It’s with stories like these that Higgs believes his mom’s cooking played a big role in his relationship with food but it wasn’t until he met his culinary hero and mentor, chef Bill Stafford, that he really saw what food had to offer. Stafford, who was once heralded as British chef of the year, took Higgs under his wing and introduced the young chef to the basics as well as to the world of fine dining. From there, Higgs’ journey went on to include massive dessert making factories, catering “extreme cuisine”, cooking schools on wine farms, revamped fancy hotel restaurants in Joburg and of course, Rust en Vrede, where Higgs made his most famous mark while collected a plethora of awards and even cracking the 61st spot on the San Pellegrino Top 100 Restaurants in the World.
But regardless of direction, Higgs’ story always seems to come back to his love of simple, real food that celebrates the ingredients. Which brings us back to the potato. His first ever dish at his ever first restaurant, Left Door, was a melody of confit pork belly and smoked mashed potatoes inspired by smoked spuds he tried on a visit to the now closed wd-50 in New York. It took 20 tries to get the potatoes anywhere close to what had been crafted by Chef Wylie Dufresne but when he finally cracked it, it was nothing short of “an incredible thing”. Fast forward to the present and you can find the same smoked potatoes in a sauce that accompanies a ribeye steak with crispy and smoked onions in the latest addition to the Marble menu. We assure you it’s still “an incredible thing”.
“My dream was never a restaurant, my dream was never really anything; it was just about getting from day to day and improving myself. Then an opportunity arose for a restaurant and I said, “let’s do it”. I think that’s why I enjoy it and why I’m successful, because there is a time and a place for everything and that time and that place just worked out for me and I’m very grateful for that.”
We asked David what places he likes to go to when he is not cooking fine dining and here are his top three favourites:
Balthazar, New York
The restaurant absolutely buzzes. You sit on top of one another on these big leather bench seats, there’s glass everywhere and the waiters are running around. I really do believe that the energy that you get from a restaurant is so important and that’s what I get from Balthazar. I’ve been back a few times and it’s always the same. balthazarny.com