Chef Johannes Richter.
Chef Johannes Richter.
Image: Seb Nico

The Living Room at Summerhill Estate has become renowned for its supper club which serves four, five or seven-course tasting menus — so much so it took 13th place on the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Awards’s list of top restaurants in the country. Chef Johannes Richter’s commitment to sustainability, inventive cooking and gorgeous plating makes a meal at the family-run establishment a unique experience.

Your best food memories: With us really dedicating our lives to food and drinks, there are so many memories that stand out. From harvesting fresh vanilla and cacao in Madagascar to eating in some of the world’s best restaurants, including Osteria Francescana by Massimo Bottura and Le Calandre by Massimiliano Alajmo in Italy and Schwarzwaldstube by Harald Wohlfahrt  and Victor’s Gourmet Restaurant by Christian Bau in Germany.

Your food icon: Our industry is blessed with such diversity, making it difficult to nail down a single chef as an icon. Nevertheless, I think that the Nordic ideology of using local, or even endemic, ingredients and focusing on these is great, with that making Rene Redzepi of Noma a huge influence.

Best dish to cook and to eat: Pasta. Pasta. Pasta.

Ingredients you can't live without: Potatoes, onions and tomatoes. Simple, versatile and fulfilling.

Essential wine for your cellar: We’re really enjoying Abingdon Estate’s Pét-Nat.

First job in food: My first job in the industry was the same job that I currently have. Next to studying (LLB), I realised that cooking was my passion and started off running the kitchen at our family-owned and run guest house. The cuisine that I offered at this stage was not comparable to what we’re doing now though - my time abroad definitely opened my eyes a bit.

Sourdough bread, tomato butter & Longshadow farm cheese from The Living Room.
Sourdough bread, tomato butter & Longshadow farm cheese from The Living Room.
Image: Seb Nico

All-time favourite place to eat out:The cuisine that our friend Andy Saul offers at his Berlin Restaurant Bandol sur Mer is definitely the most fun I’ve had working and dining. Unpretentious, fun and packed with flavour - one of our greatest influences.

What's the next big food trend? Local superfoods, such as msoba berries or umdoni berries.

Favourite piece of technology: We are really reliant on our Thermomix and, quite frankly, our lives would be a whole lot more complicated without it.

Top tips for kitchen gardening: Start with a couple of perennial herbs. These are generally easy-going - and always at your disposal. It’s just unbelievable what a difference fresh herbs can make to a dish.

Your top travel destination for culinary experiences: South Africa. We just have such a wealth of diversity in culinary culture, as well as produce, here. I think a lot of South Africans really don't realise what wealth we have here.

What are you reading at the moment? A great book on local mushroom foraging - Field Guide to Mushrooms and other Fungi of South Africa by Gary B Goldman and Marieka Gryzenhout.

Carrot, fermented rhubarb & andouillette from The Living Room.
Carrot, fermented rhubarb & andouillette from The Living Room.
Image: Seb Nico

Your goal with the Living Room is to give guests a taste of South Africa. How do you achieve this?  We try and use the beautiful culinary diversity of Durban as a platform for a lot of dishes and we try to use as much endemic produce as possible.

Sustainability is top of mind at Summerhill Estate. What are the most important things you're doing for the planet?  Using local produce from small suppliers that have the same environmental goals as we do, having a couple of vegetarian dishes in our tasting menu and minimising our waste by using whole carcasses and all their offal.

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