If there is one thing I have learnt, is that food makes me happy. Like deep down in my soul happy. Photographing it, eating it and meeting the people who are as passionate about food as I am, really moves my soul. One such person is Chris Erasmus of Foliage.
I was having one of those mornings. When nothing really goes right and you are not sure why. I was feeling glum and not up to shooting this morning. But the call of the food summoned me out of bed. After much debate and several snooze buttons later I pulled myself together packed up my gear and took a drive.
The drive was to Franschhoek. a little French Huguenot village at the base of the Franschhoek mountains. By the time I was driving into the village I was already feeling lighter. Just the beauty of the surroundings can inspire. I stopped my car outside of foliage. A beautiful restaurant with a warm earthy feel to it. Chris Erasmus, head chef and owner was there to meet me. I knew I would love him because his energy instantly made me forget that I was glum. We were going on a forest foraging mission and he couldn't be more excited to share it with me.
We hoped in the car and drove into the mountains. Parking in a secret spot (Chris has an arrangement with the farm owner) we hoped out, baskets and waters in hand.
Chris is wildly knowledgeable of the forests and surrounds and I never realized the education I was going to get from this high-spirited chef and forager. Sharing his little nuggets of information of how to hunt for the best mushrooms and how to pick them, we wondered through the forest finding large fungi that seemed to belong in a fairytale. Chris shared with me how mushrooms grow to the moon just like the tides do. Simply beautiful. I had to take a moment from our high intensity walk to just breath in the forest and all its beauty. We did a huge loop in the forest, passed the cattle and up this beautiful walk way and before I knew it we were back at the car.
"Just one more stop" Chris mentioned. The stop was to collect fern tips and berries for the restaurant. Most of his produce is foraged. Which I think is simply marvelous. He is like the bear grills of Franschhoek. After we had collected all we needed, we made our way back to foliage. He speaks fondly of his mother a huge food inspiration that taught him how to pickle and make jams, to appreciate the earth and the small community that is Franschhoek.
With laughter and energy Chris enters the kitchen smiling at his staff. He mentions it will only take a few seconds to prepare the plates. With ease and simplicity he plated the most beautiful dishes to be photographed. Inspired by Margot Janse and René Redzipe, Chris truly is a food and flavour genius.
The food is simply and the ingredients speak for themselves. Who would have thought that foie gras and fern tips go together? But they do. The fern taste like a hybrid of chilli and walnut and leaves your tongue tingling. The colours on the plate flow and the finest attention to detail really makes you see that Chris is a world-class chef.
I left foliage after the day had ended feeling uplifted by its energy and inspired by its beautiful food. I felt moved that you could live from the earth and translate that food into magnificent plates that would hold up to any five start restaurant around the world. It left me dreaming and on a high. A much better end to my day than the beginning.