Seeing as National Women’s Day is just around the corner (Friday 9 August, to be exact), we wanted to cast the spotlight on two very special ladies in the kitchen at The Restaurant at Waterkloof. Portia and Farieda began working as kitchen cleaners, but their mutual love of food and passion for cooking caught the attention of Executive Chef Gregory Czarnecki. Today, they are training as assistants in the kitchen under Chef Gregory’s guidance, and well on their way to making their food dreams come true.
Tell us your story, ladies!
We both began working as scullery cleaners for Chef Gregory when the restaurant first opened. We were in same team, but after a while Chef decided to appoint us as scullery team leaders, and we were separated. We were each responsible for our individual teams. Chef is very particular when it comes to these things – that’s the OCD side of him!
From then, Chef Gregory and Julia (our Sous Chef) began taking us under their wings. They taught us some basic cooking methods and other tasks. After a few months of training, we are now called “Kitchen Assistants” and are responsible for certain stock management activities and organising whatever Chef and Julia may need: from cutting mirepoix to preparing staff meals, roasting bones, taking care of valuable products, or even helping with service during functions.
What do you love most about your new positions?
Portia: I really started enjoying working from the beginning, but after we were given more responsibility – and started preparing certain mise en place – I discovered a real love for food and I like the challenge. And, there so many off cuts in pastry!
Farieda: The kitchen staff always get us in the mood to start our day, and we learn something new everyday. We are a real family, not just colleagues.
Portia: We even call Chef and Julia “Pa en Ma!”
Farieada: We are really proud of working for them. They have taught us so much.
Why would you like to become a chef?
Portia: I had no idea that such dishes could be done before. I didn’t know what fine dining was! When I see Chef and Julia plating , explaining each dish to the staff and being so attentive to details, I want to be able to do the same. They make a great team – we are learning from the best.
Farieda: I agree with Portia. It’s very inspiring to see people with so much passion and determination… I guess it rubbed off onto us!
What is your favourite way to relax and take time off?
Portia: I spend my days off taking care of my husband and my two beautiful children. I try to also practice things that I see or do during work. I really enjoy baking as well, thanks to Julia!
Fariada: My favourite way to relax is to spend time with my son, family and friends. I also help my mother to prepare the family dinners. I play the chef in the kitchen and attempt different types of food, and my family gives me feedback on my creations!
Which of the current dishes at Waterkloof is your favourite?
Portia: I have a sweet tooth, so my favourite will have to be the Lemon Meringue 2.0! I really like how it’s plated, it’s really something different. My favourite wine is the Cape Coral.
Farieda: I’ll have to go with the trout starter. I really enjoy that dish, the flavours are awesome and it pairs so well with a glass of Circle of Life 2011.
And finally, a few words from Chef Gregory Czarnecki:
It is really great to see people can grow when working inside a kitchen. There is something special about these two ladies. They were different from the beginning and I’m glad that we did this. I can now rely on them and it’s a big plus, especially in season time when the kitchen is engulfed in madness. We’ll keep pushing and training them. As they say, they’re part of our family.