At the helm is Chef Michelle Theron, who has been part of the restaurant team since it first opened in 2010. She worked alongside Pierneef a La Motte’s first executive chef Chris Erasmus, and when he left to open Foliage two years ago, she was a natural fit for the position.
Passionate about traditional food, sustainable and seasonal sourcing, Chef Michelle knew that she wanted to cook from an early age. After she completed her studies, she worked at restaurants such as De Volkskombuis in Stellenbosch, One. Waterfront at the Cape Grace in Cape Town and Laborie in Paarl, before joining the opening team at Pierneef a La Motte.
Since taking on the role of executive chef, she has further honed her skills and gotten a taste of what’s happening on the global scene by cooking in Michelin Star restaurants in the Netherlands such as Chapeau!, De Bokkedoorns and De Vrienden van Jacob. In the kitchen, Chef Michelle believes in training through encouragement and example – no shouting allowed. Which is a good thing, because the kitchen is open to the dining room, so only pleasant vibes flow out to the diners.
Chef Michelle’s speciality lies in expressing traditional South African cuisine in modern fine dining and she works closely with food historian Hetta van Deventer – Terblanche to find new inspiration from the past. The process is a continuous one: Hetta digs into the local archives and history of the Cape Winelands area, sending Michelle any promising recipes created by chefs of the Cape, hundreds of years ago. As one would expect, the recipes aren’t easy to duplicate as they use unusual (or unappetising by today’s standards) ingredients and language that we’re not really used to. Michelle captures the essence of the recipe though, choosing what will and won’t work in today’s setting, and will appeal to today’s palate.
This year Pierneef à La Motte features as one of the twenty top restaurants in South Africa, as selected by Eat Out. Relaxed fine dining is the name of the game, with an à la carte menu available for lunches and a fine-dining chef’s menu for dinners in the beautifully welcoming restaurant. Dishes such as Freerange pork terrine, with thyme-and-fennel rice “kluitjies” (dumplings), mustard and celeriac, and Asparagus and lemon stuffed pasta, with lemon and thyme velouté, pickled cucumber, coriander and dill salad, hazelnut crumble for vegetarians. Vegetables are mostly sourced from La Motte’s sustainable garden, and spicing plays a vital role in bringing the flavourful history of the Cape onto the plate.
Capturing the history of the Cape Winelands in another way, the porcelain that is used in the Cape Winelands Tea bears the same famille-rose pattern which was popularly used on the 18th Century Cape Burghers’ porcelain, shipped into the country from China. Filling up those plates are delicate traditional teatime treats such as soetkoekies, tea cake and a traditional choux pastry puff filled with sweet filling. A relatively new development is the Sunday family lunch, where platters heaving with dishes such as slow-cooked lamb shoulder, fresh-as-fresh salads, cumin roasted carrots and greens with a honey mustard dressing, are served family style in the centre of the table. Not only is this a big serving trend, it cements the restaurant’s commitment to sharing – sharing the beautiful space La Motte inhabits, sharing the food history of the area, sharing the love of food.