Luke Dale-Roberts is a name synonymous with the finest, most creative and innovative food in Cape Town.
Having honed his considerable skills in the kitchens of some of the most renowned kitchens in the world, since coming to Cape Town, Luke has consistently proven his mettle with a string of awards and accolades, the most recent being Chef of the Year at the prestigious 2011 Eat Out Dstv Food Network Restaurant Awards at the end of last year.
The Test Kitchen, located in the trendy Biscuit Mill complex in Woodstock, was also named second best restaurant in South Africa at the awards, which seeks to honour the best restaurants and chefs in South Africa. The Test Kitchen, which opened in November 2010, sees the chef cooking his distinctive style of cuisine in an intimate space that also delights design aficionados.
As its name implies, The Test Kitchen, though primarily a restaurant, affords Luke the opportunity for maximum innovation as a chef, as well as being a space to use as “the creative hub” for a variety of different projects, including regular cooking demonstrations. “It symbolises a stage in a creative process,” he says. The intimate 30-seater restaurant provides guests with the option of a casual or more formal dining experience, but always a taste of Luke’s apparently limitless culinary imagination and exquisite presentations.
Following the Eat Out Awards, Luke not only went on to collaborate with leading food innovators Woolworths on a gourmet Christmas range but in a recession which has sadly seen so many establishments closing their doors, he took the bull by the horns and opened a new dining concept – The Pot Luck Club – at the end of last year.
Located next door to the Test Kitchen, this new venture is another source of culinary and visual inspiration for diners. Part eatery and part contemporary art gallery with a dedicated cocktail bar and an accompanying list of boutique wines, The Pot Luck Club features a menu consisting of a multitude of “small plates” of modern global dishes.
While Luke’s remarkable talent, as well as consistency and innovation, continue to push culinary boundaries without losing sight of the expectations of diners and ensure his eateries are fully booked months in advance, he remains humble.
“I think the secret to the success of the restaurants so far is that every single person who works here is completely and utterly committed to doing their level best every single day – from the selection of the produce we work with, to presenting each dish on the plate,” says Luke. “We all want the same thing – for the diner to be blown away by the combination of flavours and the taste experience that we have put so much effort into creating.”
The path to these two exceptional restaurants has been a long and winding one: British born Luke trained at Baur Au Lac Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland– at the time recognised as one of the top five hotels in the world. He returned to London where he honed his skills in the art of French fine dining at Elenas L’Etoile under Roux brothers protégé Kevin Hopgood. This was followed by a move to Australia where he explored Pacific Rim fine dining, based at the Greenwood Hotel in Sydney.
In 1998 he took up a position at London’s top fusion restaurant, Bali Sugar (member of the Sugar Club restaurants in the UK), learning to combine contemporary ingredients from around the world. From there he moved to the famous Soho House Media Club as executive sous chef where he cooked for the rich and famous; regular diners included film and pop stars Madonna, Kevin Spacey, Kylie Minogue and Oasis.
From Europe to South East Asia, Luke launched several restaurants over the next few years while continuing to expand his global cooking styles before taking up the position of executive chef of La Colombe at Constantia Uitsig in 2006, lifting the restaurant to not only the highest local standards, but bringing it international recognition too.
Luke’s culinary creations are for the discerning diner in search of imagination and superb technique. He starts with the thought that a dish has to be understandable and have bold flavours. “From there I build it and add textures and presentation. I’m always tweaking and refining to find a dish’s full potential,” says Luke. “My mantra is ‘taste, taste, taste!’”
The Pot Luck Club
The Pot Luck Club ad Gallery is currently moving to the top floor of the Silo building in The Old Biscuit Mill where up to 100 guests will be able to enjoy the spoils on offer. Opening in February 2013!
Award winning chef Luke Dale-Roberts started 2012 on a high note with his new eatery The Pot Luck Club & Gallery, an additional source of culinary and visual inspiration for diners.
While many of us are preparing to enjoy much-awaited time off, chef Luke Dale-Roberts isl be hard at work, doing what he loves best. Sourcing the finest produce available and transforming it into a mouthwatering edible experience.
Menu will consist of a multitude of ‘small plates’ of modern global dishes. There will also be a dedicated cocktail bar and an accompanying list of boutique wines to complement the varied edible creations on the menu. Diners can expect a mix of both fusion and classically influenced dishes on the menu, from the likes of Luke’s signature Asian-influenced pork belly served with XO dressing, red cabbage and apple slaw to Cumberland sausage and red onion rolls and sophisticated servings of foie gras served tableside to guests.Originating in the United States in the ’50s, Pot Luck dinners were evenings that saw guests contributing a variety dishes to make up the food at the social event. Nowadays this is seen as a customary way to entertain but back then it was a novelty and a chance for friends to show off and share their culinary prowess. At The Pot Luck Club, Luke and his chefs will be able to share their talents with a grateful audience who can order as little or as much off the extensive and ever changing menu.
Also including the likes of duck spring rolls and spiced fish tacos, the selection of plates that can be passed around a table for tasting will be varied and based on what’s available on the day. “We’ll be cooking some of our dishes on the fly but without forgetting the quality and flavour balances that are everything to us”, says Luke of the concept that is very much about providing the chefs in his brigade an opportunity to experiment and develop their repertoire while working alongside one of the best talents in the business.
The open plan kitchen and bar, milled steel tabletops,with an amazing view of Cape Town there’s no doubt that The Pot Luck Club & Gallery will be the city’s sexiest new spot, designed for laidback dining and featuring equally well dressed plates. The idea says Luke is for people to pop in after work, perhaps for an early bite or maybe a late dinner and to eat as little or as much as they like – those in the mood for impromptu dining or drinks will be glad to hear that there will be plenty of counter seating to cater for walk ins while the rest of the restaurant’s tables will of course be available for bookings.
So why a new restaurant? “To be honest, any businessman will tell you that it would make sense to simply expand The Test Kitchen but I’m a chef and I like to cook and develop recipes and make new discoveries and The Pot Luck Club will offer both myself and the chefs working here exactly those opportunities”, says Luke. The casual eatery will expand on the fresh and seasonal focus seen at The Test Kitchen but will allow those in the kitchen to experiment on a far greater scale. This is certainly a new concept for Cape Town diners – while there are those offering tapas menus, the small plates philosophy that offers an element of fine dining and sophisticated flavour marriages is absolutely new and devotees to the Luke Dale-Roberts brand of dining will no doubt be thrilled.