SA Olympian of the Food World

Blake Anderson is one of the eight talented Springbok chefs in the SA National Culinary Team who are working towards competing in the IKA Culinary Olympics in Germany next October. We chat to Chef Anderson, who began his career by studying hotel management through Damelin and AHLA and professional cookery through the renowned Prue Leith; while also completing his City & Guilds diploma through the HTA School of Culinary Art.

What first drew you to the culinary industry?
A big influence would be my parents, my mom always experimented with recipes and cooked a lot, and from a young age I had the opportunity to try exotic ingredients like tofu and birds nest soup. I also saw in the restaurants and hotels, people busy and expressing themselves through the food they presented. I knew it would be a hard industry, but it pushed me even more to be a part of it.

What does being a member of the SA National Culinary Team mean to you?
It is the greatest opportunity of my culinary career, to represent my country for something I am passionate about. I have the opportunity to work with and compete against some of the greatest chefs at this current moment. Chefs that eat, breathe and sleep this career.

What is your favourite style of food?
My grandmother is Italian so I am drawn to Mediterranean style cooking and flavours, slow cooking and robust tastes.

Do you have a mentor? And if so, who would that be?
My dad is my mentor; he is hard working, always positive and supportive. He has worked extremely hard in his life and for me shows that it is always achievable.

What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind as a SA National Culinary Team chef?
Lots and lots of dedication, focus, passion and team work.

What do you hope to gain from the experience of competing at the IKA Culinary Olympics?
At the IKA, we will be competing against some of the best culinary countries, and I hope that all the training, teamwork and perseverance leading up to the event, will teach me and prepare me for any future culinary moments in my life. It will show me that dedication and hard work pays off, that I need to focus and give 100% to everything that I do. It will show me that there is always room for improvement and I need to keep pushing regardless of my outcomes.

If you could choose anywhere in the world to work and live, where would you go?
Paris or California: Paris for the ingredients, its passion and because it’s where the culinary industry started; or California for the Napa Valley region, its creative side and its slow cooking style.

Grass or grain fed beef?
Grass fed and free range all the way; we need to know where all our food comes from.

When you're not in the kitchen, what do you enjoy doing?
I spend as much time as I can outdoors. I spend so much time inside that I enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. Even a simple hike or run with fresh clean air, allows me to recharge the batteries.

What do you think it takes to become a great chef?
Knowing the basics through and through, humility and dedication, and having the ability to learn from everyone… everyone has a great lesson to teach and learn.