Daniel Payne, Head Chef of View Restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, has his eyes on the prize – the San Pellegrino Young Chef award 2019-2020, that is.
Chef Payne has made his culinary home at the Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff. Having joined the hotel in 2014 under his predecessor, Head Chef Dirk Gieselmann; a three-Michelin starred master, Chef Payne has proven himself to be dynamic and progressive, from menu planning to the pass. Now at 28 years old, he has been enticing patrons with his original approach to gastronomy.
“As the only Four Seasons Hotel in South Africa, we understand that our guests have high expectations,” explains Chef Payne. “They are well travelled and are familiar with Michelin-starred dining. We strive to live up to this ideal and I believe we succeed. Not only is View one of the most exquisite places to dine, but our menu celebrates South Africa and the incredible array of quality ingredients and techniques that we have.”
Chef Payne takes great delight in experimenting with global inspirations, earning himself solid foodie cred. “I love the delicacy and purity of the French approach to food, but I have to put my own spin on it, whether it’s through Asian fermentations or German flavours,” describes Chef Payne.
His eccentrically innovative approach to food is the backbone of View's sumptuous menu, which includes Skate with squid ink spätzle, chorizo, Inkomazi, mussel and nasturtium, as well as the delicately oak-smoked Karoo lamb loin and breast, with watercress, aubergine, fermented tofu and hazelnut.
No dish captures Chef Payne's methodology better than the virtuosic entry that placed him in the prestigious San Pellegrino Young Chef award 2019-2020 - Ekugaleni. Translated from the Zulu word for “In the Beginning”, Ekugaleni celebrates two uniquely South African ingredients: the green mielie and the black-necked ostrich, in an homage to the hunter/gatherer lifestyle of the Khoi San.
Simple in nature, but complex in flavour, the dish features a succulently braaied ostrich fan fillet, accompanied by a sliver of green mielie, which has been fermented in Umqombothi (a traditional beer made by View’s own chefs). Atop rests an Ostrich-egg herb custard complemented by rooibos-smoked ostrich-liver parfait, highlighted by nuances of brandy and red wine. A dehydrated mielie chip and silk strands add texture to the dish, which is then finished with a rich venison jus. The result is an explosion of tastes that is unlike any other yet hints at the familiar.
“Inspiration for a dish can literally come out of anywhere,” remarks Chef Payne. “Walking through crunchy autumn leaves can ignite an idea or a smell will trigger a food memory. It can come from a suggestion or a tradition – that is the nature of food, it's evocative.”
Having graduated from the International Hotel School with a Diploma in Food and Beverage Management and a Diploma in Hospitality Management, Chef Payne threw himself into the industry gaining as much experience as possible. “I was extremely lucky to have been guided by two great leaders,” says Chef Payne. “Chef Klaus Beckmann (former Executive Chef of the old Westcliff Hotel), inspired me with his food knowledge, technique and precision – he taught me to be a perfectionist. Whilst Chef Gieselmann instilled in me an appreciation for fine dining and was instrumental in the progression of my career.”
Chef Payne’s passion for food goes beyond the confines of a kitchen and believes that gastronomy can be a tool for social change. “I want to provide underprivileged youths with a platform to develop their culinary skills and empower them to become self-sufficient. We live in a society of great excess and extreme scarcity at the same time. I want to tackle this problem by creating awareness around food wastage and promote the ideology of sustainability.”
Chef Payne joins seven other young South African chefs, who have been selected for the next stage in the San Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year award.
Follow Chef Payne’s culinary journey through the View’s tasting menu – five sophisticated offerings that will tantalize the palate. Whether you are a committed carnivore, vegetarian or pescatarian, View Restaurant will provide an experience as awe-inspiring as its setting.
For more information or reservations, visit viewrestaurant.co.za.
You can also contact them on 011 481 6180 or [email protected].
What drew you to the design industry initially? Is it something you always wanted to be involved in?
Design has innately always been something I've wanted to do and my passion for it just keeps on growing with every project. I have always had a passion for experiential spaces, and being involved in hospitality design allows me to play with that concept on a daily basis.
Who/what do you take inspiration from?
I am inspired by travel, locally and internationally. There are so many people out there doing great things, there is constant inspiration, from dining out in Paris to popping into your local Nando's.
Winning an SA Style Award, that’s prestigious stuff! What did it mean to you?
As a designer it’s amazing to be recognised for the work you put out there, so it’s been great to get this affirmation and, more than anything, the award is something I’m inspired to live up to.
And what does style mean to you in general?
Style in our time is so open to interpretation that we have much more freedom to express ourselves than before. Style has evolved past just echoing trends and has become an individualistic expression of one's aspirations and culture.
What would you say your signature style is?
In design, I aim to create spaces that are inspiring, detailed and tailor-made for the purposes of the space. Perhaps sometimes bordering on a maximalist design approach, my intention is to create immersive hospitality experiences. In terms of fashion, I don't take it too seriously. I look for quality, something unique and most importantly if it's black!
What space are you most proud of and why?
MESH Club is definitely a firm favourite of mine. We were able to work with amazing artists, craftsmen and clients who were all completely on board with pushing the boundaries of design.
Career highlight so far?
Being a finalist in the International Restaurant & Bar Design Awards two years in a row and winning best bar design in London last year. [Tristan won the Best Restaurant & Bar Design Award for the Middle East and Africa category in 2016 for his design of News Café Rosebank].
And career lowlight?
An accident on site that left me out of action for two months in 2016.