Mi Casa fans get to see another side of much-loved frontman J’Something at the upcoming 2017 Good Food and Wine Show. This epic culinary splash at the CTICC sees Joao Da Fonseca showing off his skills as chef, restaurateur and dedicated foodie. JANE MAYNE finds out more about the new chef rock stars.
What’s your role at the show, where can we see you/or taste your food?
I am very proud to be one of the headline chefs which sounds very intimidating to me, but nonetheless, it is what it is, I am one of the headline chefs at Good Food And Wine Show and I will be doing Chef’s Theatre once per day as well as Cooking With Chefs, which is an interactive cooking class, which I am really looking forward to as well. People can also taste my food at my restaurant – Something’s Cooking By J, in Menlyn Pretoria.
Will you be collaborating with anyone?
At the Good Food and Wine Show I won’t be collaborating with anyone other than my team. I am very excited to be bringing chef Ramon, who is my head chef at my restaurant, as well as Elise Ruddle who has been very supportive and played an integral role in my cooking career. She is the lady who helps me to prep, conceptualise and bring to life some of the ideas that I have.
The alchemy of taste – it’s not every day one experiences a mouthful that sparks a profound ‘A-ha’ moment. But when one does, it’s not unlike a pocketful of information similar to other sensory mediums. What are you searching for in an exceptional taste sensation?
I think that when it comes to exploring for a specific taste sensation, or for a taste sensation one is trying to, or at least I am, either taste something that my taste buds are so common with and taste something that completely blows away that expectation that you had in your mouth. For example, when I taste Portuguese prawns I have that taste profile so well sown into me that either it has to be on par, or it really has to blow me away. Other than that I am looking for other things that my taste buds are not so accustomed to, I am looking for a surprise element, an element that surprises my taste buds, something that makes me personally say, “WOW! That texture was great”, or “That combination was phenomenal”.
Are you very health conscious in terms of ingredient choices? Are you fussed over organic produce, irradiated, local or whatever?.
I would say I am relatively health conscious when it comes to produce, I enjoy organic chickens, I enjoy healthier grains – not to say that I don’t like rice, but I quite enjoy quinoa.
Forget Hendrix and Elvis – chefs are the new rock stars. Who in your mind stand head and shoulders above the rest?
Well, you know, what I am trying to achieve is imagine that Hendrix could cook! Or Elvis could cook! That’s where my focus is at. I think that’s the new age rock star that can sing and cook, but I think that people that stand out for me in the food world as the new age rock stars are locally – people like Angelo Scirocco, people like David Higgs, people like Chef Ramon from my restaurant, like Ronald Ramsamy, Adrien Vaughan from Sun International, Jaco Truter. And then obviously internationally one can’t deny that Marco Pierre White is one of the founders and Gods of Food. Jamie Oliver is like that sweet rock star! I love David Chang, he is for me somebody that I would really love to meet and someone that I could really learn from. Ivan Orkin. These are the types of people that really stand out for me as role models and the new rock stars!
Your cookbook status?
My cookbook status is “It’s Complicated”!! It’s in the pipeline, I keep changing it, as I keep developing and growing as a cook, as my theories start to grow as a cook. As I am starting to learn what role I am playing in the food world, you know I am no chef, so I really want to bring something across that ties in with my target market, but yeah, hopefully soon!
What makes your creations standout?
I think my creations stand out because of the story, as well as the taste profile and the creativity that is behind the food that is very down to earth. It’s creativity that people can relate to. I am a home cook, a very very passionate home cook that loves to explore with his creativity and explore the possibilities within my very limited calibre within food. But I think that for me what is important is not to just give people a delicious plate of food, give people a delicious plate of food that has a story behind it. It’s like a song: you can give people a hit song, a really good commercial hit song but for me a song without meaning is very empty, regardless of whether it’s a successful song or not. So I go for meaning, I go for story, I go for taking childhood things and revamping them.
You’ve just opened a restaurant in Menlyn (what kind of cuisine?) – how do the likes of Hugh Masekela/ Black Coffee flavour this new venture?
