The Trek Between Home & Haute Cuisine

Cooking, in its essence, has always been part of Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s life. Whether on a farm or in the bustling city of Nice, finding ingredients and unlocking their potential is just one of the many pillars of creativity.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, haute cuisine is cooking at a very high standard in the French cooking style.

Since the inception of Restaurant JAN in Nice, Jan Hendrik has masterfully blended the allure of South African traditional cuisine with the sophistication of haute cuisine. This unique fusion has captivated the palates of visitors to the French Riveria.

So, what is the beauty of cooking? Jan Hendrik talks about creating culinary art at home or in a crisp white chef’s jacket.


 Do you find inspiration strikes you more when you’re in the comfort of your own kitchen or in the professional environment of a restaurant?

Such a funny thing … inspiration. For some people, it’s triggered when they are in their workspace or the industrial kitchen; for others, it happens on the street or in their home or even reading a book. The home’s kitchen, to me, should always be the heart of everything that you do. I know there is a stigma of chefs not cooking at home because they cook all day, but you still have that space where you can taste little things and even put something together. In my eyes, inspiration would be in the form of memories of flavours, smells, tastes … things that I want to relive and keep trying to get back.

Secondly, when I see a lot of things together, you just play with them. It really comes down to fun, doesn’t it? Ons is geleer om nie met kos te speel nie (we are taught not to play with our food), but maybe that is false.


How do you strike a balance between the precision and technique required for haute cuisine and the comfort and familiarity of home cooking?

Home cooking innovates my haute cuisine. I grew up on a farm … It’s a cliché, but it’s home cooking … that’s nose-to-tail and root-to-flower, but it did make a difference to sell and harvest things yourself. It’s a South African thing [mindset] … sometimes it doesn’t always go well, sometimes we struggle, and you can’t always afford the expensive high-end brands and supermarkets. And it’s then that you realise you can do so much with simplicity: You can have a tin of tuna with fresh tomatoes from your garden … or you don’t even have to have the tuna. Fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and some sea salt are a meal on their own. That’s what I see as haute cuisine.It really is a balance … Haute cuisine is just top-quality food. And sometimes you crave a McFlurry or eat two-minute noodles. That’s no haute cuisine? But that’s the balance, the beauty of life … and we need to balance those things


Do you show your love and appreciation for others by cooking for them at home or going somewhere where the food is prepared for you?

First of all, I don’t cook for strangers. A lot of people know that. It sounds ridiculous because I am a chef and have restaurants, but I just need to shake your hand first, touch you on the shoulder, or speak to you so that I know who you are. My grandmother taught me that, and it made a real impression on me. Food is such a personal thing; I am a feeder. I grew up on a farm. I am like my grandmothers and, I guess, like my father. We love to see people happy and just see them enjoy a meal so much. So I do … I do show love through food.

For the entire session, watch the video below: