Michael chats to Christiaan Campbell

Christiaan Campbell in Delaire Graff’s Organic Vegetable Garden

I have known Christiaan Campbell over the last twenty years or so.  It has been very exciting watching him develop over the years and eventually to find himself as Executive Chef for an exciting pair of Restaurants on the Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch.

We chatted about his life as a chef and the things he enjoys.

Christiaan Campbell
Executive Chef, Delaire Graff Estate

Where did you train as a chef?
At the big school of life and still attending the lessons.

What do you like to eat most?
Simply prepared little tastes of organic, ethical produce. The food speaks naturally for itself.

What’s your least Favourite Food?
Foie gras, and this for my very own personal reasons.

Christiaan Campbell
final touches for a dish

Do you have a childhood, Mom memory?
My Mom went through a vegetarian phase in the early seventies. I clearly remember bakes of zucchini, eggplant, tomato, whole-wheat bread crumbs and yellow cheese. Thankfully around this time I was given a Labrador as a pet. She was my best friend.

What is your morning Routine?
The summer months I ride to work on an old Vespa. It must be one of the most beautiful routes anyone could wish for. This sets the tone for the day. On arrival in the kitchen I am greeted by the barista and a cup of rooibos espresso. The day is now started. Quick morning meeting with chefs to give direction to the day.

Do you prefer using organic and low carbon footprint produce?
I have a saying that we can eat our way to a healthier planet one mouthful at a time. Livestock, fruit and vegetables if they are treated with the kindness and respect due, they in turn will truly nourish us and keep us in good health in return. A simple rule that will naturally reduce the carbon footprint.


roast quail, pancetta, crisp polenta, courgette, sundried olive & guava

From where do you draw your inspiration?
Fresh produce is always inspirational; the rest is a natural progression

What’s your Favourite Dish on your menu now?
Greenfields sirloin, soft shin, marrow, mushroom, watercress. The last three years have been a learning curve with my pasture reared beef farmer-supplier. It has been a journey filled with tears and laughter. Finally we are now dry aging the hind quarters for 35 days before breaking down into the cuts. The results are truly spectacular. This now reflects in this dish.

What is your favourite cooking tool?
I have a pair of oversized tweezers that have become like an extension of my fingers in the kitchen.  Without them I am lost, with them I am like Eward Scissorhands.

What is your ideal neighbourhood eatery?
Cafe Blanc de Noir on Brenaissance Estate. A place to relax, put up your feet (literally) and unwind. Their Pizza is excellent and the owners, Tom and Heyley along with their team always take great care of us. They are only three vineyards away from where we live. If the urge prompted us (this has not happened by the way) we could walk there.

Name five items you always have in your fridge at home.
Fresh eggs (laid by our own hens),  Happy Hog bacon, a bottle of chilled white wine, selection of young salad leaves, sun ripened tomatoes (from the allotment growers at the Stellenbosch Waldorf Market)

Always in your pantry at home?
Popcorn seeds ( my children love making fresh popcorn as a snack on weekends), selection of various nuts and seeds (love them toasted in our salads, stone-ground flour (my wife Moya bakes bread for the children’s school lunches), a big slab of chocolate and a 5 litre bottle of local cold pressed olive oil

What’s on the Top Shelf – foods or wine you use occasionally?
It’s all or nothing. Nothing is sacred in our home. Use it or lose it.


The Delaire Graff Estate Botmaskop 2009

Most Underrated Wine?
Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2009

Saturday night tipple?
Of late it has been a glass of larger with ice (how they drink beer in Bangkok) and a double tot of tequila also with lots of ice enjoyed simultaneously.

Restaurant Peeve?
Over promise and under deliver

Key Wardrobe Item?
Chefs jackets

Is there a talent you would like to have?
Speak more languages. I have enough difficulty with one.

Bees in your Bonnet?
That the staple diet of our people is maize. Over eighty percent of maize produced in this country produced from Genetically Modified plants. There is growing tide of evidence that this maize is unsafe. It is unfortunate that both our government and official opposition are not concerned about this. We are hosting one of the largest human experiments in the world, on a foodstuff that has not been proven to be safe. It must also be remembered that most of the meat or milk we consume has been raised on GM maize. Definitely some food for thought there.

Restaurant Memento?
Kept an acorn from the tree at Mugaritz Restaurant in San Sebastian

Who is your favourite Musician?
Tony Wilson that promoted New Order, Joy Division and the Happy Mondays through Factory Records


strawberries, meringues, black pepper shortbread with vanilla ice cream

What is your Desert-Island Disc?
Rachmaninov’s C minor Piano concerto, played by Evgeny Kissin

Bedside Book?
In Defence of Food by Michael Pollen, for some reason I cannot bring myself to finish the book.

Fictional Character with whom you identify?
Harry Hole from the books by Jo Nesbo, my staff says Captain Planet

One guest for dinner – who would that be?
Albert Einstein, I have a few questions for him.

Routine after lunch or dinner service?
Once the post dinner service checks are done and the orders for the next day are placed I head off home. Again a slow ride on the Vesapa down the pass and through the old town of Stellenbosch. A real feast of scents, sights and sounds.  Normally I have a late evening meal and a glass of wine. This followed by some very quiet time. Allowing myself time to sort and pack up the day in my head and allow space for feelings to shine through.

Guilty Pleasures?
Two bottles of well chilled Cap Classique and my wife, Moya and I alone in a quite space.

The view from the Delaire Graff Restaurant
Simonsberg in the background


February 10th, 2013|Categories: Michael's Writings|Tags: , |