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 Ivor Jones, Head Chef at The Test Kitchen, the number one restaurant in Africa and number 48 in the world, as voted by the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014. Ivor Jones was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and moved to Cape Town with his family at a young age. He started cooking professionally in 2006 after completing his studies in the culinary arts at the South African Chef Academy. His first job was at La Colombe where he worked under Luke Dale Roberts and he remarks, “I really learned what hard graft was at La Colombe and discovered what being in a kitchen was actually like”. When Chef Scot Kirton took over La Colombe, Ivor was promoted to senior sous chef where he continued to grow & learn prior to his move to the Test Kitchen. Source Food (SF): What inspired you to become a chef? Ivor Jones (IJ): It started when my mother passed away and it was up to me to do some of the cooking in the house. I began to fall in love with the flavours and tastes of the many ingredients and because I am a hands on kind of person I figured why not, and I’m happy I did. SF: What is your food philosophy? IJ: Creative, clean taste, innovation and originality mixed with good old-fashioned hard work. Oh, and to enjoy every minute of cooking! SF: Your brother, Dylan Jones, is the lead vocalist and guitarist for local rock band, Red Huxley. There is a lot of creativity and passion which shines through in the career paths you and your brother have chosen. Was there always a creative culture within your family? IJ: Yes, my mother encouraged our musical and artistic talents when we were growing up. My brother is actually a qualified electromechanical engineer but he chose to follow his passion in music and my highest marks in matric were art and drama, so we were always creative. We also had a big culture of family, food and gathering around the dinner table every night. It is because of this that I learnt the importance of food and how it brings people and families together. SF: What is it that you really enjoy about a chef’s life? IJ: There is a great feeling of companionship and brotherhood and it is like working with your family. There are lessons to be learnt every day but there is always an amazing sense of achievement when you have happy guests. I also love some down time and enjoy an ice cold beer at the end of a busy day. SF: So, you are the head chef of the number 1 restaurant in Africa. What next? Where do you see yourself headed? IJ: I’m growing as a chef daily at the Test Kitchen, there is so much to learn from all the chefs that come and go. The restaurant is still very young at 3 years old and I believe it will blossom in the years to come. I think I’m always going to be based in Cape Town and hopefully will continue to do things that really inspire me as a chef. SF: You must have contributed a few ideas/dishes to the new tasting menu at TTK– what is on the menu that you helped create/inspire that you are most proud? IJ: Luke and I have come across some new techniques using art tools in food. For example I’ve discovered that using a coral sponge when plating a puree looks fantastic and we’ve also started using really great stencils that Luke had designed by a local artist. I recently invented a new peti four with porcini mushroom and halva liquorish allsort which I think is really cool. I have also discovered that when you heat amassi (a sour cow’s milk) it forms a curd almost like cream cheese with a crème fraîche like sourness, so we’re trying that on a new dish of trout with pickled quail egg and BBQ beetroot. Other than that Luke is still the main man behind the Test Kitchen and I’m the engine. We collaborate and bounce ideas around very well as a team which makes working for him great. SF: What advice would you give to a young, ambitious chef who is just starting out in the industry? IJ: Work hard, play hard and experience as much as you can whether it is in one or many places because the possibilities and rewards are endless. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is not to be afraid of failure because though failure you learn so much. SF: What are your thoughts of the current food trends in South Africa? IJ: I think a lot of people are going very local and African with the ingredients they use which is pretty much a world trend right now. The use of the peasant veg and lifting them to the fullest potential is also being done more and more. SF: What are your top 3 ingredients to cook with? IJ: Onion, thyme and loads of garlic mmmmmmm SF: There are wedding bells just round the corner, congratulations! What have you decided on for your wedding meal? IJ: Yes, it is very scary and exciting at the same time. I am lucky enough to say that Luke will be doing the food and I’m sure that’s enough said. I think it will be very relaxed and tasty, Roxanne and I are looking forward to it very much.