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When the food bug bites

His first love was music … until he started cooking for his sister who had an eating disorder. We chat to Benoni’s Tyrone Kleynhans about his journey from DJ to head chef.

At the age of 13, Tyrone moved to Canada with his family.

After school he went into music production and became a DJ. He pursued his music career for six years. Although music was his first love, he felt unfulfilled.

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“By the time I was 25 years old, I felt lost and was desperate to find something meaningful and fulfilling to do with my life,” he recalls.

The penny dropped when he decided to help his sister to overcome her eating disorder. He
started cooking for her and, to make it fun, he cooked a dish from a country of his sister’s choice every day … his sister made a full recovery and he knew which career he wanted to pursue.

“Through this experience I created a deep comfort and a sense of calm with cooking, and I found that while I was helping her it was really helping me, too,” Tyrone explains.

By that stage he was 25 years old and had an urge to return to South Africa.

“I jumped on the computer and started looking at culinary schools in South Africa and decided to study at Capsicum Culinary Studio’s Boksburg campus.”

Tyrone came home in 2013 and began his studies at Capsicum in 2014. He graduated in 2015.

“I received a great education, learned a lot about food, worked at some incredible places around South Africa and now I am Capsicum’s head chef at the newly opened bistro-style restaurant Eat! on Keyes at their Rosebank campus,” he says.

He met his wife, Lydia, who is also a chef, at the Boksburg campus. Asked who cooks at home, he answers: “We both cook and we alternate kitchen duties – and if both of us had a rough day and don’t feel like facing a frying pan, we eat two-minute noodles.”

Why did you decide to return to South Africa?

South Africa is the best country in the world. It has amazing people, great culture, a wonderful lifestyle, spectacular landscapes and, of course, brilliant food. I will forever be proud to be a South African.

Your favourite restaurant in the East Rand?

I love the little restaurants around the area. There is so much talent out this way. My wife and I have a favourite restaurant at the moment called On Sixth, which is in Northmead, Benoni. It is excellent.

If you could cook for five famous people, dead or alive, who would they be and what would you make?

Kyle Watson, one of South Africa’s biggest dance music exports; American chef and restaurateur Tim Hollingsworth; actor Chris Pratt; Jesus; and Nelson Mandela. I would cook my signature dish – Parmesan gnocchi served with filet mignon and mushrooms on a bed
of arrabbiata sauce topped with fresh rocket.

What is your favourite dish when at home and you don’t have to impress anyone?

I love Pierogies – a Polish dish – which is basically a dumpling stuffed with mash, cheese, bacon and chopped chives.

What is your favourite South African dish?

You just can’t beat a good old fashioned braai with boerewors, chops, toasties and biltong.

What are the best tips you can give our readers?

  • Always cook from the heart. Cooking can be very therapeutic. If you find life stressful and you are at your wits’ end, do some cooking.
  • Season your food once it is cooked and not while cooking. You can always add salt, but you can’t take it out. Having said that, I have a little trick if you are making a stew or soup and you accidentally throw in too much salt. All you need to do is poke some holes in a raw potato with a fork, drop the potato into your food and it will absorb most of
    the salt.

What advice would you give someone who is considering a career in the hospitality industry?

Don’t think that the industry is a cooking show you watch on TV, because it’s not. No matter what you want to become in this industry, you will have to start at the bottom and work very hard to prove yourself. Never lose your passion, and always practise cooking on family and friends. Always stay on top of the trends and what is happening in the food world and always respect food and where it has come from.

Tyrone’s signature dish

Tyrone shared his delicious signature dish with us – Parmesan gnocchi served with filet mignon and mushrooms on a bed of arrabbiata sauce topped with fresh rocket … yummy!

Gnocchi ingredients

2 potatoes; 1 egg; 2 cups of flour

Method

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Peel potatoes and add to pot. Cook until tender (15 minutes). Drain, cool and mash the potatoes.

Combine 1 cup mashed potato, flour and egg in a large bowl. Knead until dough forms a ball. Shape small portions of the dough into long ‘snakes’. On a floured surface, cut snakes into 3–5cm pieces.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Drop gnocchi in gently and cook. Gnocchi is cooked when it floats to the top. (I like to fry my gnocchi in some butter after boiling, but this is up to you.)

Mushrooms

Get three different types of your favourite mushrooms and fry with butter and thyme.  Season and set aside.

Filet mignon

250 grams filet; salt and pepper; olive oil

Method

Trim any sinew off the filet , season and roll into cling film. Let the meat rest in the fridge for at least an hour. Fry both sides of filet in olive oil for colour and then cook in the oven
for 7–10 minutes at around 180 degrees C.

Arrabbiata sauce ingredients

1 tsp olive oil; 4 cloves garlic minced; 1 tbs white sugar; 1 cup onion, chopped; 1 whole red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped; 3/8 cup red wine; 1 tbs fresh basil; 2 tbs tomato paste.

Method

Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat and sauté onion and garlic for a few minutes. Stir in the wine, sugar, basil, red pepper, tomato paste, lemon juice, Italian
seasoning, black pepper and tomatoes and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. Stir in parsley.

Plate up

Spoon the arrabbiata sauce all around a plate. Place the filet in the centre of the plate. Arrange warmed-up gnocchi on the sauce around the filet. Spread the warmed-up mushrooms evenly on the plate and then top the filet with fresh rocket and shaved Parmesan. Serve!

Chicken Stew with Dumplings

Tyrone loves dumplings and has given us his chicken stew recipe, using a rotisserie chicken to save time.

Ingredients

500g rotisserie chicken; 2 tbs butter; 1 onion, diced; 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced; 2 tbs all-purpose flour; 500ml chicken stock; 1 tsp salt; ½ tsp ground black pepper; ½ tsp dried or fresh basil; ¼ tsp dried thyme; 2 tbs dried dill; 700g potatoes, diced; 1½ cups all-purpose flour; 2 tsp baking powder; ½ tsp salt; 3 tbs butter; ¾ cup milk (or more as needed).

Method

Debone the chicken and cut into chunks or shred. Set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot and heat. Add onion and celery and fry until soft (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour over and whisk continuously to make a thick roux, about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in chicken broth while whisking to remove any lumps. Add salt, black pepper, basil, thyme, potatoes and mixed vegetable.

Cover and cook the stew over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir in chicken and continue to simmer.

Dumplings

Combine the rest of the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Grate 3 tablespoons of butter into the flour mixture and then rub flour and butter with your hands until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.

Stir in the milk and dill (I like to add a bit of nutmeg at this point, but it’s up to you).

Roll dough into balls of whatever size you like and add into the simmering stew.

Cover and cook until the dumplings are tender (8 to 10 minutes).

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