Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen’s journey to becoming the first South African chef to obtain a Michelin star has captured the imaginations of foodies around the world. To be taken up in the Michelin firmament is arguably the culinary world’s highest honour. But to venture to France and to receive this accolade in Michelin territory, is a rare feat.
Growing up in the heart of South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, Jan Hendrik developed a unique relationship with food. He spent his childhood evading a certain destiny as a tractor-wielding farmer’s son, instead taking to a life in the kitchen, where – nurtured by his mother and grandmothers – he refined a talent that would one day lead him to open a celebrated restaurant on the French Riviera.
In 2016, less than three years after opening its doors, JAN received its first Michelin star. Later, Jan Hendrik expanded JAN’s borders by introducing MARIA, a bespoke dining concept named after his grandmother, who had a profound impact on his cooking.
Jan Hendrik’s award-winning début cookbook, The French Affair, featured recipes from his childhood and was very well received by readers and critics alike. His second bestseller, JAN – A Breath of French Air, picked up where The French Affair ended by capturing the mood and inspiration of the dishes served at Restaurant JAN.
In October 2017, Jan Hendrik launched his first TV show also entitled, JAN, which recently aired its second season. This breathtaking culinary travelogue captures Jan Hendrik’s journey to Michelin stardom and follows him around France and Italy, from which he draws enormous inspiration in his work. This SAFTA award-winning show premiered to a South African audience and is available to stream internationally.
JAN the Journal – Jan Hendrik’s bi-annual luxury food and lifestyle publication – launched in May 2018, and chronicles Jan Hendrik and his team’s culinary voyage of discovery through a series of recipes and stories that explore the people, places and ingredients behind the food we eat.
With the imminent launch of KLEIN JAN at Tswalu Kalahari – one of South Africa’s leading private game reserves – and by establishing JAN Innovation Studio in Cape Town, JAN has taken its first steps on home turf.
“My heritage informs everything I do, most especially my work as a chef. But through every journey I’ve ever undertaken, I’ve always believed in being honest with myself, being curious, mindful of the impact my actions have on others, and in surrounding myself with great people.”