Cape Town Hot Spot: Chefs

WORDS Amelia Brown IMAGES Justin Patrick

The concept behind Chefs is pretty simple: to strip away the noise.

There are no printed menus: The website is updated daily to show the three thoughtfully constructed meals and one dessert of the day. There are no waiters: On arrival, you view the menu on an iPad, order and pay at the counter, and take a seat.

There’s no fuss: After plating before your eyes, an (actual) chef steps out from the on-display kitchen to serve your meal, sides and all, on the signature, canteen-style Chefs tray.

And there are no barriers: The bustling open-plan kitchen, complete with a brass-fronted, wood-fired oven, runs along one side of the restaurant, mirrored by a single row of utilitarian tables and chairs.

In fact, the restaurant was designed to create a gallery-like feel. The kitchen becomes the moving art installation as you observe the chefs at work, and the decor is intentionally minimal, modern and all-white. The large windows flood the space with natural light, allowing you to focus on what matters: the food. The contemporary menu, directed by Chef Jenny Ward, features healthy, seasonal and stylishly presented fare that aims to bridge the gap for busy, urban patrons between languid fine-dining and routine on-the-go grub. Here everything is fresh, made in-house and artfully combined.

The canteen tray, it turns out, is a good metaphor for the experience at Chefs: novel, sleek, simple, purpose-built, and intended to offer a solution. Creator and co-owner Justin Letschert credits his friend and the creative lead on Chefs, Adam Whiteman of The Power and The Glory and Hallelujah, with conjuring up its signature servers. “We went around in circles for some time trying to figure out how to merge the excellence of chef-created food with speed and a non-fussy approach,” explains Justin. “Then Adam came up with the idea of the customised tray to move everything through the kitchen and on to the table. That was the Eureka moment!” A modernisation on the classic military canteen tray, the design was treated with absolute austerity in order to avoid distracting from the food.

The decor may be stripped away, but it’s meticulously considered. For the renovation of the premises previously occupied by corporate offices, the space and the kitchen was designed collaboratively by the Chefs team, rounded out by MD Campbell Stevenson, and then executed by selected artisans and suppliers.

The windows were designed for both function and form – letting in air and light while retaining the original shape and heritage of the building and area. They’re arguably one of Chefs’ distinguishing features and were custom-made by Metal Windows. The purpose-built kitchen, installed by The Cooking Equipment Company, aims to optimise the space and allows customers uninterrupted visual access to all the food prepping and assembling. Unobtrusive surface-mounted troffer lights are suspended from the raw concrete ceiling slabs, enhancing the industrial feel introduced by the exposed extractor fan. This is further reinforced by the utilitarian, metal fold-up chairs purchased from Pezula Interiors.

Chefs is open Monday to Friday from 12pm to 8pm and is located at 81 St John’s Street, Gardens, Cape Town. Check out what’s on the menu today at