If you haven’t heard about chef Matt Manning’s One Ingredient dinners yet, then please accept our condolences for whatever accident rendered you unconscious for the past year or two.
The talented UK-born chef is all over Cape Town, from cooking in some of our best restaurants to hosting his unique, interactive dinners showcasing the versatility of one hero ingredient. We caught up with the innovative chef to help us find our way around the kitchen.
You’re from the UK originally. What brought you to our shores?
I came to Cape Town for its vibrant food and wine scene. I had been cooking in London for three years and my mentor, Alyn Williams, had always said to cook overseas for international experience. Cape Town seemed like the perfect place to hone my skills.
After leaving La Colombe, what made you switch from restaurants to private dining?
I’ve spent eight years cooking in restaurants and wanted to try my hand at a different side to the industry. I started cooking privately with Neill Anthony and also for my own clients from intimate dinner parties to hosting private One Ingredient dinners for large groups.
Tell us a little about where the One Ingredient concept came from…
One Ingredient is my interactive dining experience that I hold four times per month at The 7th Floor innovation centre. I create a four-course menu using the same ingredient cooked differently in each course, and invite a top wine farm to pair their wine at the event.
I demonstrate the starter and main course before allowing the guests in the kitchen to recreate the dish. They then go through to the dining room and enjoy each course (including dessert) with wine. I also give a prize at the end of the evening for the best plated dish. Of course, everyone gets a little competitive so it’s great fun! Guests can also buy wine to take home at cellar door prices.
The concept originated in 2013 when my friend Nicole Khunert and I wanted to do a wine and dine with a twist. It didn’t have a name at first but once I decided to show people how much you can do with the same ingredient, the name One Ingredient fell into place and just kind of stuck.
If you had to choose one ingredient to include in every dish you cooked for the rest of your life, which would it be?
There are actually three ingredients that any cook cannot live without, and that is salt, onions and good-quality olive oil (I always use Willow Creek).
Your ingredients are generally sourced from local suppliers – who are some of your favourites?
If you could give a terrible cook (like me) one tip, what would it be?
My one tip would be to cook from the heart, because you don’t have to be a great chef to cook great food, you just have to love what you are cooking and the people you are cooking for.