Describing his cooking style as classic with a twist of modern, Kevin Joseph, executive chef at The Oyster Box is passionate about food and cooks from the heart.

OYSTER box KEVIN josephNEWWhat are some of the trends you see in the food and beverage industry?
The focus is on healthier eating, with smaller portions, sustainable purchasing and consideration for curbing your carbon footprint by sourcing local. Food is going back to basics, whereas the beverage component of the business is moving towards the WOW factor. Show cooking is a growing area, allowing chefs to showcase their skills to guests, by preparing their food in front of them, as entertainment.

What would you say is the number one mistake people make when it comes to catering for conferences?
Not enough choice for clients to; not all companies have unlimited budgets for conferences, so it’s important to have offerings that cater for the specific requirements of each individual client. Tailor-making packages to suit your clients’ needs also differentiates you from the rest of the pack. You need to do things differently in order to give the client a completely new experience every time.

What are your catering top tips?
Ask the important questions before your guest arrive, such as gender balance, age of the guests and so on so that you can design your offering correctly. Always get first-hand feedback from the delegates, so that adjustments can be made for the benefit of the guest.

How do you present ‘plain’ food in a way that makes it look appealing to delegates?
Presentation is key to a good meal, as most people eat with their eyes first. We look at different ways to serve our food, as well as serving the food in smaller portions, advising our guests to lean towards plated meals as opposed to buffets. The key factor is also to use the freshest, best-quality ingredients and that speaks for itself.

What are some budget-busting conference ideas?
Mornings: Instead of whole fruit being served and most people wasting, offer skewered fruit, breakfast pastries and muesli and yoghurt served in shot glasses.
Tea break: In the past at tea breaks, sandwiches were served. Now, hotels offer an array of freshly baked biscuits which are more cost effective with tea or coffee.
Afternoon tea: Try serving freshly made popcorn or an ice cream and cone station to give delegates a boost to their energy levels, for the afternoon session.

What has been one of your difficult catering challenges?
Preparing a conference for 200 delegates at an outside venue 300 km away from my kitchen and upon arrival being told that the hired stoves had not arrived, after purchasing all of the fire wood from a local garage, lighting fires and almost succumbing to the smoke, it all ended in success. I never want to be in that situation again!

What dish are you asked to make most often?
Our traditional Natal Lamb Curry or any curry for that matter; everyone who visits the hotel wants to try our famous curries.

What is your signature dish?
Being close to the sea, seafood features predominantly on our menus, pecorino prawns served with a Bouchard Finlayson cream, pesto tossed rocket and Grana Padano floss.

How did you decide you wanted to become a chef?
I started out in the navy. On leaving, I needed a job and ended up working as a waiter. After some time I decided to try my hand at cooking and 22 years later I can’t see myself doing anything else. Since then I have worked around South Africa as well as internationally. I have also had the privilege of catering for a number of celebrities and even royalty.

Award-winning executive chef, Kevin Joseph has been at The Oyster Box for almost ten years.  During his career, he has accumulated a wealth of hands-on experience at leading hotels in South Africa and around the world. These include The Peninsula Hotel in Cape Town, the Raffles Hotel in Singapore and the Michelin-starred Tamarind and Claridges Restaurants in London. Kevin is a member of the South African Chef’s Association and the International Wine and Food Society.