Terrence Ford is the executive chef at Sante Wellness Retreat and Spa. His career has spanned over several highly acclaimed restaurants and he is passionate about transformation, mentoring young chefs from under-privileged backgrounds.
Q & A with Terrence
1. My work experience varies across the board as I’ve always wanted to try out different facets to the food industry. My experience ranges from corporate to leisure, hotels to restaurants and now wellness and nutrition. As executive chef at Sante Wellness Retreat and Spa [Ed: in Franschhoek, outside Cape Town], working with our specific food principles, I’ve helped us develop a style of cooking that we like to call ‘progressive nutritional cuisine’. Cooking with no sugar, no gluten and no dairy, has meant that we have had to change the way we cook, the way we understand food nutritionally and the impact our food has not only on the body, but the environment too.
2. I enjoy working my team seeing them grow under my leadership and also learning from them every day. I love the new direction my food is taking myself and the team. My highlights are the small things that happen every day in my kitchen. For example, we plant seedlings: seeing them grow, then harvesting them and serving it to our guests. That’s a highlight for me.
3. Transformation in hospitality/food will happen when there are more opportunities for young people of colour to be able to afford, or attended the top cooking schools in South Africa. Many young aspiring chefs just purely don’t have the funds to attend the top culinary schools. The top schools get the top placements at top restaurants with the top chefs in the country. These students are automatically exposed to a world of food that a student who attends a lesser known school or a school who doesn’t get the best placements would ever get to experience. That means that many students who come from privileged backgrounds can afford these fees and they keep getting these placements, making it difficult for anyone who comes from an under privileged background to move ahead.
4. SAPOC is very important! Not only for us all to connect within our areas of expertise, to help each other and expose one another to what we have all learnt and bring as a collective. But most importantly, to show that sense of unity and that we are not alone! Sometimes as a chef of colour I find that you are one between many, it does feel lonely at times, so this platform promotes a sense of togetherness and brings to light what our daily struggles are and helps us learn new positive and progressive ways of thinking to improve our current situation.
SAPOC is also very important as it highlights the brave ones among us who are fighting the battles we don’t see on a daily basis. Fighting for our land, our cultures, preserving and reclaiming our indigenous knowledge and acknowledging our indigenous roots. Raising issues about biodiversity and how we are losing it in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world!
We are all ultimately being connected by our relationship to food. It is amazing how food has brought us together to have these deeper discussions. SAPOC is critical not only for us involved but also for our future, for our children’s children and for the underprivileged people who are most affected by this.
5. I have worked with two people who I really admire and have met through SA POC, Zayaan Khan and Carlo Randall. I have tons of respect for these individuals, as they fight a battle I could never have done myself. I support the cause and they have helped me contribute my part through food. They are the warriors fighting the battles of reclamation, resurrection, preserving, and acknowledgement of biodiversity and indigenous communities in our society today. I don’t think they get enough recognition or support for questions they are asking that, in turn, helps us benefit on a daily basis. The challenges they have faced and worked within, is what inspires me to play my tiny part. It has inspired me to think about so much more than just plating a meal. It’s made me think of every species on a plate and how they have lived together in an ecosystem for many years. They inspire me to want to be a better chef, cooking with our own food.