Get some gumboots

Chris-Erasmus-Foliage.jpg

Local legend Chris Erasmus and his wife Alisha have just opened their own restaurant in Franschhoek called Foliage. The focus is on foraged ‘forest-to-table’, pickles, preserves and the valley’s famous wine.

Plus, the eatery is connected to Is Art Gallery, which has regular exhibitions featuring contemporary South African artists.

We caught the chef just before he was about to head out to look for some mushrooms—and we did some digging of our own.
 
Can you elaborate on your forest-to-plate philosophy - what does this actually mean?
Before we enter the kitchen, we start our day by foraging for a couple of hours in the surrounding forests and rivers looking for mushrooms, fynbos, edible wild herbs, wild watercress and so on. Then I structure the day’s menu around what we’ve found.
 
An example of a dish?

Rose petal ice nougatine, crystalised mallow, salted chocolate custard and hazelnut ice cream.
 
Do you need a licence to forage?
No I work on a barter system with the surrounding wine farms, pairing the ingredients we find with the wines from that area.
 
How do you know if something is poisonous or not?

Field guides for herbs and years of experience in picking mushrooms. Start foraging with the experts and only start to use when you are 100% sure you know what you’re doing.
 
What are some things you've found that are either unique or prolific in Franschhoek?
Buchu, ciridella, kapokbos, suikerbossie.
 
Your advice to novice foragers wanting to get started?

Get some gumboots and make friends with a good forager.
 
Best foraged dish you've ever made?
Lactic fermented poplar bolette mushroom mousse, cep roasted calf’s sweetbreads, rose geranium glaze, wild mulberries
 
And one not so successful?
Lactic fermented rose buds… It wasn’t good.
 
Can you take me through your journey as a chef to owning your own restaurant: and one thing you learnt or took away from each experience?
I started in my mom’s kitchen at age five. I studied a few other things after school and went to the Elsa van der Nest Academy and then I started working at Five Flies, after that on to Pied à Terre in London: we were only five in the kitchen, and garnered our second Michelin star (learned: dedication and discipline).
 
The journey continued to The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français (here Margot Janse taught me to think about food logically), Ginja (Asian fusion and hard work!), La Motte (delved into historical recipes and learnt how to run a big kitchen) and now Foliage, where the focus is on sustainable comfort cooking.
 
And during my holidays for the last 10 years I travel and work at places like Per Se, Noma, Ikarus and Daniels. Doing stages with other chefs keeps you in the loop of what’s happening and keeps me focused on growing as a chef.
 
Locally who's your food hero? 
Neil Jewell from Bread and Wine. And from a nature perspective the amazing work that Matt Allison is doing.
 
Globally who do you admire? 
Rene Redzepi from Noma and Fergus Henderson of St Johns.
 
What makes the community of chefs special in Franschhoek?
We all share, barter and hang out! We truly are all friends and each one has a unique style.
 
How about sharing a recipe for a pickle used for vegetables? 
With veggies and fruit I like to use lactic fermentation to pickle. It’s simple – 2% salt, vacuum seal and leave at ambient temperature for 8-10 days until pickled.
 
Chris and Alisha live in Franschhoek with their young son.
 
Foliage
11 Huguenot Street, Franschhoek, Western Cape
Call: open for lunch and dinner, call 021 876 2328 to book