SA Olympian of the Food World

Cape Town-based Kirstin Helleman is one of the chefs in green and gold that is working towards competing in the IKA Culinary Olympics in Germany next year as part of the SA National Culinary Team. We chat to Chef Kirstin, who was trained by Garth Stroebel and Paul Hartmann at the South African Chefs Academy in Cape Town, to find out more.

What first drew you to the culinary industry?
During my gap year after school I went to England and worked as a waitress, after a while I moved into the kitchen part-time, which turned into a full time position. I stayed another two years working as a chef. Since then I’ve never looked back.

What does being a member of the SA National Culinary Team mean to you? 
It means a great deal to me, and I also see it as a way to thank those who have mentored me – being in the team demonstrates how I’ve grown and been inspired.

What is your favourite style of food? 
I enjoy exploring all styles of food, but what is most important to me, is that the produce needs to be fresh and of a very high quality.

What are your thoughts on molecular gastronomy? 
It’s not something that I’ve experimented with a lot, but it can be interesting when executed correctly and done well. 

What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind as a SA National Culinary Team chef? 
To stay humble.

What do you hope to gain from the experience of competing at the IKA Culinary Olympics? 
The experiences that I’ve had and the amount that I’ve learnt already has been incredible! The value of what lies ahead is difficult to verbalise, but I know the experience will make us stronger and help us to grow in many aspects.

If you could choose anywhere in the world to work and live, where would you go?
Tuscany or somewhere in France.

Grass or grain fed beef? 
Definitely grass fed.

When you're not in the kitchen, what do you enjoy doing? 
I love being outdoors, relaxing, watching football and trying out new eating places.

And finally, what do you think it takes to become a great chef? 
A good work ethic, a very thick skin and a lot of time.