An interview with JAN Group Executive Chef Antro Davel
The opening of JAN Franschhoek marks an exciting new chapter for the JAN team, and is a homecoming to the Boland for Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. With a seasonal culinary experience that celebrates the surrounding nature and heritage of the beautiful Franschhoek Valley, the task of conceptualising and creating a unique food and wine experience was an incredible experience for the team, led by Chef Antro Davel under the guidance of Jan Hendrik as Culinary Director. We sat down with Antro to get a bit more up close and personal with this unique experience.
How does JAN Franschhoek differ from Restaurant JAN in Nice and Klein JAN in the Kalahari?
Each of the different establishments is inspired by the natural seasonal surroundings of their locations, so for JAN Franschhoek we’ve been heavily influenced by the concept of foraging for our own ingredients and using regional, indigenous produce like fynbos and fresh fish from the river. We also use the local community garden started by chef Margot Janse for some beautiful produce. As for the dining experience itself, guests can enjoy a tasting menu with some localised JAN staples, and then they can choose between the River and Mountain menu options inspired by the surrounding Simonsberg Mountains and Berg River.
Have you had any interesting foraging experiences recently?
Well, the other day I saw a Puff Adder. That got my heartbeat up!
JAN Franschhoek is a return to the Winelands for Jan Hendrik, who is based in Nice, France, but the same can be said for you, what is it like being back?
When I first started out as a Commis Chef in my earlier career in Franschhoek, I did a lot of foraging and this experience has taken me back to that fun time. It also makes me think back to the incredible chefs I’ve worked for, like Chef Margot Janse, and I got to cook for her at JAN Franschhoek the other day, so it has been a full circle kind of experience for me.
What is your favourite dish on the menus to prepare?
I like working with the Bergrivier tilapia, a freshwater fish that we source from the local river. I love cleaning fish and it’s nice to work an ingredient from head to tail and use everything without wasting any part of it. The flavours are also amazing and it’s a tribute to the Franschhoek area that we’re lucky to call home.
How is JAN Franschhoek reducing waste?
This is a huge pillar for all of our establishments, and we try to use all of our ingredients as much as possible without wasting anything. Even something as small as the almonds we use, we blanch them to remove the skin and use them in a purée, or the nasturtium that we forage ourselves, we use the watered leaves to make a salt to season the fish. So even when things might not aesthetically be ‘pretty’ enough for a plate we’ll ensure we find a use for it somewhere else.
What is your favourite part of the JAN Franschhoek experience so far?
We have a wonderful ritual where the culinary staff and guests go outside to watch the breathtaking sunset, and it’s a wonderful treat to enjoy with guests.
JAN Franschhoek is hosted in La Motte’s historic Veepos building. How does the location affect the dining experience?
The kitchen is smaller and obviously not as modernised, but I absolutely love it. Veepos feels incredibly intimate, which is exactly what we wanted, we serve everyone at the same communal table and it feels like guests are stepping into our home, and we are entertaining them. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience and a tribute to the heritage of the building and the area.