Not many people can say they were raised on ceviche, prepared in the traditional manner from a recipe learnt in the South Pacific. Nor can many chefs say they became the head of their station at one of the top 100 restaurants in the world at the age of 21. Chef Glen Foxcroft Williams can lay claim to both.
The young chef who opened up his first restaurant and bakery, Foxcroft, towards the end of last year at the age of 26, has had a lot simmering from a very young age. He always knew he wanted to cook but it would be an ad in a newspaper that set him upon the unexpected path to where he is now.
“I wanted to go to one of the more prestigious cooking schools but I couldn’t afford it,” Williams reminisces. “So I decided to do a gap year, work and save up. Then we found a six-month part time pastry course at a place called IHESA. It’s a very small school, pretty much no one has heard of it.”
But the Institute for Hospitality Education South Africa does indeed exist, with City and Guild accrediting and all, and it is here that Williams would get his part time start in pastry and a full culinary course. He also started working as a trainee at the Opal Lounge, where, as luck would have it, they were unhappy with their pastry chef and so within two weeks she was fired and he was left to fend for himself.
“Growing up, I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, neither did my father, so I never really did much baking. But now everything I was doing was very new to me. I liked the exacting quality of it – the precision of things and the science behind everything.”