Our Blog

Welcome to our In-House Blog.

This blog will give you, our loyal and amazing customers a little insight into what happens behinds the scenes at Peppercorn.
We will be talking to our "Chef-Propriétaire" (chef-owner), introducing who's new in the zoo, new menu items or recipes, anything and everything you want to know about your favourite bistro.

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Franco de Beer
Chef and Owner of Peppercorn

 I recently caught up with our chef / owner Franco. 

The below is a combination of questions I had asked as well as his answers. This aims to give a little bit of insight into the owner and chef of your favourite restaurant.
Where did it all start?
Franco started in the restaurant industry when he was a "tini-bopper" as a runner.  He then furthered his techniques and skills by working in Dubai and Israel as a kitchen manager; and Front of House manager. 
He has since done formal training at Capsicum Culinary School. He is so passionate about food and cooking that if he wasn't a chef, he would find anything to do, to be in a restaurant.

Some time after that, he met his late partner Jacques Fourie and current partner Aki Hajiepetros . The team experimented with flavours  and when the opportunity came for them to open a restaurant together, they all jumped at it.

Excited, they opened the Green Peppercorn Bistro. This Afro-Asian Fusion Bistro in the middle of Morningside, has an upmarket dining atmosphere in a casual setting. The menu consists of classic dishes with an afro  asian spin off. 

What inspires him?
Franco says he is inspired by amazing restaurants around Joburg by the likes of; 500 / Test Kitchen, Mosaic and Cube. When I asked him why, he jokingly said, "because they don't serve you creamed spinach and pumpkin." For him, the reason he chose these restaurants was because they actually put love, care and effort into every aspect of thier dishes.

As a result of the above, the most important thing to Franco  was seasonality, taste, texture, flavour and colour; something that Franco still upholds at Peppercorn.
This therefore means that the menu items at Peppercorn are all made from scratch, nothing is out of a packet or jar. With the high level of mass production in the industry; Peppercorn, under Franco's guidance, will not follow suite. Combined with a fair and hands-on management style, it certainly stands apart from other restaurants.

Peppercorn's Style and Menu
Franco's style of cooking is not fine dining and not mass production but the perfect combination of love, passion and technique - that is evident in the very unique identity, direction and flavours that one can find at Peppercorn.

The menu went through an 'experimental period' recently, when the decision was made to change the menu weekly. Peppercorn aims to push boundaries and always try new thing; keep things light, exciting, interesting and sexy.
The result of this experiment was the Tasting Plates.
They are a massive hit - as it allows people to try a bit of everything on offer, and with them changing weekly keeps them exciting.

What is the best type of Diner?
"Someone who 'Kuier's!"
With all the hassle and bustle  of deadlines, errands, children and traffic, people are always in a hurry.
This means to some degree that they have forgotten how to simply enjoy food, dining at a restaurant and other peoples' company.
They seem more concerned with; coffees not coming within five minutes or a freshly made risotto not being ready in ten. Rather than hearing about a spouse's day or savouring a fresh, homemade Béarnaise sauce over a perfectly cooked steak, paired with a gorgeous boutique wine chosen from a unique wine rack.
Peppercorn aims to change this attitude; by encouraging people to stay and enjoy the ambiance, food, wine and company the way dining is meant to be, and to move away from being 'clock-watchers.'

Having said that, Franco has discovered over the years in the industry that peoples' tastes have changed / become more refined. From when Peppercorn first opened to now; he has noticed that they are ordering the more 'eccentric/exotic' dishes instead of the more common ones.
Franco puts this down to the many cooking shows out there.

How has social media and Cooking Shows influenced the diner?
With 'Masterchef', 'Top Chef', 'Chopped' and the likes as well as the various social media platforms, "people have become more educated with regards to food and restaurants."
Initially Franco was not the biggest fan of these shows (as I imagine many restaurant owners felt) however he slowly realised that people were no longer happy with substandard meals and are more educated in what good food should look, and taste like.
After this realisation Franco welcomed and appreciated the various cooking programs as well as social media platforms.

What has Peppercorn done to overcome the economic challenges?
With the economic climate that we currently living in, many stores, restaurants and dealerships are closing down and people simply do not have money.
This would surely mean that many people are dining out less / or at least are being a lot more selective as to where they go; what they order and how often that is.
I asked Franco about the situation and what he has done to overcome these challenges.

He completely agreed that people are in fact dining out less but the team at Peppercorn have found new exciting ways in standing out from the crowd. 
These include; having a fresh seasonal menu; using an iPad means it is simple, easy, economical and environmentally friendly. The Tasting plates that are on offer are an amazing, affordable way to dine; with ordering five and receiving one complimentary - it also means getting to try a lot without breaking the budget or missing out. Peppercorn has a reward system in play as well as runs many competitions - this is just another way they believe in giving their diners something back.

Some Fun Facts about Franco...
  • If you could have dinner with one Chef, who would it be and what would you have?
"It would have to be Massimo Bottura. We would come up with the dish together."

  • What is the biggest 'Kitchen Nightmare' you have ever experienced?
"At Peppercorn we have deep fried white noodles that we use as a garnish on some of our dishes. One of our cooks was busy frying some and the noodles caught fire! To try extinguish the fire they added water which ended in an EXPLOSION! The kitchen staff and myself were climbing out through the pass to get away. (Laughs) Luckily no one was hurt. The entire kitchen was black, the walls, the roof everywhere. It took us ages to clean it. It just shows you, Water + Hot Oil = FIRE. Big No No."

  • Finally, what you would your 'Death-Row Meal' be?
"A big, fat, juicy, yummy, tender rump! Definitely!"



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