Chef's Corner: Chef Jonathan Van Der Merwe


In a recent interview with Connector, Chef Jonathan Van Der Merwe, a brand chef at tashas, delves into his culinary skills, his roles and duties as a brand chef, his daily routines, and additional insights. Chef Jonathan commenced his journey as a sous chef at Flamingo Room by tashas in 2020, eventually transitioning into the role of brand chef at tashas.

Reflecting on his culinary journey, Chef Jonathan, who started as a commis at Cube Tasting Kitchen, a renowned degustation restaurant in South Africa, reminisces about his inspiration drawn from his grandparents' kitchen. There, he was surrounded by the savoury aromas of his grandfather's cooking, followed by the sweet delights and pastries that his grandmother meticulously prepared throughout the day.

1. How did you get started in the food industry?

My first experience in the culinary industry was at age 16. During that time, I was employed part-time over the weekends and school holidays. Some of these positions involved serving customers and preparing food at food stands located in a flea market, as well as undertaking dishwashing responsibilities in restaurants. Fortunately, my dishwashing role was brief, and I soon progressed into prep and basic cooking duties. The chaos and nature became almost addictive and I decided to pursue a tertiary education in the culinary arts.

2. What is your earliest cooking memory?

My earliest memory is of helping my grandfather make cottage pie. I would incorporate egg yolks into warm mashed potatoes with a wooden spoon and sneak a handful of the mixture from the pot for a quick taste when he wasn't paying attention.

3. What is your favourite dish from your country?   

My favourite South African dish is Potjiekos, which translates to 'small-pot food'. Despite its name, it's cooked in a large cast iron pot. Prepared over an open flame, this dish starts with large cuts of meat like oxtail and beef neck, alongside an assortment of vegetables. Proper layering of vegetables is essential, with thicker ones added first, followed by delicate ones at intervals to prevent overcooking. Then, stock is poured over the ingredients, and the pot is covered with a heavy lid. To maintain consistent heat, coals are gradually added to the base of the pot.

4. What is the one go-to and easy snack you love making for midnight cravings?

A sandwich! Whether it's a classic toasted cheese and black pepper sandwich or an open-faced creation featuring tomato, cream cheese, and whatever cold cuts happen to be in my fridge at the moment.

5. What is the one raw ingredient you cannot cook without from your country?

It would undoubtedly be rooibos. It’s primarily used as a tea, characterised by its naturally sweet flavour and captivating aroma. Apart from tea, it has many other uses in the culinary world. It can be used for smoking meats and vegetables, adding depth of flavour to sauces, and even incorporated into creams for desserts. In tashas Battersea in London, we use rooibos to craft a stunning red-tinted teriyaki sauce that perfectly complements our salmon dish.

6. What is the best dish to try at your restaurant?

If I had to single out just one dish, it would do a disservice to the diverse offerings across all our restaurants. However, I'd be more than happy to share some of my personal favourites as well as our most sought-after dishes.

For meat enthusiasts, our Portuguese steak is an absolute must-try. The combination of our signature sauce, succulent tenderloin, and perfectly crispy homemade lays has made it a firm favourite among our patrons. Our prawn pasta is another dish that tantalises the taste buds with a subtle hint of spice, served with stracciatella, and a zesty lemon and herb crumb.

For those looking for vegetarian options, our iconic Texas salad has gained widespread recognition and replicated across Dubai. Additionally, our chopped kale and halloumi salad offers a refreshing and nutritious alternative.

Chef Jonathan Van Der Merwe

Brand Chef 


Share this page!
Connector Directory