Very excited to tell the world that I have just opened my own restaurant called Something’s Cooking By J, a dream come true! A huge step in my career, in my life! A very important step in my life, a very emotional step in my life. It has no theme, if anything the theme is ‘a home away from home’ so it does not stick to a specific type of cuisine. It is very influenced by my upbringing which is Portuguese and South African, so you will find things on the opening menu like Portuguese chicken, my Mom’s prawns, you’ll find a twist on the traditional South African lamb, these types of dishes.
The Afroguese is a dessert which culminates both cultures on one plate, featuring milk tart and arozz doce, which is a rice pudding in Portugal. That’s for me where my mind is at! People like Hugh Masekela – every single three months I change the menu at Something’s Cooking and I collaborate with someone new, and those people that I collaborate with are friends, it’s people that I genuinely cook for. Hugh Masekela is a good friend of mine, an amazing mentor and an amazing trumpeter and an amazing person who loves food, loves healthy food. He eats a lot of fish, vegetables and he loves tea, so I have created a couple of dishes for him on the opening menu and I am looking forward to collaborating with Black Coffee and Enhle as I explore their taste buds and try and create dishes that suit their enjoyment.
So every three months I will be collaborating with somebody, it might be in the music business, might be in the food business, it might be in the fashion business, I will keep changing it. It’s just to give people when they come something more like I mentioned; a dish can be an amazing dish, but sometimes I like to add a little bit of a story to it because it’s a very personal restaurant. It’s not that I am a Michelin star chef and I make amazing food, it’s: “Hey, I am a home cook and I love cooking and this dish is from this moment in my life”.
Tips, or anything you want to share with wannabe chefs?
I think my tip to all other wannabe chefs is explore your passion and push on the things you are passionate about, for me the most important ingredient in food, in life, is love! Do what you love! You might stand out more than other chefs because you have passion, passion is the one thing that nobody can instil in you, nobody can give you that. Like anything else, like with music, try and be original. You know if you’re going to do a grilled cheese sandwich add something that makes it original for you, add something that has your story, your twist.
You’ll be performing live music at the Good Food and Wine Show – is this a solo spot? When, and where can fans see you?
I am entertaining people at the Good Food and Wine show, my demo will be a culmination of who I am. It will be food, music and dance, there will be a vibe! It will just be fun. It’s about showing people how to cook something and also giving people a couple of songs. I am travelling with Mi Casa’s bassist, Carlo, and we are looking forward to entertaining people at the show!
Any current Mi Casa info you can share with us – what’s upcoming?
Mi Casa is at a very exciting point in our career! We are currently working really hard at making some new music that will hopefully blow people away and make people really happy, like our music normally does. We are working on a new project which we will be announcing very soon and we have a couple of international and local tours coming up which we are very excited about and we are feeling good! We are feeling revived! You know, we have been touring the African continent for the past two years and we have done 31 African countries, and we feel that the time is right now to come back home, give the people of South Africa some new music because a lot of people have been asking us where we have been so it is time we answer that question!
What: Good Food and Wine Show 2017 (GFWS 2017)
Cape Town, CTICC: 10am – 10pm, Fri, 2 June, Sat 3 June, 10am – 6pm, Sun, 4 June
Johannesburg, Ticketpro Dome: 10am – 9pm Fri, 28 July, Sat, 29 July, 10am – 6pm Sun, 30 July, 2017
Durban Exhibition Centre: 10am – 9pm, Fri, 27 Oct, Sat 28 Oct 10am – 6pm Sun, 29 Oct, 2017
Info: www.goodfoodandwineshow.co.za, firstname.lastname@example.org, 021 702 2280
Book: www.goodfoodandwineshow.co.za, and www.Computicket.co.za Cape Town and Durban, and Ticketpro Johannesburg
Social media: Twitter @goodfoodSA, Instagram @goodfoodsa, www.facebook.com/GoodFoodandWineShowSA #GFWS2017
Tickets: Early bird online valid up to one week prior to each show. Later door prices applicable. Children under 12 free, Fridays free for pensioners