“I don’t want my children and the next generation to not have the same luxuries and culinary experiences that we have…”, says Xavier Francis, head chef at Onenineone, the Hyatt Regency Rosebank Hotel’s renowned contemporary restaurant.
Born and raised in Durban, Xavier graduated from the Christina Martin School of Food and Wine going on to work in the kitchens of some of South Africa’s most famous restaurants including Durban’s iconic Oyster Box Hotel, the celebrated Camphors restaurant at Vergelegen vineyard in Somerset West and at the exclusive Ivory Lodge at Lion Sands, Sabi Sands before becoming Onenineone’s head chef last year.
Xavier’s innovative approach is driven by his passion for promoting local organic produce and sustainably sourced ingredients. Cue the recent introduction at onenineone of the Farmer’s Market breakfast, a farm-to-fork themed breakfast buffet where everything on offer is sourced from local organic farmers. Adding to his accolades in October 2018 Xavier was awarded a WWF-SASSI Trailblazer Award for championing sustainable seafood practices in the restaurant.
Every season Onenineone hosts the popular Kitchen Party, where guests get to try a special once-off menu prepared in an open kitchen and paired with wines from visiting winemakers in a sociable atmosphere, complemented by live music and the chance to interact with the chef and his team. It’s a unique experience, one for which Xavier and his team spend weeks creating an innovative new multi-course menu for the night and no two editions of the Kitchen Party are ever the same.
Ahead of Onenineone’s upcoming Kitchen Party on Thursday November 15, we caught up with Xavier to get his take on life in Joburg beyond the kitchen.
What brought you to Joburg and makes you stay here? The opportunity to run the Onenineone restaurant in it’s totality and with absolute freedom.
Favourite restaurant or cafe? Mosaic at the Orient (about 45 minutes drive north of the city) is one of the most special experiences I have ever had, the food is amazing!
Favourite afterwork hangout? Tiger’s Milk in the northern suburbs – it’s close to where I live and has great drinks and snacks.
Favourite place to shop? Mall of Africa. I actually hate shopping, so I only go once every now and then and get all I need in one shot!
Favourite place to relax in the city? James and Ethel Gray Park in Melrose. It’s really peaceful and quiet and a good place to clear the mind and get some fresh air.
Favourite Joburger? David from Baha Taco in Norwood – he always has a smile, a kind word, and I leave his restaurant feeling encouraged and somehow inspired. Plus, Baha Taco has gin on tap…
One thing no one would expect to hear about Joburg? That in the right place you can find a calmness amidst the hustle and bustle of city life.
On a weekend in Joburg you’ll find me….Walking my dog and eating well – probably at the Fourways Farmer’s Market on Sundays.
Three words that describe this city: Alive, bustling, steeped in history.
Top tip for a first time visitor to Joburg? Avoid peak traffic times …
Best things about Joburg: There’s always something to do no matter what mood you’re in.
Worst things about Joburg: I think I’ve complained about the traffic enough!
If you didn’t live in Joburg where would you like to live? I think Cape Town is where I will eventually settle – the tranquility of the winelands is special.
Chef Xavier Francis’s 60 second kitchen lowdown:
First dish you ever learnt to cook? Bisque with my Gran.
Favourite ingredients? Salt and butter.
Signature dish? A parent has no favorite children.
Favourite kitchen tool? My knives
An ingredient you’d never cook with? There is no ingredient I wouldn’t try cooking with.
One dish you still want to master? A perfect Bao Bun.
Dish you are most likely to make at home after work? Toasted cheese, tomato and onion with truffle salt.
Best drink pairing for any meal? Always wine.
Favourite South African dish? Any good dish with game or a proper braai.
Best cooking advice you’ve been given? 1) If I wouldn’t serve it to my mother, why serve it to a guest? 2) Never lose your sense of humour.
Join Chef Xavier at the next edition of The Kitchen Party on Thursday November 15. The Kitchen Party costs R380 per person and can be booked online. The price includes five food courses and wines from the Glenelly and Groot Constantia wine estates.