JAN HENDRIK VAN DER WESTHUIZEN

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Chef, award winning author and passionate photographer Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen's understanding of the world was forged in the kitchens of his mother and grandmothers. So how did he get from kneading dough in a farm kitchen in Mpumalanga, South Africa to running his own restaurant in Nice, France? Here's the inside scoop straight from the horse's mouth. 

IN THE WORDS OF THE CHEF

A LONG AND WINDING ROAD

Every story has a beginning. Mine started at the tables of my mother and grandmother, where the notion of true South African hospitality seeped into my consciousness to become the foundation on which I would later build my restaurant JAN. It is here that I learned the humble art of serving and creating a warm, welcoming space where people would feel special and escape the humdrum of everyday life to enjoy the singular pleasures of good company and delicious food.

As all creative South African souls do I then made my way to Cape Town. One culinary arts qualification and a Masters in Pastry later I applied for a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Design with a focus in photography at Stellenbosch. Spending a lot of time in the surrounding winelands, I discovered a love for wine and spent a few years plying my trade in the wine industry. In the meantime I continued to foster my love for the visual arts by hosting a few solo painting and photography exhibitions in Cape Town.

ONE STEP AT A TIME

My unique skill set lead to a stint as a contributing food editor at ELLE South Africa, after which I packed my bags to join the ranks at the test kitchens of the head office of ELLE International in Paris. This career move afforded me the opportunity to co-found COORD Event Direction and launch Champagne PIAFF in Epernay.

THE WAY FORWARD

The story of how I came to own a French restaurant is one filled with many obstacles, hard work, determination and more than a little bit of luck. I believe that each of us will experience a few occasions in our lives where the stars are perfectly aligned to make our dreams come true. Destiny will shove you into the right place at the right time, but in that moment it remains your responsibility to take the plunge - to close your eyes, leave the safety of your comfort zone and prove how badly you want it even though you doubt yourself every step of the way. 

Black and White images by JOEDAN PHOTOGRAPHY