Michael Deg, Head Chef at Delaire Graff Restaurant, shares his kitchen tips and tricks
What is the main difference between kitchens in Dublin versus here?
Being a big capital city, Dublin has a larger focus on business lunches. This means quick meals and smaller portions. Stellenbosch is vastly different. People come to the winelands to relax and unwind, taking time to enjoy long, leisurely meals.
You have a kitchen garden for fresh produce. What is the veg or herb you use the most?
Shoots for garnishing. We have pea, sunflower, basil, coriander, carrot and beetroot shoots this week. We had an incredibly abundant tomato harvest this year. Our summer menu featured a range of tomato-based dishes, such as cooled gazpacho, marinated tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad, warm creamy roasted tomato soup, and smoked tomato risotto. With autumn on our doorstep, we have begun growing our baby carrots and heirloom beetroots.
Do you have a tip for us, from your local market or artisanal producer—something we should seek out when we’re in the area?
The West Coast oysters and the trout at Wild Peacock in Stellenbosch are of an amazing quality. Ask about their freshwater crayfish, as they are now sustainably farmed in South Africa and worth every cent, when you can get them. Farmer Angus is a pioneer in ethically farmed food. We use his eggs in the kitchen and they are now sold in many Stellenbosch stores. I always buy them for myself at home.
Do you find it tricky keeping to the SASSI approved fish list?
Chefs enjoy a challenge. Personally, fish and shellfish are my favourite things to cook and to eat. As chefs, we have a responsibility to serve ethical and sustainable food. We often serve the farmed sea bass from the Wild Peacock. From the Southern Cross Fish Deli we obtain our line-caught hake, tuna and yellowtail, all of which are on the SASSI green list.
What is your favourite dish on the winter menu?
Our menus change from week to week, and my favourites with them. Currently, the braised grass-fed beef short rib, Jerusalem artichoke puree, oxtail ragout, roast potato puree and nasturtium. I enjoy braised meat for cooler weather and short rib is one of my favourite cuts. We slow cook ours for five hours at a low heat in red wine until the meat falls off the bone, complemented by the winter Jerusalem artichokes, which have a lovely nutty and earthy flavour.
What do you make for yourself for dinner at home?
Both my wife and I are part of the restaurant world. The one thing we always have in the fridge is cheese. No matter what time we return home, we can sit down, reminisce about our day together and enjoy some artisanal cheeses, crackers, fruit and local charcuterie, with a glass of wine of course.
What kitchen tool could you not live without?
Without hesitation, our Thermomix. We are lucky to have two at Delaire Graff Restaurant. These wonderful devices produce unbelievable purees, soups, dressings and mayonnaise. It is almost as if we have an extra, uniquely skilled chef in our kitchen.
Michael and his wife lived in Dublin for six years working in top restaurants before moving to Stellenbosch in January 2014. Michael says the incredible restaurant scene in Stellenbosch makes him want to cook even better, experiment even more and improve on the already high standards of the Delaire Graff Kitchen.