If you’re on social media then I’m sure you’ve seen this young man around. When he’s not in the kitchen you can find him either catching some big waves or bombing the hills with his skate crew. Whatever idea it is you have about what a traditional chef is like, forget all of that. Keanon certainly breaks all the moulds and in doing so has carved out his own path. He not only worked extremely hard at doing this, he’s also doing the most to pave the way for the next generation.
Sooooo, you know, obviously we had to catch up with him. Ask him a few questions and get to know who Keanon is when the apron comes off.
Also, please find him on social media and tell him that we all want one of the #KeanonsKitchen snapbacks. Seriously though, tell him.
Tell us about yourself.
After matric, I did a national diploma in catering and hospitality studies. I started in hotels and worked my way through the ranks of the kitchen. In 2011 I was chosen as an inflight chef for Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi. I was responsible for wining and dining prestigious V.I.P guests in first class. I cooked for the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Coldplay and many of the royal family in Abu Dhabi.
Keanon’s Kitchen was a dream that started in 2009, but finally materialized in 2017. It’s based in Strandfontein, where I grew up. My kitchen was based at the Strandfontein pavilion adjacent to the tidal pool. It’s so much more than just a catering/private chef business. It’s a proudly Strandfontein initiative, aimed at uplifting the community and other businesses and artists.
Keanon’s Kitchen focal point is to bring the restaurant experience to the comfort of your home. We want anyone to be able to afford a high culinary experience affordable to most people. Keanons Kitchen covers all culinary styles, tastes and preferences by no means limited to just fine dining.
In the past 18 years, I have been blessed to travel the world and work under exceptional chefs like Heindrich Koen, Marcus Ree Taylor, Grant Cullingworth, Linsay Venn and Sanel Esterhuisan. I use what I have learned from them and my travels to put together a unique culinary experience, showcasing fresh local produce and flavours.
When did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
From the age of 9, I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen. My mother is the main reason I took an interest in cooking. At that age, I used to watch her cook and my passion for cooking was sparked. I was given the freedom to use my imagination to cook and create what I wanted. My mother is an exceptional cook and I wanted to be as good as her. Through the years I continued cooking, constantly creating and experimenting with food.
I continued my journey with food all the way to the age of 16, where a visit to Cape Sun Intercontinental hotel in Strand Street changed my life. It solidified my career path and focus on my passion. Being exposed to each facet of the kitchen just grew and fuelled my passion for food and cooking even further.
Do you have a favourite dish that you like to prepare?
Without a doubt, one of my favourite dishes is curry, all sorts from Thailand, Malaysia and India. But the one I’m most fond of is my “cape curry” which incorporates my favourite spices and my travels abroad. Curry is something so complex yet each one has its own unique characteristics, depending on who and where it’s being cooked. Each curry is unique, and only once you’ve understood spices and flavours would you be able to unleash a truly delicious curry.
Do you follow trends in terms of food/wine pairings?
I keep myself updated with what’s happening with food trends and which direction food is taking. I do this mostly as a point of reference for my clients who inquire about trends or things they’ve seen. I’m fond of doing new and exciting dishes, or taking something old and put my own twist and signature on it.
What is the one ingredient you can’t live without?
Not fair!!!! LOL, for a chef this is super tough, for me it has to be citrus fruit (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit) these are my favourite. I use citrus fruit in both my sweet & savoury applications, hot and cold. The smell and flavour in both the fruit and its skins are what I’m after. Fresh acid is essential in my cooking style. Acid is crucial in getting the perfect balance of sweet, bitter, salty and sour. It can be the UMAMI in the dish and has certainly been that for me on several occasions.
When you go to eat out, what do you avoid ordering?
It all depends where I’m eating. If I go to a steak restaurant I will be expecting my steak cooked to my exact requested temperature. I love the freshness of Asian cuisine, fell in love when I travelled to Thailand and Korea. So I have a tendency to have Asian food once a month at least. I avoid sushi, sushi is a very personal thing as the chef wets his/her hands constantly to work with the sticky sushi rice. If I don’t know the chef personally or if the sushi was not referred to by someone’s whose palate I respect I won’t eat there.
When you’re not making magic in the kitchen, what do you do to relax?
