WORDS Amelia Brown IMAGE Jac de Villiers
Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, Michelin-star chef of a restaurant in Nice, has two exciting projects on home soil.
Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen first visited Tswalu Kalahari in the Northern Cape in 2016. What struck him was the nothingness, which he experienced even more profoundly when contrasted with the sensory saturation of the Cote d’Azur, where his restaurant JAN is located. An idea took root and a conversation began with Tswalu Kalahari owners Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer.
The result is Klein JAN, a restaurant at the newly refurbished exclusive Kalahari camp. “I grew up on a farm in Middelburg, which my father sold a few months before he passed away,” says Jan. “I have always thought that if I were to open a restaurant in South Africa, it would be on a farm.”
The restaurant will be fine-dining with an experiential twist. “It’s a concept that’s going to represent the Kalahari for what it is,” he says. “In France we have an abundance of everything. It’s beautiful and it’s also chaos. But in the Kalahari, you’ve got so little, so it’s the art of making that little stand out.”
While plans for Klein JAN are being finalised, Jan is influencing all aspects of the guests’ dining experience, from crockery to dune dining and star-gazing dinners. Seasonal produce will be grown at the restaurant and sourced from the surrounding area.
Meanwhile, Volume 3 of JAN the JOURNAL has just been released, produced from a new HQ in Cape Town. Driven by the need to have a kitchen to test JOURNAL recipes, the concept for the Innovation Studio was born, a place for Jan and his chefs and some fortunate students to experiment and play – and fail, he says. “That’s when the best things happen. This is not a place for perfection; it’s a place for ideas.”
Those ideas will be circulated back into JAN and Klein JAN, as will the staff who will be on rotation between the establishments. “One reason it took me six years to open something in South Africa was the need to establish a really strong team, which I now have,” he says. “This is a full-circle opportunity to bring innovation to all the establishments.”
For more information, visit janhendrik.com.