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Christo Pretorius
Executive Chef, The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa

Christo Pretorius always had a love for food, even as a small boy growing up in the town of Vryheid in Kwa Zulu Natal. He completed High School in 2004 and, eager to spread his wings, headed off to the UK, where he ended up spending two years working at a holiday resort in Elveden Forest (Suffolk). He was initially hired as a waiter but when a chef phoned in sick one day he jumped at the chance to stand in for him – and then never left the kitchen! He stayed on as Commis Chef and was promoted to Junior Chef de Partie six months later, deciding then and there that a culinary career was his calling.

Upon his return to South Africa in 2007 Pretorius completed his Chef and Pastry Diplomas at the 1000 Hills Chefs School in Durban, passing both with distinction. During his studies he also gained further work experience at Silver Hill Lodge in the Drakensberg. In 2008 he decided to expand on his international experience by spending a season working on luxury yachts in Florida.

Back on South African soil he worked as Bistro Chef at the five-star Relais & Châteaux property Kurland Hotel in Plettenberg Bay during the Easter Polo Season, before joining Relais & Châteaux’s five-star Tsala Treetop Lodge as Junior Sous Chef in August 2009. Two years later he was keen on a new challenge and accepted a position at the Cape Royale Hotel in Cape Town in November 2011. As Sous Chef at Bistro 1800° he was second in command and was in charge of banqueting, staff training, menu implementation, food supplies, stock control and kitchen management.

While advancing his career Pretorius also successfully competed in several high profile competitions – he placed second in the prestigious Sunday Times ‘Young Chef of the Year’ competition in 2012; and was a regional finalist in the Unilever Food Solutions ‘Senior Chef of the Year’ competition in both 2011 and 2012. In 2010 he won ‘Junior Chef of the Year’ at the Unilever Food Solutions, and was placed second at the Goldcrest Young Chef of the Year Competition.

In November 2012 he was appointed as Executive Sous Chef at The Twelve Apostles’ Azure Restaurant, where he spent the next few months fine-tuning his skills under the previous Executive Chef, Henrico Grobbelaar’s mentorship. Pretorius considers this time a career highlight: ‘Here I learned to work even harder and aim to be the best at what I do. I also learned to respect ingredients and to look at the finer details on plating. We always talked about new ideas and played around with different cooking methods – it was an incredible learning curve for me and I feel lucky to have had such a great mentor. I wholeheartedly support the local farming community and believe in keeping ingredients honest and in their purest form.’

By the time Grobbelaar left The Twelve Apostles Hotel in July 2013 to pursue other interests, Pretorius was ready to step into the shoes of his mentor. With his promotion to Executive Chef of The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, he is now in charge of Azure Restaurant, as well as the hotel’s banqueting and events. The rising star of the Western Cape’s culinary scene, he has already made his mark with inventive new menus focusing on an intriguing mix of international and local cuisine, which has secured Azure a spot on the prestigious American Express Platinum Fine Dining Awards in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and won him the coveted title of Red Carnation Hotels Chef of the Year 2013/2014.

In March 2014, Pretorius was named one of eight WWF-SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) Trailblazers at the annual SASSI Seafood Circle Awards, following an extensive assessment of restaurants nationwide on their approach to implementing, supporting, and promoting sustainable seafood practices. The ‘Trailblazer factor’ was bestowed upon chefs and restaurants going the extra mile in promoting and supporting seafood sustainability.

Known for his skill to combine flavours to create innovative dishes, his Char Sui Pork with pork popcorn, smoked potato bitterballen, pea salad, plum chutney and cider jus was claimed on social media channels as ‘the favourite dish’ of the ‘Taste of Cape Town’ food festival in April 2014. He repeated his success the following year with another successful stint at the show in April 2015.

In another highlight, Christo Pretorius was invited to take part in the prestigious ‘Chefs who share’ event in Cape Town in September 2014 and 2015, as one of 14 of South Africa’s top chefs to present a delectable gastronomic evening in aid of youth development in South Africa.

An avid traveller, memories from his trips around the world revolve around food, smells and views, and he now aims to re-create these experiences for diners enjoying his contemporary South African menu: ‘My goal as a chef is to create lasting memories. Engaging all the senses is what creates truly special memories they will cherish forever.’