Jade de Waal is a young and adventurous cook from Cape Town, South Africa, who’s been organizing food-and-music events in her hometown for 9 years, and shot to national fame after taking part in South Africa’s first edition of Masterchef in 2012.
We caught up with her to dicuss food, music, and jamming in anticipation of her Dinner Date in partnership with Loubie Rusch at Slow Fish 2019.
You call yourself “food jammer” – but what does that mean exactly?
Great question! Based on the concept of music jamming, food jamming is an event where a group of people who might or might not know each other come together to cook and share a meal to share, based on certain recipes and ingredients, like a music jam being based on certain chords and instruments. Beyond that, guests are invited to follow or improvise!
Being a Food Jammer means that at the heart, I am always freestyling in the kitchen, but there’s a lot of practice in the muscles! Socially, I think music & food are good partners, and professionally they teach you how to be disciplined. As a cook and a musician, I’ve been combining the two in my Food Jamming parties which run 6 days a week.
Imagine a time before trains & planes. Now find Cape Town on the map. The world came together in Cape Town, en route to somewhere else. This is where two oceans meet, overlooked by a towering mountain and the local fauna, the fynbos, (a type of shrubland vegetation unique to the Cape region, home to around 6000 endemic species), and the deep care & healing nature of the Khoi & San tribes who knew how to hunt and gather their food. We are blessed with all these flavors here, and so we have dishes that are simple and complex at the same time. Stories that might seem simple (like eating pickled fish for Easter) are layered with history, and learning the truth about our food is a source of true delight. Come to our dinner on May 10, and we’ll tell you more!
A collaborative dinner. Photo: Joffrey Hyman
How do you see the future for food in South Africa?
South Africa is doing a lot of things right. The thing is, we don’t need billionaires to build our world, we need more people who know that their choice and their voice have the power to change the system. All our ancestors fought for something, be it right or wrong. Now some people say that my generation of South Africans has nothing to rebel against. Well let me tell you something: South Africans are changing the course of our history as we speak. We don’t need a war to do that. We can do it through food. Food is political. And our future depends on how we approach food.
You said the Cape is where two ocean currents meet: so is there a fusion of marine life too? What are some of the local seafood specialties?
South Africans have been slow fishing for years, centuries, to sustain their families. It’s only relatively recently that we’ve started selling fishing permits to the bad guys. Luckily, there are strong people campaigning, and there are start-ups like ABALOBI, there’s really no excuse for cooks & proprietors not to have slow fish on their menu. Think snoek, harders, octopus, hottentot, all available directly from hook to cook. And I can’t wait for the other producers to follow suit. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s an exciting time too. We’re changing the course of the current.
What can we expect from you at Slow Fish 2019 in Genoa? What are you looking forward to yourself?
I don’t believe in “too many cooks spoil the broth.” Cooking a four-handed dinner, in a very special kitchen, with kick-ass cooks and kick-ass recipes that will make you remember and travel with us through four courses.
What does “Slow Food” mean to you?
The full food story.