Five minutes with… Chef Jackson, Mhondoro Safari Lodge

Also known as Chef Chimichurri, a nicknamed he earned during a phase when he just couldn’t get enough of this Argentinian sauce, Chef Jackson has worked at Mhondoro for six months and has embraced the healthy, seasonal food philosophy of the lodge. We caught up with him during our recent stay at the lodge.

Q: How did you became a chef?

A: After finishing a cooking course in Pretoria, I went to hotel school in 2007 which included two years of practical and theory. In 2009, I completed by diploma and started working in hotels and restaurants, and I also started travelling. I worked in Abu Dhabi, but returned to SA in 2015 and went back to life in the bush, so in total I have 12 years of cooking experience.

Q: How would you describe Mhondoro’s approach to cuisine?

A: Definitely healthy – we have our own garden and serve up our freshly grown organic vegetables in our lunch and dinner service. We serve different game drive snacks, including some healthy options and we bake fresh breads every day. We also change our menu regularly to keep our dishes seasonal.

Q: Have you noticed that guests are becoming more specific when it comes to dietary requirements?

A: Yes, but I enjoy the challenge! We’ve got experience cooking for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and lactose-intolerant guests, to name a few, and are happy to stick to dietary requirements.

Q: If you could choose anything, what would be your favourite meal?

 A: I really like simple food, but when you work as a chef it’s so important to experience all kinds of cuisines so that you can stay up to date with trends and offer guests exciting new dishes. But, honestly, if I was cooking for myself, it would be a burger, or a traditional South African dish of pap, meat and gravy.

Q: Ok, so if you had to cook something for me right now, what would it be?  

A: I’d make you a platter of sliders, along with salad and fries with truffle oil in parmesan. I’d start off by preparing the sliders along with a mix of red and green cabbage, mayonnaise made from scratch and homemade chutney. I’d grill the buns and chicken and then add some homemade barbecue sauce, top with some cheese and finish them off in the oven!

Q: What is your greatest challenge in the kitchen?

A: It’s really important that we try not to waste anything and we are always looking at ways to use all parts of our ingredients. The challenge is to predict what our guests are likely to order!