P.J. began his career working at Parks restaurant under the watchful eye of Michael Oliver. He has become one of the top chefs in the South African culinary industry through pure determination and hard work. “I cannot emphasise enough, the importance of hard work. This is my advice to young chefs trying to move ahead in the industry: keep your head down, listen, and try to learn as much as possible,” he says. Discipline is another quality he believes all chefs, whether young or old, should have.
Coupled with his food philosophy—“to respect the farmer and the produce”—Chef Vadas is inspired by amazing, fresh produce and is dedicated to preparing food of the highest quality. His favourite ingredients to cook with are pork, fresh crayfish, and fresh white asparagus. P.J.’s favourite piece of equipment in the kitchen is his spoon – when watching P.J. cook in a kitchen it’s amazing how many different things he does with ‘his Spoon’, turning meat, tasting to ensure the food is seasoned and plating all of his dishes.
As with most chefs, he is not impressed with a dirty kitchen or poor organization, two traits that aspiring chef’s should work hard at. It comes as no surprise, then, that his cardinal rule for any kitchen is cleanliness.
Chef Vadas struggles to pin down one particular food personality that has inspired him. “There are so many people, but I can say with certainty that my parents are a constant source of inspiration for me. They are both hands on at their restaurant in Knysna, Pembreys, which has been trading for 20 years and just keeps getting better”
“What Rene Redzepi the Executive Chef of Noma has done for our industry as chefs is incredible. You also have to look at how Markus from Ile de Pain in Knysna has changed pastry and bread in South Africa. It is incredible.”
As much as P.J. is inspired by other chefs, he also wants to pass on his skills and knowledge to young chefs. “One day, I wish to teach as many young chefs as possible.”
“I really enjoy slow cooked, uncomplicated dishes and this is one of my favourite recipes that I like to make when I have friends around for Saturday lunch to watch the rugby.”
P.J Vadas’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches
- 4 kg bone-in pork shoulder
- 1/3 cup freshly cracked black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. paprika
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1/4 cup ground cumin
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup English mustard
- 1 tsp. cayenne
- 1 cup hickory chips (or any other smoking chips), prepped, method follows
- Bread rolls
Pork Basting Sauce:
- 1cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 head cabbage, cored, tough leaves removed and shredded
- 2 small carrots, shredded
- 900 ml quart cider vinegar
- 1cup water
- 1/8 cup red chilli flakes
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. black pepper
- 1 bottle tomato sauce / ketchup
- Rinse and dry the pork shoulder. Let rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.
- In a small bowl, combine black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, salt, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, dry mustard and cayenne. Rub mixture all over the pork.
- Arrange the oven racks in the middle and lower parts of the oven and preheat to 100 C. Put a sheet tray on the lower rack and the pork directly on the middle rack, uncovered.
- Put the cast iron pan with the hickory chips on the floor of the oven. Remove the chips after 2 hours of cook time. The entire cooking time will be 8 to 10 hours.
- Apply basting sauce every hour throughout the cooking time.
- In the last hour of cook time, remove pork, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and then in aluminum foil and return to the oven for 1 more hour.
- Remove the pork from the oven to a work surface. Let rest until cool enough to pull the pork from the bones.
- To serve, cut the buns in half and pile up some pulled pork. Top with the Basting Sauce, then a large spoonful of the Slaw and a final spoonful of BBQ sauce. Cover with the bun top and serve.
Hickory Chip Method:
Soak the chips submerged in water for 15 minutes. While chips are soaking, preheat a 9-inch cast iron pan on the stove top over medium heat until it is ash-white hot. Remove chips from the water and add to the cast iron pan. Put the pan on the bottom floor of the oven for the first 2 hours of pork cooking time.
Basting Sauce Method:
Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and reserve.
Combine all the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. Add the cabbage and the carrots and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for1 hour.
In a large saucepan, mix together all the ingredients, in the order given, over low heat. Simmer for 30 minutes.