20-year old Capsicum student Mandrè Campher is making a name for himself, having been placed in the top three Best Young Chef of 2020 category at the One&Only Reaching for Young Stars awards recently held in Cape Town.

“When my parents started Hagar’s Choice [a non-profit place of safety for babies and children], my three sisters and I pitched in to help, and I very soon realised there was an opportunity to take up the responsibility of preparing meals for everyone. That soon developed into an appreciation for good food that not only looked great but was nutritious too.”
Campher’s Reaching for Young Stars highly praised dishes was a starter called Six Mushroom Delights – “mushrooms prepared in six different and beautiful ways”, and a main course of  bacon-wrapped pork loin served with apple braised cabbage, glazed rainbow carrots and a Madeira jus.

“I was fortunate enough to win some fantastic prizes,” he says, “including some amazing kitchen equipment and utensils and a food carving set. The prize also included an overseas placement position at Winslow’s Tavern in Massachusetts in the US but, due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions, it was cancelled.”

“I was devastated as it was something I was really looking forward to, but I have since received funding to continue studying and I am aiming to achieve merit awards for the patisserie course at Capsicum.”

Campher is clearly one to watch, as he was also a finalist in the reality series Sjef Huis which was broadcast on VIA on DStv last year. Presented by Bertus Basson and Crystal-Donna Roberts, the show saw talented young chefs competing for R50 000 and the chance to work in one of South Africa’s top restaurant kitchens under the mentorship of Basson.

So what does the future hold for this talented young man? “After I’m done with my studies, and once the restrictions around this pandemic eases, I would like to travel to as many places as possible to experience the preparation and delivery of different food in different countries.

“I also hope to one day open my own restaurant, bringing together ancient techniques energised with modern innovation, with maybe a little Vegan place on the side for my Dad,” he says.