In an industry dominated by larger-than-life personalities and egos to match, Candice Philip is something of an anomaly. Head chef at the Saxon Hotel & Villa’s new fine-dining restaurant, Grei, Philip is quiet, humble, and seems a little in awe of where she’s ended up. “I’ve dreamed of having my own restaurant since I was five,” she admits shyly. “I just never thought that it would happen at the Saxon.”
Philip’s rise to the top is less about dramatic career highs and lows and more about good old-fashioned hard graft. She’s steadily worked her way up the ladder, spending 13 years at the Saxon, where she’s toiled alongside the likes of David Higgs and Luke Dale-Roberts, the South African culinary luminaries who headed up the space before her.
And while Philip might not have expected to be pushed to the helm just yet, when the opportunity came her way, she was more than ready for it. “The owners asked me what I would do if I had my own space and the ideas were all already here,” she says. “I put forward the concept and they said, ‘Okay.’ It was an unreal moment.”
Philip’s concept is simple yet strong. The word “grei” loosely translates as a “society of people” which, for her, is what dining is all about. Playing on the word’s other meaning, Philip has swathed the 32-seater restaurant with layers of textured grey or, as she describes it, “the colour without colour”, with the idea the food will bring the colour to the room when it emerges from the kitchen.