Mono-minded
Food & Home Entertaining|April 2020
Young blood in the kitchen of Franschhoek stalwart Monneaux has reanimated the menu… and it’s drawing quite a crowd
RICHARD HOLMES

Monneaux Restaurant in the Franschhoek Wine Valley certainly has no shortage of history. Over the past two decades it’s been ranked among the best restaurants in the country, and seen the likes of Richard Carstens and Reuben Riffel head up the pass. But in the past few years, it has quietly slipped off the region’s culinary radar; popular with guests at the adjoining Franschhoek Country House & Villas, but often overlooked by hungry patrons in search of dinner. That’s all changed now, with an injection of new energy in the shape of Calvin Metior, who took over as executive chef in November 2019.

There’s a quiet intensity about Calvin, a man who takes his craft seriously and speaks about each dish with unbridled passion. Need further proof? His arms are inked with his favourite ingredients, from a butcher’s cut chart to carrots, mushrooms and a globe artichoke. “It’s one of my favourite vegetables,” he explains and, pointing at his left elbow with a grin, adds: “There’s an octopus coming soon.”

Born and raised in Durban, Calvin studied at the city’s International Hotel School, working a three-year internship at Quarters Hotel on Durban’s Florida Road. Upon graduating, he relocated to London, where his first role was in the kitchens of Hix Oyster & Chop House, close to the city’s historic Smithfield Market.

Mark Hix is one of Britain’s most celebrated chefs and restaurateurs, and would become a major influence on Calvin’s cooking. “That’s where it started – my love for what you put on a plate, for simplicity,” Calvin shares. “Mark’s whole concept is to have no more than three ingredients on a plate. Only locally sourced, only British, only of the season. Working for him really brought me into the world of loving produce.”

Wanting to add the finesse of fine dining to his appreciation of produce, Calvin moved to Plateau restaurant, known for its contemporary French dining, followed by a stint at the Michelin-starred seafood-focused Angler.

Returning to South Africa, Calvin settled at La Motte Wine Estate as sous chef for Eric Bulpitt. But when Jean-Pierre Snyman, owner of Monneaux Restaurant and Franschhoek Country House & Villas, offered him the chance to lead his own kitchen, Calvin needed no convincing. “Jean-Pierre wanted someone to come in and reinvent Monneaux, to make it their own. It was an open canvas, and that’s exactly what I was looking for,” he reveals. Calvin’s menu is defined by a sense of what he calls natural minimalism, creative simplicity that pays homage to the ingredients. The young chef takes provenance seriously, for when there’s simplicity on the plate the ingredients have to shine. Much of Calvin’s fresh produce comes from the highly regarded Mason Farming in Stellenbosch, which supplies the kitchen with everything, from edible flowers to organic vegetables.

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