South Africa's top chef

What it’s like to eat a meal prepared by South Africa’s top chef. Picture: Ray Leathern.

What it’s like to eat a meal prepared by South Africa’s top chef

We ate a meal prepared by South Africa’s top chef, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, at his JAN pop-up in Franschhoek. Here’s what it was like.

South Africa's top chef

What it’s like to eat a meal prepared by South Africa’s top chef. Picture: Ray Leathern.

Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen is widely regarded as South Africa’s top chef, after winning a Michelin star for Restaurant JAN in Nice, France. Jan is based in Europe these days, so the opportunity to not only dine at his JAN pop-up in Franschhoek but also meet and be hosted by him in-person felt like Christmas coming early.

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This once-in-a-lifetime occasion was made possible by Land Rover South Africa, who invited us to attend a Range Rover experience in collaboration with South Africa’s top chef. A wonderfully curated glimpse through the window of how the one-percenters live, here’s what it was like …


South Africa’s top chef
The unassuming 19th century farmhouse of JAN Franschhoek. The location for his recent TV show, too. Picture: Ray Leathern.

Enjoying a meal at the JAN pop-up in Franschhoek is unlike any dining experience I have had before. Even using the word ‘eating’ or ‘meal’ does not do it justice. It’s clear from the moment we arrived in our chauffeur-driven Range Rovers that this would be an experience far beyond food and wine.


South Africa’s top chef
South Africa’s top chef, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen talks to guest. Picture: Supplied.

Jan Hendrik greeted us each personally outside the intimate 18-seater venue on La Motto wine farm. The venue is deliberately unassuming and charming, with a warm atmosphere that immediately puts guests at ease. I personally don’t drink alcohol and the waiters ensured I had a specially made non-alcoholic drink for every wine-paired dish. Impeccable service.


The cosy and welcoming venue for JAN Franschhoek. Picture: Supplied.

The eight courses served (including canapés served outside as the sun set) are like curated stories told through food from South Africa’s top chef. Jan grew up on a farm in Mpumalanga and he speaks openly about South African influences in his dishes. There are fine-dining elements, of course, but also farm-style kook kos so you feel full and satisfied by the end of the night.


South Africa’s top chef
Tomato and rose gazpacho, white anchovy and hibiscus. Picture: Ray Leathern

A wood fire kept the farmhouse cosy and warm, and once sat down, you simply relax and enjoy the curated experience as it plays out. The first plated dish was tomato and rose gazpacho with white anchovy and hibiscus. It was fresh, light, and full of flavour.

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The next course was both visually and gastronomically superb, a fine-dining classic. Truffle, quail egg and caviar. Jan explained we should crack the sweet seal of the quail egg and let its contents run onto the wafer-like truffle. Not normally a fan of such decadent ingredients, it was delicious, and I ate it in small bites to make it last as long as possible.


A fine-dining classic. Truffle, quail egg and caviar. Picture: Ray Leathern.

From there it was onto a signature dish of South Africa’s top chef. Frozen apple, tete de moine and haddock milk. It comes beautifully plated with the thinly shaved haddock putting you in mind of a rose, which Jan says reminds him of his grandmother’s garden.

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After flexing his fine-dining muscles, the fifth course is all about wholesome farm-style food. The kook kos is beautifully tender beef and lamb served family style. You pass it around the table, along with roast potatoes and vegetables. Delicious.


South Africa’s top chef
Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen puts the finishing touches to dishes at JAN Franschhoek. Picture: Supplied.

Each dish is filling and packed with flavour. I spent a good few minutes scooping up the leftover meat gravy from the serving dish, thats how tasty it was. Very authentic and South Africa, this main dish went down a treat with the audience. After all, you never want to leave a restaurant feeling hungry.


Wonderful outside area to enjoy cheese and jam. Picture: Supplied.

Course six was kaas and konfyt served outside by candlelight. A perfect interlude to stand up, grab some fresh air and appreciate just how warm and comfortable the venue had become while dining. There was a selection of seven locally sourced cheeses, all of them wonderful.


South Africa’s top chef
Exquisite plating of Jan’s desert. Picture: Ray Leathern.

Concluding the unforgettable experience with South Africa’s top chef, was arguably the best dish of the evening. Presented in a range of colours, textures and flavours, the peaches and ideal milk desert was so gorgeous, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it at first. It was served with moerkoffie, followed by bonus tray of mignardises chocolates. No prizes for guessing the outcome: they were utterly delicious.

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Our experience being hosted by South Africa’s top chef at Restaurant JAN in Franschhoek was unparalleled. A great way to gauge a dining experience is time. At no point did the night feel drawn out. The timing of each course and how long it took to complete felt well-choreographed. We arrived at 18h30 and left at around 22h30. Four hours flew by, but not so quickly that you couldn’t savour it.


South Africa’s top chef
We attended JAN as part of a Range Rover experience. Range Rover Sport models. Picture: Ray Leathern

As mentioned, we were hosted by Land Rover, so we don’t know what such an experience cost, nor did it feel appropriate to discuss it on the night. However, according to the JAN website, the Franschhoek pop-up seasonal tasting menu and wine pairing is R2 850 per person. Which, while pricey, is perfectly reasonable for the high-calibre of food and wine on offer.


South Africa’s top chef
An unforgettable experience at JAN. Picture: Supplied.

I can highly recommend JAN Franschhoek if you want a world-class dining experience curated by South Africa’s top chef. Jan’s focus on Michelin-star excellence, combined with comforting, authentically South African dishes, creates a truly memorable experience.

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Have you eaten at one of South Africa’s top restaurants? Be sure to share your thoughts with our audience in the comments section below. And don’t forget to follow us @TheSANews on X and The South African on Facebook for the latest updates.