Portrait: Alexandre Coupy, Executive Chef, Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria
Where are you from in France? Do you sometimes go back to France?
I am from Biarritz. Yes, I really like going back to France for holidays to spend time with my family and friends. I love South Africa too, but when I go back to France I can eat foie gras!
What is the specialty dish from Biarritz?
There are several specialties such as poulet basquaise or piperade.
Please share with us your background as a chef?
I studied in Bordeaux, France, where I did a three-year training course as a chef. These years were quite difficult because we had to do everything that the chefs did not want to do, but this is really formative. When you do that, you really know if you want to become a chef or not and spend your life doing this job.
I then did my military training in Djibouti. I love Africa. After my military training, I returned to France to work in Michelin restaurants in order to have a good C.V. I then arrived in South Africa, in Cape Town, in 1995.
I worked there until 2008.
I went to work in Zambia, where I worked at the Royal Livingston until February 2016, when I started working at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria.
Is it easy to add a French touch to South African recipes?
Yes, this is quite easy. I love to change my cuisine, and I often add a French touch to it.
At the Sheraton Hotel, and more generally in South Africa, cuisine is really diverse because there are so many cultures here. For instance, for the buffet, we have South African dishes, Indian dishes, etc. I can cook world cuisine, which I really like doing.
What is your favourite French dish?
And your favourite South African dish ?
Bobotie. I usually make it with lamb instead of beef - I think it tastes better and the meat is less greasy.
Could you give us one secret about French cuisine?
For me, the secret about French cuisine is passion. In order to work in a good restaurant, you have to be passionate about what you do, or you should stop immediately.
What is the biggest difference between French and South African cuisine?
The products. Most of the products here are frozen. It is difficult to find suppliers when you need bulk purchases. In France you can have products from all over the world every day. Here, the market is not like in France. This is something that I miss.
How do you handle the pressure when you have to cater hundreds of people?
I am not someone who stresses. I am very organised and this is really important.
How long do you think you will stay in South Africa?
I would like to stay here as long as possible. My wife and my children were born here in South Africa. I love going to France - for me it is the most beautiful country in the world - but I feel really good here in South Africa.