Justin Oliver is the executive chef at Café Vigour. He is a true Durbanite (born and bred) and attended Durban High School. He then went on to pursue my dreams of being a Culinary Genius at the International Hotel School in 2003.
Mzansi Life (ML): Where did you start your career as a chef?
Justin Oliver (JO): My career began at Gateway’s 1 on 1 Conference Centre as the Head Chef. After a year of working there I made a big decision to pursue an opportunity in the Drakensberg as the Executive Chef of a KZN Wildlife property called Didima. Before joining the Suncoast Family I worked onboard an exclusive Norwegian yacht better known as Seadream.
ML: What is your signature dish?
JO: Wild mushroom ragout sandwiched between Beef tenderloin fillets wrapped with Garlic butter wilted spinach on mashed butternut and sweet potato.
ML: What food trends are emerging in the conference industry?
JO: Over the last year I have noticed a consistent request from meeting planners to have tea breaks that are both “Healthy & Hearty”. A combination of healthy and indulgent offerings speaks to the needs of delegates who are also health conscious or have dietary requirements.
Another popular trend is the move away from formal sit down meals at corporate retreats or meetings to more casual dining which are aimed at creating family like bonds between work colleagues.
ML: What is your favourite food?
JO: I enjoy foods that are authentically local and just like most Chef’s I eat everything! I love our Durban Curries and a good old fashion Braai from time to time.
ML: What is your great love and passion?
JO: Fishing has always been one of the few things that I have continued to enjoy since my childhood. I love the outdoors, whether it is mountain biking or camping.
ML: Are you adventurous?
JO: Yes, I think I am especially since I will be running my first Comrades marathon this year.
ML: Do you have any funny stories from being a chef?
JO: My entire experience as a trainee chef at The Royal Hotel had many funny moments which I clearly remember even till today. Being sent by the older trainees to pick up tins of” mise-en-place” from stores or discovering I had swallowed a teaspoon of wasabi instead of avocado puree.
ML: Are you married?
JO: I am married to Verona. 20th of July will mark our first wedding anniversary. We do not have any children yet but plan for them in the near future.
ML: What do you do for leisure?
JO: I enjoy the simple pleasures of life – time with my family and friends is important and so I try to do this as much as possible when I can.
ML: What can guests look forward too at Cafe Vigour?
JO: Simple gourmet comfort food, Cafe Vigour offers quality ingredients and wholesome dishes.