Andre Hill is a cook and co-owner at Upper Bloem Restaurant in Cape Town, where he serves food inspired by the community he grew up in, in the Cape and that of the teams’ varied experiences of Cape Town. He’s been for cooking for 18 years.
Q & A with Andre
I see my work not entirely as my own but a collaborative effort, with an equal amount of sacrifice from everyone in the team to try and make something special and really do justice to the food we take inspiration from.
Cooking at Upper Bloem is a “coming full circle” moment for me, as I’ve never before consistently cooked anything from the city, county or even continent I grew up in. It’s been a privilege and blessing to work with young, cooks many who come from difficult life circumstances. To be able to say that your food culture matters is so important, it’s something that didn’t really happen when I was a young cook.
Transformation in the cooking industry will happen when we really start valuing our roots, when we are given space to explore them, in a way that is just not for financial gain or because its trendy to do so. When we start valuing each other more, and try to understand each other’s circumstances, and no, everybody doesn’t start from the same point, the person traveling for 3 hours back and forth to work everyday is not quite the same as me driving my car in and out of the CBD. And lastly, dismantling the unhealthy idea of power that plays out in many kitchens. This would be a good start, in my opinion.
I value a group like SA POC at the Table for the sense of community. It gives you a feeling of support and strength, which will allow you (as it did me) to look at things differently and realise: I do have options. It helped me realise even more that we have to try and create wealth for each other and that does not have to be financial. Because few of us from our backgrounds have wealth to fall back on, we have a greater responsibility to each other. When you are working as hard as we cooks do, dedicating your life to this one thing, this kind of support, guidance and an offer of outside expertise that comes with good intentions, is everything.
Two people have had an impact on me recently – Ishay Govender-Ypma for organising and putting together the SA POC at the table, and creating this space, for giving me support professionally and being willing to take the time to just listen and giving us a true example of what this community space could be. Zayaan Khan for her amazing products and food knowledge. She brought a few things for us to use at the restaurant but they were truly inspirational, her passion for her work is immense, yet never is this pushed on to you and I respect that a lot. In both cases I know very little probably about the complete spectrum of work these woman do, but I have lot of respect for the people they are and the what I do know, its had an impact on me.