Executive Chef

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Darren Badenhorst, Executive Chef at Grande Provence

Darren Badenhorst

Executive Chef Darren Badenhorst creates a unique dining experience and sensory adventure at The Restaurant at Grande Provence where he has garnered annual American Express Platinum Fine Dining Awards since taking the helm in the kitchen in 2012.

By incorporating cutting edge techniques into his classical culinary repertoire, Darren’s signature is undoubtedly unexpected bursts of flavour, absolute attention to detail down to the last micro herb, and an uncanny ability to meld diverse flavours.

Plating is equally important to Darren whose food is synonymous with art on a plate: “I draw inspiration from art when composing dishes making sure all elements harmoniously play together to paint a picture before and during the meal.”

Working on a wine estate has seen Darren’s knowledge and appreciation of wine grow into an absolute skill for marrying great food and wine. He found his culinary clarity soon after settling in Franschhoek.

I immersed myself in the area, the terroir, the ingredients, the seasons and the unique lifestyle surrounded by vineyards. It is important to pay respect and reflect your surroundings in food. I do this by using what I have available to me; venturing out to cut old vine trimmings to smoke local trout and collecting flowers, herbs and fruits growing between the vines which create a unique depth of flavour.

Drawing on nostalgic elements from his childhood and moments of food in his life, Darren likes to apply a unique twist to classic French cuisine with culinary flair that is truly his own.

Having spent most of his life in Durban practically growing up in the ocean, spear fishing and free driving, Darren gained an appreciation for food flavours and textures at an early age. After a stint studying marketing, Darren soon realised his true passion and enrolled at the prestigious Christina Martin School of Food and Wine in KwaZulu-Natal. Upon graduating, Darren worked as an Executive Chef at the Benguerra Lodge in Mozambique and became the youngest executive chef appointed by the international Three Cities Hotel Group.

Outside of the kitchen, Darren can be found exploring the outskirts of the Cape in his vintage Mercedes with his dogs, Layla and Willow. An avid photographer and musician with a fine collection of exotic instruments, Darren would probably have opted for a career as a musician or an underwater photographer had he not become a chef.

Darren’s food inspiration while on holiday in Bali and Indonesia

I’ve always been interested in the simple and cultural take of Balinese cuisine, with the approach that ‘fresh is best’ being reflected in most of today’s modern culinary hubs, Bali and the Indonesian islands perfectly encompass these ideals. I ate everything I could, indulging in local delicacies and fascinating cooking methods for otherwise unused ingredients.

A few highlights were the vibrant night markets with various “braai-style” stands set up using coconut shells as coals which have an incredible ability to hold high heat for long periods (yes, I have started to conceptualise using this for one of my dishes). 

I woke up before sunrise and explored the local markets in Ubud, a very cultural town, where I experienced food as the local’s do – a truly incredible experience of smells, tastes and sights.

A 65km scooter ride through the rural rice paddies was life changing too – to see the effort, dedication and precision that go into producing these tiny grains made every Nasi Goreng (literally meaning fried rice) eaten during my trip taste infinitely better. I also experienced some finer cuisine styles at a new upper class restaurant “ARANG Sate Bar” where the accomplished chef takes classic sate (satay) recipes and transforms them into amazing creations, with interesting ingredients like slipper lobster and jicama, accompanied by the recommendations of the in-house mixologist, it was an exceptional meal.

Possibly my fondest foodie memory from this trip was when I paddled across to a neighbouring island off Gili, and spearfished for 4 hours. Later that evening the locals cooked my catch on open coconut flames and banana leaf with Nasi Goreng and the delicious local beer, Bintang, all shared with three local families from the island. Possibly the best fish I have ever tasted. 

If you are in search of a holiday filled with phenomenal food, cultural diversity and pristine islands, Indonesia is a must.