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Food

Impress: Duncan Welgemoed

On appearances, chef Duncan Welgemoed creates quite an impactful first impression. Broad shouldered, wild haired and inked up, he’s an imposing character. His profanity littered speech and blunt, heavy metal attitude amplify the offering.

But one should never judge on first impressions.

He’s a true gentleman, a loving husband and father of two, and an inspirational mentor in the kitchen. His tattoos are in fact replicas of famous artworks from the likes of Klimt, Cocteau and Giger. His ‘no holds barred’ style is the result of honesty, dedication and passion. Delicious flavoursome food, South Australia and a great restaurant top his agenda.

A colourful journey

Raised in the turbulent surrounds of Johannesburg and enduring a troubled childhood, Duncan escaped South Africa for London when he was 17. Mugged of his life savings at a Soho strip club, he fell into cooking as a way to survive. He’s never looked back.

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Fat Duck and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay all appear on his resume. He followed his heart to Adelaide, fell in love with the place and the girl, married and stayed. He helmed French restaurant Bistro Dom for a few years before opening Africola in 2014. Likened to a raucous dop & chop food party, Africola has become the destination for dining in Adelaide.

“It started off fairly authentically African,” says Duncan of the restaurant’s evolution. “As we worked through the style of what we wanted to become, it has actually grown to be very Australian, not in terms of using indigenous ingredients or anything, it’s just that we believe that Australia is a beautiful multicultural country and that is what it (Africola) has grown into.

“I suppose the biggest thing is, we’ve always wanted to achieve the informality of a South Australian restaurant and today, Africola does just that.”

Parochial passions

At its heart, Africola is South Australia. Wild, untamed, abundant, exciting. And in his heart, Duncan admits he wouldn’t be the chef he is today if he had set up shop in another part of the world. 

“I think the big thing with how Adelaide has transformed who I am as a chef started with the whole country bagging South Australia and Adelaide,” says Duncan. “Moving here and seeing this beautiful place with fresh eyes, I couldn’t understand why people in Sydney and Melbourne would treat Adelaide as Australia’s drunken uncle. It pissed me off.

“I know Adelaide had its day in gastronomy in the late 80s/early 90s. They said that’s when it was at its peak, and now it’s having a resurgence. But
I believe the food and culture have always been there, it just went underground – that’s where winemakers and chefs started working with artists and musicians to challenge the orthodoxy.”

Delicious food circus

Through Africola, Duncan delivers that challenge with fervour. Dishes such as Goolwa pipis in fermented chilli and garlic, and padron peppers with almond aioli and katsuobushi, blended with a rock music feel and vibrant surroundings have put Africola on the world dining map. Young chefs from around the globe come to learn its essence, while diners travel from all corners to bask in Africola’s aura.

“Being a destination restaurant is kind of weird,” admits Duncan. “We were a community restaurant. We want to be there for the locals who eat there two, three times a week. But because of the hype, or whatever, the word spread that this is a really interesting restaurant that is value for money and is super fun.

“It’s like a community driven food circus, entertaining the masses. That’s what we’ve always wanted to become. It doesn’t follow a certain restaurant orthodoxy. I believe orthodoxy belongs in religion, not gastronomy.

“So giving the platform for myself and our staff to express ourselves as we only know how, and that is; loud music, delicious food, great booze and great service, is a testament to the great talent I have behind me.”

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Impress: Maggie Beer
Words by Mark Hughes on 1 Mar 2016
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Poh Ling Yeow
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 8 May 2018
Last time we spoke to Poh Ling Yeow, she was on the verge of launching the second series of her television show, Poh & Co., and had just opened her café, Jamface. This time, we’re catching up with her to talk about her baking book, Poh Bakes 100 Greats.  TV presenter, cook, baker, author, artist, café owner – a better cover star for our diversity issue would have been tough to find!  Not many people know Poh as a baker, a point she makes in the introduction to her book. But, in actual fact, it was her first great cooking love. So, this book was a long time coming.  “I’m really excited about it because I feel like it’s a book I would have written first if I’d had my own way,” she explains. “But everyone knew me for my South-East Asian food, so I had to buy a bit of time and come out as a baker before I could effectively sell a book about baking!”  Poh ‘came out’ by opening Jamface, her café in Adelaide’s Central Market at the end of 2015. While Jamface offers other eats, the main attractions are Poh’s great passion – cakes and pastries made from scratch on site. 

I just don't think I"m out ot impress anyone anymore. I've shed all of that self-consciousness and I literaly cook food I would put on my table at home. 

- Poh Ling Yeow
  Childhood inspiration Poh’s love of baking started when she was a child, she explains. “I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen much as a kid, but baking was one thing I was allowed to do because my mum and great aunty Kim deemed it safe.” Poh’s mum, Christina, was also a great source of inspiration. “I grew up watching my mum bake madly all through my childhood,” she recalls.  For Christina, home economics was the highlight of her school days, and when they arrived in Australia, she took to baking with gusto.  One of the things Christina really instilled in her daughter is the power of persistence.  “If she doesn’t get something right,” Poh says, “she’ll just make it every day for five days in a row until she perfects it. I have definitely inherited that obsessiveness to get things right.” While many authentic Malaysian desserts are fried, steamed or frozen, baked treats are common too. One that Poh was particularly fond of growing up was pineapple tarts, the recipe for which features in her book.  “They’re a really popular little Malaysian snack with really short crust pastry and a super caramelised jam on top,” she describes.  Another of her childhood favourites in the book is coconut love letters. “They always remind me of Chinese New Year. They’re actually really easy to make, with a similar texture to tuille, but a lovely coconutty flavour,” Poh says.  The legend of these treats is that young Peranakan women, who weren’t allowed to meet their loves unattended, would write love letters, hide them inside folded biscuits, and throw them over the wall to their boyfriends. 
For more recipes and the full story with Poh, pickup a copy of Selector  from all good newsagents, subscribe or look inside your next Wine Selectors delivery.  OUT NOW: Poh bakes 100 Greats by Poh Ling Yeow, RRP $39.99. 
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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