There’s a rumour that gets traded behind passes, in back-alleys of restaurants, and at early morning fish-markets that Chef Peter Tempelhoff emerged into this world with his tiny fingers gripping a wooden spoon. He was, it seems, born to cook.
Rumours aside, after Peter Tempelhoff had grown and finished his schooling, he started a degree economics. Before it was too late he realized a life as a desk-jockey would be a nightmare, and disappeared into a forest to cut down some trees for a while. Emerging from the forest he still wasn’t sure what he should do with his life. So, he took an aptitude test. The result was unsurprising: CHEF. The gods were shouting, “cook Peter, you need to cook.”
Heeding the call, Peter enrolled at Cape Town’s Institute of Culinary Arts in 1996. He finished top of his class and was awarded a bursary to study at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. The gods – and the aptitude test – were right.
Moving to London, Peter worked at a series of increasingly prestigous restaurants. First at Quo Vadis with Marco Pierre White for a year; then two years at his first Michelin starred restaurant, Hambleton Hall, with mentor and friend Aaron Patterson; and at Giorgio Locatelli’s one Michelin starred restaurant, Zafferano.
Peter was earning his souffles, cutting his tomatoes and climbing the kitchen ladder. In 2005 he neared the top rungs when he accepted the the position of Executive Chef at Automat in Mayfair. It quickly became the place to eat and be seen at in London. Serving simple, fresh and fine foods, Peter and the restaurant were honoured with the ‘Top Table in London in 2005’ and nominated for ‘Restaurant of the Year 2005’ by Harpers and Queens Restaurant Awards.
Peter returned to live under the African sun, and dived headfirst into the faux-french village of Franschhoek, accepting the position of Executive Chef at the award winning Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate. Under the gaze of the Dassenberg Mountains, and the Huguenot Monument he was named the ‘Sunday Times Chef of the Year 2007’ and the ‘Franschhoek Life Chef 2007’, while the restuarnt featured in Eat Out’s Top 10 Restaurants in South Africa.
In January 2008, loooking for bigger challenges and even more work, Peter accepted the position to oversee the five Relais Châteaux restaurants within ‘The Collection by Liz McGrath’.
Predicatably – and what happens when you listen to the gods and aptitude tests – things have gone well. The Greenhouse has been awarded 3 Stars in The Rossouw’s Restaurants Guide and an Eat Out Top 10 award. The Sand at The Plettenberg was named Best Hotel Restaurant on the Garden Route for 2009 and 2010 by CXPress Newspaper. And most impressevily, flagship restaurant The Greenhouse, was voted as South Africa’s number one restaurant in the 2011 Eat Out Top 10 Awards as well as Restaurant of the Year.
Incredibly, between all of the five resturants in The Collection, Peter now holds 9 Rossouw Stars at one time, more than anyone else in the guide’s history.
Also in 2011, Relais & Châteaux, an association of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants, known for their strict admission standards, furnished Peter with the title of ‘Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef’ at their annual congress in Portugal. In 2012 and 2013 Peter was invited to cook at the Relais & Châteaux Grands Chefs dinner in New York and London.
So far in his career Peter has worked alongside of the greatest and most imaginative chefs of this generation, including Chefs Joel Robuchon, Anne Sophie-Pic and Kyomi Mikuni.
Currently, Peter holds the position of Executive Chef in the ‘The Collection by Liz McGrath’. He continues to explore, understand and re-imagine what South African food can be by investigating local flavour through ingredients specific to his locale. In his words, all he has to do now is “keep innovating, keep coming up with new things, new dishes, new flavours, and always keep stretching the boundary.”
*portrait by Sean Calitz