Why did you launch Maria? Our main aim with the venue was to accommodate group bookings and private functions. MARIA can seat 6-14 people, which is ideal for a group booking. As JAN can only seat up to 24 people, we had difficulty accommodating group bookings on top of our regular bookings. MARIA was the solution that provided us with more space, while still retaining the intimate atmosphere we cultivate at JAN. Another aspect of the MARIA concept is the hosting of special collaborative events that will introduce groups from Monaco, Cannes and the rest of the French Riviera to the talents of other South African chefs, wineries and producers.
What's behind the name? MARIA is firstly named after my mother and grandmother. However, they also happen to share a moniker with Maria de la Quellerie, the wife of Jan van Riebeeck and one of the first French Huguenots to settle in the Cape and influence South African cuisine. Her mother was French and this ties in quite interestingly with my Dutch, French, Afrikaans and South African roots that served as the inspiration for JAN. I have always been proud of my heritage and the many different influences that made us who we are today.
What inspired the look and feel? The style is similar to that of JAN, in that it showcases an appreciation for older, classic pieces with hints of modernity. In JAN, we used darker tones to facilitate an intimate and romantic atmosphere; in MARIA, we used lighter tones to create a creative, cosy space where groups would feel free to chatter, laugh and enjoy themselves. Raw wood and blonde tone were used throughout to create a comfortable, familiar backdrop, which was then punctuated by a feature wall with vintage portraits of women and a 4-meter-long solid oak table, accompanied by a selection of vintage chairs that I sourced from markets and renovated myself. A gorgeous vintage Baccarat chandelier over the long table completes the picture. Every time we host an event at MARIA we also have a crate filled with seasonal fruit outside, with a small note saying ‘if you are hungry, take a fruit. In essence, MARIA is a blank canvas that I intend to colour with things that make me happy.
What's on the menu at Maria? There are two types of menus at MARIA. Firstly, we have the same fine dining menu that is available at JAN – a 6-course, seasonal selection of South African-inspired dishes, paired with wine and served on crisp, white linen. Secondly, we’ll have the MARIA FEAST, which is exactly what it sounds like. We intend to fill bare wooden table with so much delicious food that guests will immediately feel as though they happened upon a celebration in a Renaissance castle keep. Think whole roasted meat dishes, elaborate bowls filled with koeksisters, milk tart croquembouche and dishes like roasted guinea fowl, set jelly salads and childhood cakes that will remind the diner of a sit-down dinner at a royal palace.
How has life at JAN changed post-Michelin? There is the pressure to keep it, to work harder and push the boundaries but to remain authentic and, most importantly, to enjoy what we do… We constantly maintain and better our standards. It is still an immense honour and I am very proud of my team. We just welcomed our fifth South African staff member this week!