Q&A: Chef Oliver Swart (27) ready to ‘cook up a storm’ at Cape Wine Auction 2019

by | Feb 21, 2019 | Lifestyle, News

Constantia will be a hive of activity in March when The Cape Wine Auction returns to the valley. The last auction in the area was in 2016 when it took place at Klein Constantia.

The American Express Cape Wine Barrel Auction happens on Friday, 01 March, at the stunning Norval Foundation situated on the slopes of the Constantiaberg Mountain, in the heart of the Constantia winelands, with panoramic views across vineyards and mountains.

Beautiful Buitenverwachting will be hosting the weekend’s main event – The Cape Wine Auction sponsored by Nedbank Private Wealth – on Saturday, 02 March.

The Cape Wine Auction is regarded as the most significant international wine charity auction ever conceived in South Africa – uniting the industry around a single goal of raising money for education.

The annual event has, in only five years of existence, created a benchmark in philanthropy, raising over R71 million. All proceeds raised at the auction go to 22 carefully selected beneficiaries who make a profound impact on the education and lives of children in the Cape winelands.

And what would a spectacular occasion such as this be without fabulous food to feed the hungry bidders? This year, the menus for both auctions are being prepared by the renowned Annalize Catering headed up by Annalize Buchanan and her deputy Oliver Swart.

For the Barrel Auction on the Friday evening there will be a farm-style table with a culinary feast for the 400 guests that will include local cheeses and homemade focaccia breads; chicken liver paté with cracked black pepper brittle; harissa labnah chicken topped with pistachios; smoked local Franschhoek salmon trout with a dill crème fraiche and Korean beef tataki with kimchi, lime and ginger. Desserts will include mascarpone cakes with passion fruit dust, chocolate tortes served with berries as well as salted caramel macaroons topped with a berry cinnamon pipette.

On Saturday, for the lunchtime event, the plated starter will be a creamy feta mousse, served with cucumber, pea shoots and tomatoes done three ways. For mains, guests will be served sour fig tagliati of beef on a bed of sautéed carrot, leek and celery with a local Huguenot snow, wild rocket, grainy mustard nicola potatoes and edamame beans and, to round off the meal, there will be an array of sumptuous desserts as well as a spectacular cheese table.

Oliver Swart (27) – who hails from Durban but now lives in Muizenberg – talks about his food journey.

Q: When did your passion for food start?
OS: My passion started at the age of seven, I got a frying pan for my birthday. I also remember always standing at the stove watching my mom cook, I was fascinated.

Q: Who influenced your cooking while you were growing up?
OS: Both my parents cooked. My dad makes a mean Durban curry and my mom is really great with dressings, sauces and Asian dishes. They both are big foodies.

Q: Where and what did you study?
OS: Grande Diploma at Silwood Kitchen. I did half a year of studying civil engineering at UKZN but then my parents moved to Cape Town so I took the opportunity to change to cooking!

Q: Where are some of the places you have worked?
OS: The Test Kitchen, La Colombe and the Pot Luck Club.
Q: Did you have anyone special who mentored you in your career?
OS: Annalize Buchanan. She is my great mentor and an amazing friend.

Q: What is your food philosophy?
OS: Great seasonal produce, simplicity and just keep it real.

Q: It is difficult coming up with a menu for an event such as the Cape Wine Auction?
OS: I write menus everyday as all our events are customised so I guess I’m used to it.

Q: What kinds of foods do you think are underrated?

OS: Chicken, cabbage and gem squash. Maybe it’s a personal childhood thing.

Q: What do you believe are the latest food trends?
OS: Minimal, artisan, raw, vegan and Ayurvedic food. Less choice in menus at restaurants.

Q: Your favourite kitchen tools?
OS: Chef’s knife and a mandolin

Q: Is there anything you don’t eat?
OS: Prawns, crayfish and crab as unfortunately I am allergic to them all.

Q: What other chefs have inspired you?
OS: Luke Dale-Roberts, Ivor Jones, Wesley Randles, Francis Mallmann and Thomas Keller

Q: Who are your foodie icons?
OS: Georgio Locatelli, Thomas Keller, Jamie Oliver, David Chang, Francis Mallmann and Marco Pierre White.

Q: The one dish you still want to master? 
OS: Dim sum.

Q: Your favourite three ingredients
OS: Lemon, fresh herbs and olive oil.

Q: What advice would you give to a young, ambitious chef who is just starting out in the industry?
OS: Only get into this industry if you are obsessed with food. It’s hard work but if you love food, it’s so much fun.

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