This chef teaches with fire
David Higgs’ career started with a lie – a small one. Wanting to cook, and desperate for a job, he fibbed about his experience. It was worth it. Although he was only making breakfasts, he believed he was at the cusp of greatness. Little did Higgs know just how much his future held. Thirty years later, he is one of South Africa’s top chefs, with a host of awards to his name.
After attending culinary school Higgs helped found a catering company, and in 1993 won Young Chef of South Africa. He became a member of the South African National Culinary Team, began his own cooking school, and another catering company. He’s been constantly on the rise, with his most recent venture the restaurant Marble in Johannesburg, where Higgs focuses on South African cuisine and live-fire cooking. “The thing that captures my imagination when it comes to cooking is that we never ever get to a space where we know everything,” Higgs says. “It always keeps you on your toes.” But for Higgs, cooking isn’t just an exercise in experimentation and creativity; it’s also about learning. As a teacher, he ensures he shares his knowledge with young and upcoming chefs. “I don’t know how we’re supposed to grow as a culinary nation if we can’t pass on our skills,” he says.
Food isn’t Higgs’ only love. As an avid cyclist, he has found a way to combine his two passions. In 2014, Higgs founded the Food Cycle, an initiative that educates kids about proper nutrition. They partnered with the Diepsloot Mountain Bike Academy, a Laureus Sport for Good project, helping budding cyclists fuel their bodies and their races. Higgs took one academy graduate, Tsepo Nyirenda, under his wing, completed the Absa Cape Epic with him and gave him an internship in the kitchen. In the end, it’s Higgs’ love for South Africa and its people that inspires him in his cooking. “We have so many amazing dishes garnished by different cultures from all over South Africa,” he says. “I love to explore this in my cooking. We should be proud of our food heritage.”