Discover the food journey and cooking style of Warren Mendes

Describe your journey to becoming a chef and food stylist

I had studied accounting and economics at university – but I traded in the corporate life and trained at Le Cordon Bleu finishing in the Paris and London schools. One thing led to another and eventually, I was working full-time as a “media chef” – cooking for magazine and cookbook photography. I think a background in cooking is essential to becoming a food stylist.

Has cooking been a deep-rooted family tradition growing up?

Food has always been a part of my life. With two brothers, there was always a large volume of food to keep us fed. On the weekend, mum and dad would always have people over and entertaining was centred around food or the barbecue feast. I think I just started to associate food with a good time and love entertaining guests today.

How have you translated these traditions into your cooking style now?

I have a real fear of a guest going hungry under my watch, so I always make sure there are snacks as soon as someone arrives and that there is more than enough food for them to enjoy at my house. I love cooking for others and giving them big flavours, but at the same time don’t want to cook anything complicated or intimidating. This probably stems from growing up where food was wholesome but not pretentious. I prefer “yum” over “wow” as a reaction from a guest!

How would you best describe your cooking style?

My training is classical French, and I do use a lot of the principles in my everyday cooking to build flavour – but I like breaking the rules too. I enjoy taking bits I learn from other chefs and cooks and turning them into something simple at home. My cooking style is substance over form but also make sure that it is presented so it is immediately appealing. After all, we take our first bite with our eyes. That’s where the food stylist comes out.

How does cooking make you feel?

Cooking is something that both excites and calms me. If I’m ever a bit stressed, I will jump into the kitchen – and the familiar movements of stirring or chopping are immediately calming. I love experimenting with new flavours, and cooking gives me my biggest creative outlet too. I love working with other chefs or brands coming up with recipe ideas or food concepts – there are no limits!

Does your cooking style vary for different occasions?

I don’t think so to be honest. If it’s for work, I adapt to whatever the brief is, but if it’s for cooking at home, I think the thing that determines what I cook is the amount of time I have to prep. I don’t like dinners to be “formal” – but it still is fun to make something a little more technical for a special occasion or certain group of guests.

What’s your food philosophy?

I don’t think I have one mantra I cook by. I certainly have tried to be less stressed about cooking or recipes – and adding stress to the cooking process I think impacts the food itself. Flavour first is an obvious principle of mine, but it’s worth putting in some impressive final touches. I always like to say in the kitchen – make it nice, don’t make it twice. Read the recipe before you cook it and think about your prep, so you don’t waste time.

Tell us more about your favourite cooking experience on Food Trail.

When staying at a place called Grootbos along the Cape Coast, I went foraging for local mussels along the rocky outcrops of Walker Bay. After cleaning a decent haul of fresh mussels, I cooked them up along the cliffs overlooking the sea with a magical fiery-red sunset giving the whole area an incredible glow. The dish was Cape Malay inspired, mussels cooked in a coconut curry sauce – delicious!

Do you have a story about a meal you’ve enjoyed?

I was invited into a Zulu village in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, about 2 hours outside of Durban. I was with a Zulu lady called Thoko, and a local family cooked us a traditional meal. I was their guest of honour, and it was an incredible experience spending time with them eating and cooking traditional food. An experience I will never forget.


We would love to know your approach when it comes to sustainability

From a kitchen perspective, I try and reduce food waste and think about efficient appliance use. I minimise food waste at home and shop wisely. For instance, I extend the life of coriander by washing and wrapping it in a paper towel in the fridge crisper drawer. I use the leaves for garnish, cook the stalks with onions in a curry, and use the roots for a great curry paste. Good equipment can help it last longer, but also give me more variety to cook with.

How important is sustainability to you?

In terms of my broader approach, it’s just about being aware of the waste of energy. Simply turning off lights or not leaving appliances running unnecessarily is more front of mind than it used to be. It’s not just about financial savings, but new habits can form easily. On top of this, buying sustainable appliances to begin with is important so we don’t waste precious energy.


Tell us how Miele appliances help you with sustainability

Induction is the first thing that comes to mind. Efficient use of energy is a no-brainer to me in the kitchen. Also, by being able to cook more controlled food, you preserve more of the food and then waste less.

Can you tell us what your ultimate cooking experience has been with Miele?

I worked with Miele years back on a shoot with Shannon Bennett – and we had to cook beautiful roast duck. I was astounded by how brilliantly the roasting setting worked. Since then, I have also been baptised into the world of steam ovens and love the combination of a little steam and roasting to get a succulent roast.

What is your go-to crowd-pleasing recipe to cook?

It’s a South African recipe called Bobotie. It is kind of South Africa’s answer to cottage pie – except it is packed with spice and has a turmeric, bay leaf and egg topping. It may south strange, but every person I have made it for loves it. Usually served alongside a pickled salad – it is a party for the tastebuds!

Can you give us an example of how you might use the Miele products full loop?

In a perfect world I plan ahead, but in reality – a lot is last minute. First, I take a frozen piece of meat out of my freezer and gently defrost it in the Miele steam oven. While this is happening, I’ll have a coffee before searing the steak over high heat on a chargrill pan on my Miele induction cooktop. Any leftovers will be stored in the fridge.

125 years of Miele:

As a friend of Miele, do you have any words to say for their upcoming 125-year birthday?

I think it is a great honour to spend time in someone’s kitchen while the cook – and Miele has been doing that for 125 years. It’s incredible to be part of so many memories, meals and even mistakes to be perfectly honest. The kitchen is about routine and comfort, but it can also be about fun and experiments. Either way, Miele has been part of a lot of this action! Happy Birthday!

Discover the food journey and cooking style of Warren Mendes
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Discover the food journey and cooking style of Warren Mendes
Dive into Warren Mendes' unique cooking style, understand his food journey, and learn about the inspirations behind his innovative dishes. Get ready to be inspired by Mendes' passion for food.

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  • Free Discovery Product Demonstrations

    Miele Experience

    Thursday 08th September 2016

    At 10:30 am - 12:00 pm



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