I’m a surfer firstly and everything else follows after that, I have been surfing since the age of 16 at 9 Miles beach, Strandfontein. That’s my local surf spot. For me and the rest of the 9 mile locals, we represent so much more than just surfing. Being one of the largest coloured surf communities I am 3rd generation 9 mile local. Many pioneers have paved the way for us and fought relentless battles during the apartheid era, where they weren’t allowed to surf on the “WHITES ONLY” beaches. Pioneers like the late Ahmed Collier and Robbie Abrahams surfed 9 Miles and inspired others. Today we are a strong brotherhood of surfers all of which lived in Strandfontein and we still surf together today. Surfing has always been an escape for me from all the pains, stresses and disappointments that life constantly throw at you. When I surf I feel free of all my responsibilities, problems and all I feel is calm and joy. The stoke of riding a wave and being one with the ocean for that duration is something few people get to experience. It’s the most alive I have ever felt in my 36 years of existence, the feeling of getting deep inside the barrel and getting spat out onto the shoulder of the wave… Only a surfer knows the feeling. It’s also a great work out, incorporating upper body muscles your core and heavy cardio, lol.
My other love:
When I’m not surfing I bomb hills in and around Cape Town with my downhill skate crew, Tarbound Skate Crew, based in Woodstock. I learned to slide and bomb hills in Woodstock while I lived in Walmer Estate, the speed of bombing in a pack @ 80km gets the heart rate up, I LOVE IT!!! We’re not just about sliding and going fast down hills we’re friends first and foremost and constantly support each other wherever we can. I thank my crew for pushing my limits not just in speed but in life, in general, we all about positivity and lekker vibes.
My Love for dancing:
Once a month I attend We House Sundays, for 4 to 6 hours I dance to my heart’s content. It’s a great way to relieve stress I love to dance, always have since I was a child, came from a rock/hip hop background. My 1st encounter with house music was in 1999 at a club called MORE based in Loop Street Cape Town this legendary club was the pioneer for the house music scene in Cape Town in my opinion. It was an adjustment for me coming from clubs like Vibe & Galaxy & Dockside the beats were slower, deeper the vocals more sensual the instruments were live. And ever since then I have been dancing to deep house music so much that It’s an essential part of who I am. So once a month I jam to deep beats and sensual vocals played by the resident DJ’s Leighton Moody, Cassiem Latief & David Lawrence.
What is your favourite local dish?
It would have to be my mother’s chicken curry & roti, anything cooked by my mother Cheryl Michaels is next level yummy, packed with umami. My mother will hands down out cook me, she is also one of the culinary mentors and someone whose palate I respect and trust. But her chicken curry and her super flaky (almost puff pastry like layers) in her roti are the best I ever had and anything who’s tasted it can attest to what I’m saying.
If you wanted to impress someone, what dish would you cook for them?
Something out of the box that would change their perception of a dish or a certain ingredient. My cooking is an extension of my loud, bold personality, I’m loud so my flavours are bold and my presentations are a symphony of details, textures and colour.
If you could invite 3 people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would it be?
My Grandpa, Michael Van De Burg, he’s passed on but he had a huge appetite and a big love for family.
Lance Jansen (Chef & close friend lost to cancer, he would have been my Sous Chef at Keanon’s Kitchen) I know how proud he would have been of me making my dream a reality. We discussed this for years while we were chef de parties working 16-hour shifts during the opening of the Cape Royale Hotel in Greenpoint. We also worked together at Madam Zingara and Arnolds in Kloof Street. He was a super passionate chef, we loved every second of the blood, sweat, swearing, violence, stress, no sleeping beast that is the kitchen and the life we chose. He will always be held in high regard to me when it came to passion and work ethic, I measure every chef including myself based on Lance’s work ethic.
Kelly Slater, 11-time world surf champion, in my opinion, the greatest sportsman of all time. I mean Michael Jordan was good but he retired Kelly is still competing and still kicking ass!!! I had the honour of meeting him in 2007 in Jeffreys Bay on a Surf Trip.
On Tuesday 6 March 2019 I launched my cooking show Rolling with Chef Keanon
I’ve also had interviews on Bush Radio, Heart FM, Yoh Radio, GoodHope FM and RSG, had an amazing 33 appearances on the Expresso Show on SABC3 and judged for the SA Navy Junior and Senior Culinary Finals every year since 2015. I have been blessed to be sponsored by Plasti Pak in Salt River, Fish4Africa & my custom handcrafted knives by Scanlen Knives.
Please view these articles and links of Keanon’s journey so far:
We House Sundays – Sunday people
Nick Aldridge via Instagram