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Using proudly South African flavours to tell a nation’s storyLa Residence
Learning the lie of the land
Food lovers in the Franschhoek Valley – and beyond – will be as delighted as we are at the news that Gregory (Greg) Henderson has started working at La Residence as our new Executive Chef. Greg describes himself as both a forager and a chef, and that description reveals a great deal about his food philosophy.
Greg grew up in King Williamstown during what he calls a transitional period in South Africa’s history. It was a time when artificial divisions between communities were being removed, and there were new opportunities to learn from people of different backgrounds and absorb heritage from other cultures. In Greg’s case, this included learning about South Africa’s wild indigenous foods, and the knowledge he began to acquire (albeit with a few slight missteps on the way) has led him on a unique path as an evangelist for the delicious ingredients that – with a little effort – can be found growing wild in South Africa.
Greg has always seen these ingredients not just as components of dishes, but as strands in a multicultural story about where the food we eat actually comes from. At the same time, he remembers becoming dissatisfied with the lack of flavour in many commercially grown fruits and vegetables – they often could not compare with the wild versions.
Local foods, global recognition
Greg’s commitment to excellence has certainly not gone unnoticed. In 2018, he was named Best Head Chef (Africa) at the World Luxury Restaurant and Bar Awards, and in the same year, he was voted Global Winner by LUX UK for “Most Outstanding Sustainable Dining Experience”.
Greg cites Chefs Gerard van Staden, Luke Nair and Glyn Taylor as being his most important influences as he has developed as a chef; his primary inspirations, however, are Nature and the ever-changing cycle of the seasons. Within South Africa’s diverse landscapes and climate zones, Greg consistently unearths new (or forgotten) ingredients, and combines these with his classical training to create completely authentic dishes rooted in the locale.
Greg’s foraging philosophy is also deeply intertwined with conservation and helping ecosystems and communities to regenerate through sustainable use of their resources. During the pandemic, he kickstarted the Wild Food Revolution, an initiative to use indigenous ingredients and traditional wisdom to address the challenges faced by food insecure communities in South Africa, and contribute to a circular food economy.
In the same way that Liz Biden’s designs for La Residence weave together many different narrative threads, Greg wants his menus to do the same. He references local legends such as the elephants of the Knysna Forest and the histories of the different peoples who have moved into the Franschhoek Valley down the centuries.
Greg is looking forward to working closely with the team at La Residence and helping them to tell their own stories through the ingredients they use, and the outstanding meals they create. He has always been committed to conservation and community transformation – values that are entirely aligned with those of The Royal Portfolio.
Making a difference
In his new role as Executive Chef at La Residence, Greg will be able to share his ‘people, planet, plate’ philosophy with a wider audience. He’s particularly excited about Chefs for Conservation, a sustainability-based programme that’s about people coming together to collaborate and drive positive change within the culinary industry.
We’re excited to see the changes that Greg will introduce at La Residence as he falls under the spell of the Franschhoek Valley, its people and its indigenous ingredients!