Born and educated in Durban, Darren Badenhorst had initially studied marketing before realising his true life passion was cooking. He enrolled at the prestigious Christina Martin School of Food and Wine, in KwaZulu-Natal in order to learn his craft and fine tune his culinary skills. Upon graduating, he took up a position at Benguerra Lodge in Mozambique as Executive Chef. Unfortunately due to a cyclone, he, and the rest of the staff, had to leave the lodge after it was badly damaged.
Returning to South Africa he was offered a position as Chef de Partie at Fairmont Zimbali Lodge and gaining all the experience he could from this fine establishment he then went to work at Eat Me Gourmet Café, a fine dining establishment, also in KZN. He has also taken part in multiple Chaîne des Rôtisseurs initiatives and competitions.
From there he worked at Three Cities One on One Events and was soon promoted to Executive Chef, the youngest Executive Chef within the group at the time. Wanting to be in what is considered the food capital of South Africa he relocated to Cape Town and took up the position as Chef de Partie at Waterkloof in Stellenbosch, giving up his Executive Chef status, in order to work alongside Chef Gregory Czarnecki. It was here that his knowledge and experience for wine appreciation grew and the utter skill needed for marrying great food and wine developed.
Chefs with vision inspire me, those that push the boundaries of cuisine to take their guests on a culinary journey of food and wine.
Darren is passionate not only about the fairest Cape but the enormous culinary choices a Chef and indeed the dining public can experience throughout the Western Cape.
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.