Andre was born in Stellenbosch. He grew up in the beautiful residential suburb Rozendal. Since these early days his awareness of place, people and family was strong. On a Sunday you will find him at his parent’s home, making a fire, preparing the meat and enjoying a good glass of wine.
His home address is in Ryneveld Street, in the historical Morkel house. The oldest part of this house is a wine cellar built in about 1693 by Landdrost C. Linnes. In 1710 it was bought by Jan Bothma. When the church was destroyed in a fire he offered the cellar for church services. In the middle of the eighteenth century the present house was built and it was the residence of the messenger of the court until 1834. After that it was owned by the Morkel family for almost a century. Today it belongs to the Historical Houses of South Africa Ltd. Dr. Anton Rupert saw the need for the preservation of our architectural heritage and bought historical homes in Stellenbosch for posterity.
At the back of the house is a small white wall, one of the oldest in Stellenbosch. It is surrounded by a quiet garden, with herbs, tomatoes and frequented by cape robin-chat. From this part of the garden two most beautiful and some of the oldest Cape Dutch gables in Stellenbosch can be seen. To live here, is to have a balance of the appreciation of the old, how everything had worked in harmony together and the awareness of the change in the modern world……
Travel, food and wine
Early in his professional career, he was blessed to travel and explore the world.
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart” (Cesar Chavez)
His first trip was to France in 1999 to attend Vinexpo in the hub of the famed wine-growing region, Bourdeaux, where his palette for wine tasting was calibrated by being exposed to most of the First Growths, hosted by Madame de Lencquesaing, then owner of Chateau Pichon de Lalande in Pauillac and currently Glenelly in Stellenbosch. It was where he experienced that good wines can feel alive in a glass. The combination of energy, texture and depth, with something more that is difficult to grasp.
It was in Burgundy, at Domaine Bertagna in Vougeot, working as a cellar hand where his interest in cooking was stimulated. At the end of a long day’s work in the cellar, he would go to the local market to buy fresh produce and start cooking.
Through all his experiences in life he learned about balance. Everything works together in harmony; acidity should balance against sweetness; fruit should balance against oak and tannin and the ingredients in good food must balance to give you something special to enjoy. It is at this point where Andre will ask the waiter about the ingredients and recipes. After a while the waiter who may not have all the answers ends up inviting Andre into the chef’s kitchen to learn from the chef himself.
Culture before Meatballs
When he visits a place he wants to understand the culture in order to appreciate the food and the wine. For example: The Greek island Lesbos ( alternatively Lesvos ), in the north eastern Aegean Sea, is known for its high-quality olive oil and also vineyards where they have been producing wine since ancient times! Cuisine in Lesvos includes dishes that accompany ouzo and Retsina, the traditional beverages of the Greek islands. These dishes are grilled octopus, fried vegetables, salted mackerel and prepared fish/pasto.
Upon learning the culture, Andre also knows that the best places to eat will be the fish taverns right on the beach, because there he knows it comes straight from the fishermen basket. And indeed, many restaurants actually have their own boats!
And only then, Andre is ready to enjoy his Soutzoukakia meatballs in tomato sauce with Malamatina Retsina.
Another great experience for him was in Molivos, a town in Lesbos. Here you can be part of The Talking Table. It is a home where people stay, eat and talk together. It is for visitors who have something to contribute to good conversation during lingering meals with fellow guests from all over the word. Indeed a celebration of Greek island lifestyle and intellectual minds! “ A safe place for dangerous ideas”. ( www.thetalkingtable.com )
The last word
It is then, that he feels alive and blessed to be tasting the wine in the vineyard, to be the guy talking to the vineyard and to the people. To be remembered as someone who makes tasting wine and food an experience. It is not a job, it is a calling! It is something more that is difficult to grasp…..it is Life.