PEOPLE: Burgundian delight: Waterkloof’s Gregory Czarnecki

A Burgundian chef talks about a taste for travel that landed him in the Cape.

waterkloof_chef_gregory_czarnecki_low_res_3.jpg People say Waterkloof is like dining in a glass box 300m above the Atlantic Ocean. Other special features? Waterkloof is about transparency: there is an open kitchen with nothing to hide. What you see on the menu is pretty much what you get, no crazy explanations. Something elegant but not stiff. A good bottle of wine, a good meal, an amazing view in an amazing building.

Something people won’t know about the restaurant? Water is on the house - we filter farm water and add bubbles or serve it still. We don’t believe we should charge and it’s also good for carbon footprint. Owner Paul Boutinot says he’s in the wine business, not the water business.

Something they won’t know about you? I love heavy metal bands such as Slipknot; been listening since the age of 16. I do strange stuff - I’m cycling the Argus tour without any training. My wife and her father have done it about six times. I’ve cycled downhill from Waterkloof and up the 300m hill twice; I like a challenge! I’ve done a lot of sporty holidays: cycling tours, paragliding off a mountain, canyoning and rafting. I never prepare for these things. If somebody says I won’t manage, I take up the challenge.

Profession if not a chef? I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I love the job. I’ve been here seven days a week for the last 16 weeks. Otherwise I might be an interior architect – I love creating new things. I re-upholstered an antique sofa myself. It took me six months.

I met my wife… 11 years ago in Saldanha. My father was working there as an engineer in a factory.

Before I started cooking… I travelled the world for 18 years. I’m from Burgundy but I didn’t really grow up in France. I’ve lived in Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Hong Kong and China. So many places have something different to offer. It was easy to pack a big suitcase for South Africa. This is my third time living here. I’d like to see more of the country but I’ve made a start - I camped for two weeks in the Cederberg. As an adult I worked in Burgundy and Paris mostly. In Paris employed by a three-Michelin star restaurant, I visited their venues in Belgium, Tunisia, Geneva and Lyon.

waterkloof_balcony_table_setting_view_lr.jpg Casual or fine dining? To South African tastes Waterkloof is fine but not pretentious dining. I love a dish we created today: glazed pork belly with quartered boiled beetroot, Granny Smith poached in Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc and fresh black figs. It’s simple, earthy and the flavours match. In international fine dining restaurants you often see lobster, foie gras, turbot… I’m bored with that. I love the forgotten vegetables: beetroot, cabbage, fennel and butternut.

Quick meal out on a day off? I’ve learned a good Afrikaans word gatvol - I’m gatvol of cooking on my day off. I usually go for sushi on Sundays with my wife.

WATERKLOOF, Sir Lowry’s Village Road, Somerset West. Tel 021 858 1491, waterkloof
Open daily for lunch, for dinner Mon to Sat. Three courses at R250 to R300 per head.