Carla Schulze 2016 Top Graduate Q&A

1. When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

My family and I have always been massive ‘foodies’. Food has just, for as long as I can remember, been a very big part of our lives. Eating, cooking, creating, sharing a story through a dish. I love every aspect of it and really so happy that I have found something that I am so deeply passionate about pursuing with all the love I have. I guess you could call it a healthy obsession really.

2. What is your favorite food memory?

In July this year my Brother, Mum and I were lucky enough to dine at NOMA.  Even getting onto the waiting list felt as though we had won the Food Lotto! It really, truly was out of this world - a lost-for-words food trip. The different fresh foraged ingredients, techniques, flavors… My mind was spinning! I had found food heaven in this beautiful spot in Copenhagen. 

I can remember every single dish vividly - the colors, the smells the delicate tastes, but something which I will never forget was a piece of Reindeer Moss dipped in Bitter Dark Chocolate sprinkled with deep green Pine Salt. My taste buds were exploding in dance.

3. What was it like training under one of SA’s top chefs?

It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I feel I was truly blessed to start off my culinary career soaking in such incredible knowledge and being taught by such a remarkable leading South African Chef. Chef Jackie Cameron is a massive role model  to many upcoming young chefs and I will forever cherish the many things I had learnt and which I carry with me on my food journey every single day from her. 

4. As the top student of 2016, what do you believe gave you the edge?

Very simply, I found something that I absolutely love to do and want to continue doing for the rest of my life – to cook! I love the creativeness of it, the rush during service, the continuous learning and the kitchen camaraderie. I remember at the beginning of my journey at Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine telling Chef Jackie it was my dream to do the six month practical placement at The Test Kitchen. The response she gave me was that she would only consider emailing them if I really proved myself and upped my game. Needless to say, I gave it my everything and now the dream has become a reality.

5. Your favorite piece of kitchen equipment or gadget?

There is this little smoking gun we have at work. It is the niftiest, coolest little thing. We burn woodchips inside it and out comes this puff of smoke. We’ve used it on some dishes you would never imagine. It was one of the first gadgets I saw when I started at TTK and to this day it still excites me just as much. 

6. Working for Luke Dale Roberts must be a dream job. What is your role in the kitchen?

Absolutely! Chef Luke Dale Roberts is the most inspirational Chef I know. The way his mind ticks and the insane dishes he creates, blows my mind every single day. I’ve never been surrounded by such a buzz of passion for food and great enthusiastic people, striving to constantly improve themselves and the dishes at the restaurant. Currently I am on the Pastry Section, where I’ve learnt and grasped techniques being  part of a team constantly  rolling out gorgeous beautiful desserts. The different elements on the plates and their purposes, different flavours and texture combinations, I feel so very lucky and extremely fortunate to play a small part of this amazing team which is TTK. 

7. Women have always taken a back seat in the kitchen. Is this changing and are you treated as an equal?

I have never come across this. In my experience, every kitchen I have ever been in has always been part of a big family. I truly believe that it only comes down to how hard, fast and well you work. 

8. Working with fine food every day what is the first thing you do after a long shift?

Often after work the team stays behind and sits on a big table outside. We’re normally on such a buzz after service, chatting up a storm and having a great laugh. These are special bonding times.

9. Every chef has their favourite take out. What’s yours?

 A born and bred South African – nothing quite beats a Nandos quarter chicken chips and regular coke! 

10. What’s your favourite ingredients to work with – and the one you like the least?

Working on Pastry at the moment and with Summer approaching I would definitely have to say Bee Pollen. It’s incredible scent, velvety touch and burst of floral flavor - it honestly is so magnificent and so treasured. 

 “Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with the spices from a million flowers.”