. If it isn’t the most delicious you think it can be, you shouldn’t be serving it. SF: What is it that you really enjoy about a chef’s life? EH: You are growing as a chef every day. Every day brings with it new challenges and there is never a ceiling to your skills, as there is always something new to learn. SF: What are your thoughts on the current food trends in South Africa? EH: I love how so many restaurants are creating their menus to promote sharing. Whenever my family would go out for dinner while I was growing up, forks of food from everyone’s plate would be passed around so we could all taste each other’s meal. Smaller plates allow you to sample more of the chef’s creations and this way of dining also lets people really enjoy food together. SF: What are your top three ingredients to cook with? EH: Garlic, chilli and lime. These three ingredients come naturally with running an Asian kitchen, but they can also heighten dishes from any cuisine. SF: What personal quirks does your team tease you about? EH: We play a lot of reggae at Hallelujah and I have a tendency to sing along and dance…even during service… SF: What kinds of foods do you think are underrated? EH: Celeriac. It is a pretty weird vegetable, but it has an amazing flavour and can be prepared in an endless number of ways. Also, red onions – I have a lot of time for red onions. SF: Is there a particular chef from whom you draw inspiration? EH: I learned a lot from Gerald Van Der Walt, now the Head Chef of The Tasting Room. He was Head Chef at The Greenhouse from my trainee days and he has a huge respect for the kitchen and ingredients. SF: What is your idea of happiness? EH: Sitting with my family, my friends and my boyfriend around a big table with an incredible home cooked meal and numerous bottles of fantastic wine. SF: What advice would you give to a young, ambitious chef who is just starting out in the industry? EH: Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes – just don’t do them again. Every day is a new day, keep your head down, work hard, and ask for help – it’s not a sign of weakness. Be aware of your surroundings and learn all the time, and have fun while you do it.