15 Mar People of Jozi – Chef Candice Philip from Grei
Candice smiles from her soul – shyly, but from her soul, and this passionate, yet soft spoken chef is the brains and drive behind the highly successful Grei Restaurant – located at the prestigious Saxon Hotel in Sandhurst.
Keeping in mind that the likes of Oprah Winfrey, and other such Hollywood A-Listers spend their time in our beautiful city here, you should know that everything is nothing short of show stopping, of course.
From the moment you step out of the lift (beautifully scented with lemongrass to begin your herbal culinary journey) you will be awestruck by not only the stunning décor, but the all-pervading sense of ‘calm’ that seems to seep out of the pores of Grei.
The entire restaurant itself is decorated in different shades and tones of grey, from fur walls to textured wall papers and is extremely visually designed with a focus on key items such as the marble tops and the crisp white linen. The grey serves as backdrop to allow the food and the colour of each course to shine through.
The view out over the pool and lush rolling surrounding suburbs adds to the sense of peace and quiet. Thick, plush carpeting and the open plan kitchen lend themselves to the feeling of dining in someone’s own personal home, where you can catch glimpses of Candice and her team buzzing around like bees behind the scenes.
Grei – which is a rough Portuguese translation meaning ‘a society of people’ is the space that allows Chef Candice’s obsession with blending together unique flavours and pairing menu items that would not normally be placed together, yet somehow work so incredibly well in tandem, to shine through.
Passionate about her fresh herbs and the outdoors, Candice’s pride and joy is her big organic herb garden on the Saxon property and it is from this garden that the key menu ingredients stem.
She changes her herbs seasonally and they revamp and change the menu according to what is in season, rather than changing the entire menu, things just tweak slightly.
The menu offered is a six-course tasting menu, paired with an incredible collection of international and local wines. One is also able to do a pairing minus the wine, and we loved that they also offer a vegetarian and pescatarian optioned menus for the non-meat eaters amongst us.
These menus are also created as their own standalone menus – so not an adaption off a main menu, but rather as their own entities, which just serves to highlight the love and care that has gone in to every aspect of the food.
Each dish aims to highlight the herbs used – from yarrow and lovage, to sorrel, chervil, coriander and liquorish grass and carries the herb theme through to the small herb bundle on the table, as well as the little surprise at the end of the meal to take home to remind you of your journey.
Candice initially wanted to be an interior designer and it was a chance one-month internship in a banqueting kitchen that lead her to discover her passion. Thank goodness, we say!
Having been part of the team at Saxon for 13 years now, Candice worked her way up through the ranks, and has worked closely with both David Higgs and Luke Dale-Roberts on their onsite restaurants too.
When asked what or who her biggest inspiration is, Candice admits it’s the herbs, although there are so many experiences and people who have shaped her in to the chef that she is today – possibly too many to list.
We asked her what her favourite saying was and after much laughter she admits that it is ‘Do you need a hammer?’ Their kitchen is so small that making a noise is not really an option, so if her close knit team are making an inordinate amount of noise that is the phrase that gets bandied about.
Candice points out that without her team she is nothing, and like a close-knit little family they create and innovate to shape what can only be described as an incredible dining experience from start to finish.
Grei is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 18h30 and booking is essential.
Find out more about Chef Candice and Grei, right here…