Tapas & Talent: An interview with Brad Ball, Exec Chef at Steenberg’s Bistro Sixteen82

Bistro Sixteen82, the exquisitely-designed Steenberg Wine Estate restaurant, opened its doors in 2009 and is already a favoured destination for ladies-who-lunch, the international set, and locals in the know. The bistro features a unique Raw Bar with counter seating, a stunning setting with views over the pool and mountain, and cuisine which is not only delicious, but healthy and interesting, too. The popular Tapas menu includes items like sashimi, gravadlax, ceviche, carpaccios, oysters and tartars. Headed up by Executive Chef Brad Ball, of Olympia and River Café  fame, his vision has played no small role the bistro’s now defined place in the Cape dining scene. I sat down with him to learn a little bit more his background, what inspires him, and what drives him to prepare food and taste experiences so rich, some might consider his dishes to be more like art on a plate:

How did you know you wanted to be a chef – what about it inspired you?

My family has always been into food, but I think it was the wonderful produce that inspired me. The fact that you can do so little to great produce and get a fantastic result, if you just respect the produce.

If you could have followed any other career, what would your second choice have been?

Something to do with drinking great wine would have gone down well (laughs).

How did you get started – what was your training or first job like?

I was motivated by a poor experience in a top drawer restaurant. I have no formal training but was fortunate enough to work with some great chefs over the years.

Did you have any early influences – perhaps someone in your family – that inspired you?

My mum had a very successful catering company, so I learned the basics from her very early on.

Have you ever cooked for anyone famous?

Yes, it’s part of running the calibre of restaurant we create.

What is your most memorable experience in the kitchen?

For me and my team the most memorable time in the kitchen is on Fridays at mid-day when we prepare Foie Gras. I have a tradition in my kitchen that when we prepare Foie Gras on Fridays my team get to indulge themselves, just a bit, with a glass of 1769 sweet wine from Buitenverwachting.

Do you have any chefs you regard as role models?

I have great respect for John Campbell. Just by using great skill he produced incredible menus that are simple but inspiring.

How do you like to experiment in the kitchen – do you try to keep up with the trends or do you focus on the classics?

I am always trying to have that point of difference and as a contemporary bistro we use new techniques where they’re required, but my menus are based on the classics.

What do you enjoy most about winelands cooking?

That there are lots of world class wines to indulge in!

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Control. It is so easy to lose focus when you are continuously busy. You have to focus 24/7.

What do you cook at home?

Last night was a spaghetti bolognaise.

How do you find balance with such a busy career?

You have to make time to relax or you can easily burn out. I spend time with my kids.

How would you like your guests to feel while dining in your restaurant?

I want them to feel like they’re being spoilt rotten when the come to my restaurant.

What is the most important advice you could give to anyone wishing to prepare a good meal at home?

Don’t buy rubbish produce and ingredients, and don’t take short-cuts. What you put in is what you get out.

The Details:

  • Bistro Sixteen82 is located on the Steenberg Estate, Tokai Road, in Constantia, just outside of Cape Town (GPS:  S 34°4’ 17” E 18°25’31.1”)
  • Open daily for breakfast (9h00-11h30), lunch (12h00-16h00) and tapas (16h30-19h30), and closes at 20h00
  • Booking is advised. To make a reservation, email reservations@bistro1682.co.za or call 021 713 2211
  • For more information visit www.steenberg-vineyards.co.za

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