PEOPLE: French flair a la Cape: Marlene van der Westhuizen

Chic South African Marlene van der Westhuizen is inspired by French flavours and classic techniques. When in Cape Town this industrious woman whips up gourmet meals, while in France she hosts tasty tours.

This appeared in Indwe inflight magazine in Nov 2010

What keeps you busy in food? I’m a classically trained chef and I’ve produced a few cookbooks. I own a space I call the Food Studio in Green Point. Three times a year I host cooking holidays for foodies in Charroux, Auvergne in France.

Please explain the concept of the Food Studio. It’s a venue where we strive to cook excellent food at affordable prices. We offer lunches or dinners for 10 to 22 guests – I pair my dishes with wines on request - or host small groups of friends or colleagues for stress-free cooking classes.

How did you transform the Food Studio space? We renovated a semi-detached Victorian building in 2007. Upstairs my open-plan kitchen leads to a terrace and a dining area, plus guest bedrooms and bathrooms. It’s decorated with a few serious antique shop pieces plus some easygoing, fun items. I love the antique Murano chandelier I found in an Italian shop in St Germain in Paris.

We’ve heard tasty rumours about dinners on offer. Yes, I have capitulated under pressure from clients. We opened the Food Studio for individual dinners every Friday at eight. We’ve been running these since 19th October, charging R280pp for three courses. It’s a set menu and people can bring their own wine. Booking is essential.

What could I eat at the Food Studio? Comfortable “brasserie luxe” food. Onion soup, coq au vin, osso buco, oxtail, tarte tatin, orange pudding… Served with bread on the table while I cook with a glass in hand! All recipes are from my cookbooks: Delectable, Sumptuous, Lazy Lunches, Decadent Dinners, Kuierkos vir die Middag and Kuierkos vir die Aand. dsc_0001.jpg

You recently went to France to lead your gourmet tour. What happens? Guests stay with me at Bagatelle, our home in the medieval village of Charroux. We shop at local food markets, cook, walk and cycle. During a weeklong experience, we might browse for antiques at the Sunday brocante, eat at a local haunt, cook some more and taste wines.

Ingredients always in your fridge or pantry? Fresh eggs, full cream milk, tomatoes and ripe Brie. Collectively these make a perfect meal.

Your treasured foodie collectables? I love napkins… large antique ones. I have more than is strictly proper. And I have heaps of silver and bone cutlery.

Catering, Friday dinners and Charroux gourmet tour details at Good Food Tel 021 433 2259.