From scrambled eggs to sriracha toast: an interview with private chef Neill Anthony

28 November 2018

From scrambled eggs to sriracha toast: an interview with private chef Neill Anthony

Cape Town-based private chef Neill Anthony has trained in some of the best kitchens in the world, including Gordon Ramsay’s and Marcus Wareing’s. He’s cooked for Madonna, Victoria Beckham, Kylie Minogue, Elton John and U2.

When Neill’s not cooking for the rich and famous, he’s filming his TV show Neill Anthony: Private Chef, available right here on Showmax. His passion for local ingredients, such as mushrooms foraged in the forests surrounding Cape Town, and his affection for his home city – “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else” – makes Neill an international ambassador for South Africa’s culinary delights.

Neill Anthony: Private Chef is on Showmax

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We caught up with Neill while he was getting ready to cook for yet another private event.

You mention in one of your episodes that it’s important to feed yourself before you start cooking for your guests… what did you have for breakfast today?
Avocado on toast with a little bit of sriracha, some creme fraiche, chopped red onion and parmesan. Sometimes I’ll pop a fried egg on top for a bit of protein.

What is your most vivid food memory from when you were a kid?
There are a couple! The first time I cooked anything: my sister was teaching me how to make scrambled eggs. I remember how amazing it was watching it go from something runny to solid! It was mind-blowing. I grew up in Zimbabwe and we made everything ourselves. Whenever there was a birthday party or a family gathering, my mom was in the kitchen making jam tarts and fairy cakes.

What are less glamorous aspects of being a private chef?
Probably the part I’m doing right now; getting ready for a meal. After the menu is set, I still have to get in my car, drive everywhere and collect ingredients. Sometimes I get stuck in traffic jams, like everyone else. Also: the admin side of things. Doing the paperwork is not my thing.

How do you prepare when you have to cook in other people’s kitchens?
I like to be in control of as many aspects as I can. When I do a dinner party, especially when we’re flying to Jo’burg, we land in the morning and we do the event that evening. I prep everything in my own kitchen in Cape Town, so that it’s done to my standard. Then we vacuum-pack the prepped ingredients. Once we get to the home or the venue, we’re basically finishing off the dishes there rather than starting from scratch.

What do you after serving a meal? Do you just disappear into the background?
You’ve got to read the crowd; sometimes your clients want you to stick around a bit and sometimes you make a quiet exit.

Do you travel with a chef’s knife set?
Of course, I travel with my knives! You can actually check them in with you on a flight! We even take our ingredients on the plane. When we fly to Jo’burg for an event, we check in these big black cooler boxes and put them in the hold.

Is there any ingredient that you really don’t like or try to avoid cooking with?
I’m not a big fan of working with okra. It’s quite common in Indian dishes and Saudi Arabian meals. Think of it as a slimy courgette.

You’re all about respecting the ingredients. If you had to put together a care package of typically South African ingredients, what would be in it?
Biltong is always a thing, but you have to eat it on its own. I don’t really cook with it; a beetroot and biltong salad is not my kind of thing. Mrs Balls Chutney, you gotta have it with a bobotie. Just chuck it in there! And Ultramel Custard; it’s the best thing in the world.

The single best piece of cooking advice you’ve ever been given?
“Keep it simple”, which was [advice] given to me by Richard Corrigan. He’s the Irish guy behind Corrigan’s Mayfair in London. Quite a few very good chefs have told me that, actually.

How do you stay in shape?
You’re on your feet all day, it helps burn off some of the calories. It kinds of balances it out.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Definitely my mother’s mac n’ cheese.

Catch Neill in the mouthwatering series Neill Anthony: Private Chef, now streaming on Showmax.

Start watching now »

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