Simplicity is the name of the game, according to Nederburg’s new chef, Jerry Kennedy, who takes his cue from nature’s fresh bounty. “It’s the simplicity in food that captures my full attention,” he says. “I prepare dishes using top-quality locally-sourced fresh produce as far as possible, always trying to understand the ingredient I’m working within its most basic and simple form. For me, it’s all about creating simple but memorable food experiences.”
This is exactly why he is a great fit to lead the team at Nederburg, with the opening of its revamped restaurant, The Manor Restaurant, later this year. The focus here will be on shared food experiences featuring simple and unassuming, yet wholesome and hearty dishes with a touch of heritage.
Energetic with an innate habit of getting things done, Jerry is a great believer in the natural goodness of farm life. He also nurtures a great passion for nostalgic food – something that might have to do with some of his earliest food memories. “I found myself involved in the kitchen alongside my mother from a young age, as a way of earning pocket money. It soon became more than just that. I learned how to create enjoyable, good food for the whole family using simple ingredients,” he explains.
Jerry grew up and was schooled in Bredasdorp. After matriculating, Stellenbosch and food studies beckoned. He completed a diploma in advances food and wine at The Culinary Academy. Here he was trained in classic French cooking and mastered the traditional techniques which he relies on daily to produce unforgettable food of exceptional quality. He does, however, admit to also making use of modern cooking methods. As he says: “One can learn something new every day.” And he’s clearly not afraid to put new learnings to use. He relishes the opportunity to learn and discover, and apply new thinking, in his career and daily life.
This might stem from a way of learning and succeeding he’d pick up on from role models and mentors on his journey, from passionate lecturers during his years of culinary studies, to many he worked with and got to meet during his career to date.
“My family also drives and inspires me, in some challenging and other more pleasing ways. This is also where I feel I build character and learn new things about myself. I’m still a work in process!” he laughs.
Jerry says that saying a final goodbye to his beloved grandfather, four years ago, was one of the most difficult things he’s ever had to do. “He was such an inspiration to me, and carrying his name, I really strive to become the go-getter he was. We named our firstborn after him, to honour his incredible legacy. He was not a cook like me but was very hardworking, a great sportsman with the heart of a warrior. Hearing ‘his voice’, I’m able to take on any challenge with the passion I witnessed in him.”
When it comes to his own ambitions, he explains in his humble manner that for him, it’s all about others. “It makes me so proud, whenever I witness someone succeed in what they set out to accomplish, and knowing that I played a part in that.
“I definitely strive to operate at an optimal level and like to inspire others to do so too. I’m passionate about people and my ambitions centre on being able to teach people to be the best they can be. I have a lot of energy and am very passionate about releasing that into the positive development of people. I am also curious about others’ perspectives, attitudes, and approaches. I learn a lot from others and then apply it. I am a doer – very task-driven and efficient, if I may say so myself.”
Jerry reckons that Sauvignon blanc is perfectly suited to almost any occasion and enjoys it on a regular basis when not working. He also loves a four- to five-year-old Pinotage with a typical South African braai or traditional bobotie. He counts home-cooked stews, curries and homemade lasagnas as some of his favourite dishes – a clear indication of his love for nostalgic food.
A self-confessed family man, Jerry lives in Franschhoek with his wife Nadine and two busy boys, Leo and Licas. Spending time with his family is a favourite activity, as is cycling, field hockey and some time on the couch with the family watching a good comedy. They are keen campers, and when they do have time to go on longer holidays, they visit Plettenberg Bay, or head to neighbouring Namibia to take in and experience the splendid vistas of the desert, the vast beaches and the wild.