Binding culture with success by cooking from the heart
Dion Vengatass chose catering over woodwork in school. The decision led to ridicule from his peers – he was the only boy in a class full of girls – but it would define his calling. Vengatass, who fell in love with food at the age of four while helping his great-grandmother in the kitchen, is now chef de cuisine at one of Cape Town’s most iconic hotels.
After matriculating, Vengatass enrolled at the Swiss Hotel School where he studied Hotel Management. But the lure of the kitchen was too strong. After working abroad for over a year, the Benoni-born culinary prodigy returned home for a stint at the Saxon Hotel until chef Rudi Liebenberg offered him an opportunity at the Belmond Mount Nelson. Here, he creates food with a passion that can’t be taught. Vengatass has a perfectionist’s drive, evident in his preparation and plating. His skill and commitment have seen him claim the title of Unilever Food Solutions Chef of the Year in 2011, and he was part of the national culinary team at the 2016 Olympics.
But before the accolades, Vengatass was guided by what he learnt at home. Despite cooking what he sometimes describes as ‘Indian fusion’, he keeps it simple, using only selected spices for maximum effect. “Respect the ingredients you work with and truly cook from the heart,” he says. “These are the philosophies that allow me to turn simple ingredients into masterpieces.” Stirring up magic, Vengatass is celebrating his heritage through food.