Chris Payne, 23-year old sous chef at Singita Sweni Lodge in the Kruger National Park (KNP), achieved second place in the popular Jeunes Commis Rôtisseurs, young chef of the year competition. The annual competition attracted entries from the regional winners at each of the six Chaîne des Rôtisseurs branches of South Africa.
The competition took place in Stellenbosch at the Institute of Culinary Arts at the end of May. Chris has been with Singita since 2007. After completing an advanced food and wine diploma at The Culinary Academy (TCA) he joined the Buitenverwachting Restaurant in Cape Town for about two years.
His menu at the competition finals comprised an appetiser of pan fried dorado, steamed mussels in saffron cream with fennel; followed by a main course of braised noix de veau with shitake ravioli, seared foie gras and confit tomato; and a dark chocolate parfait with kirsch poached pear and flambéed raspberries as dessert.
"Taking part in the competition was a completely new experience and it was good to see the top of South Africa's young chefs showcasing their talents and skill," says Chris. He grew up in a family who share a passion and love for food. This, Chris believes, is a cornerstone of his work. Central to his cooking endeavours is his aim to prepare thoroughly and cook with discipline.
"I also believe in honest food – what is on the menu, must be on the plate." He hopes to travel Europe, but has no set plan and will be staying with Singita for a while