By Dominc Rolfe
Chef/owner of Africola in Adelaide, Duncan Welgemoed was raised in Johannesburg and brings to his restaurant the flavours of his youth along with a no nonsense attitude. It’s all about being passionate, creative and having the ability to reinvent yourself to stay current….
What does the word hospitality mean to you and how has it changed since you started?
Hospitality is basically making people feel at home through us giving a lot of ourselves to curate certain experiences – food, wine or front of house.
Hospitality has become a lot more informal, a lot more welcoming and less stiff. But there’s always a fine line that needs to be played, there’s still a service that we need to provide and not just be a hipster lounge.
I think it’s changed because people don’t want to be spending the money so restaurants now have to appeal to a wider demographic.
Did you have a mentor?
I have a few mentors. Mentors are important for me because I have different facets of the business as well as an events company. From a cooking perspective, it was Michael North, one of the best chefs in the UK. Those were my formative kitchen years learning under him.
David Thompson is a mentor from a more philosophical point of view, helping me look at where I wanted to be in the future as a restaurateur and a chef. And from a creative point of view Mike Patton [from band Faith No More] is all about reinventing yourself to stay relevant. He’s always saying “stay true to yourself and who you are creatively”. As long as you produce quality and it’s interesting, you can pretty much do what you want.
What was the goal when you opened and is it different now?
When you start off working in Europe, my goal was to be a three star Michelin chef, especially working in the places I was working. Now it’s more about doing cool stuff. I’m from Johannesburg so having a job is a big driving force. It sounds ridiculous but that’s how it is back home. So I was just happy at the start to be working. Now, the goal is to work a hell of a lot less and to do cool stuff. I currently work basically 7 days a week, 16 hours a day. The goal for this year is more education, more travelling for a purpose and not just work.
Do you have a piece of advice for current chefs starting out? Did you have a piece of advice that you’ve carried through?
Get into it for the love and the passion of it, don’t get into it as a glamourous job. It’s not like that in the slightest. There’s only a very few chefs who have that lifestyle that you see on TV. It is extremely gruelling and you have to stick at it to achieve anything.