Cafe Jiran

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Executive Chef


Café Jiran  Executive Chef William Whitham

“There are two types of chef in the world,” says William Whitham with a grin. “There‘s the Italian Chef who is loud and messy in the kitchen and the German Chef who is precise and super-organised.” He demonstrates efficient chopping with his hands then laughs. “I am the Italian type. I roar in the kitchen and create havoc.”

As William Whitham gives the impression of a quiet, almost shy man, this is a revelation. Since his arrival at Café Jiran almost a year ago Whitham has ensured that the culinary creations that leave his kitchen are rich in flavour, elegant in appearance and generous in portion. Having earned his stripes at the legendary Christinia Martin School of Food and Wine, then honed his skills at the Die Ou Pastorie.  Whitham was more than ready to take on the daunting task of supervising Café Jiran which, in effect, requires running two restaurants.

“We are a café during the day; people come  and want good well-presented food and beverages at the double; there is not a great deal of lingering. At night, we turn into a fine dining Bistro, with all the trimmings – linen tablecloths, exquisite wine glasses – and locals and visitors like to take their time, savour their meal, the wine and their conversation from the aperitif through to the liqueur.”wine-and-dine-in-durban

Whitham, who puts in a 12 hour day, says he loves the challenge of producing the perfect plate time and time again; but as he enjoys constructing new and exciting dishes he also like to change the menu to suit the season and to keep things fresh. Having recently overhauled the cafe menu he has now put the finishing touches to a brand new fine dining menu geared to get complements from the most discerning of diners.

“I enjoy experimenting with flavours and textures, I like to pay attention to detail and although I am messy in the kitchen my plates must be picture perfect when they go out,’ he remarks. He has a particular predilection for fusing culinary styles but does not believe in being experimental for its own sake. “I don’t mind creating eclectic dishes drawing on a variety of interesting sources for my dishes, but the flavours must complement each other and the whole must be harmonious and satisfying.”

Whitham insists that he sees himself as a technician or a craftsperson rather than an artist; but his humility belies the array of meticulously combined ingredients and the variety of his creations from rich cakes rising under creamy toppings to crisp adventurous salads to exquisitely presented chicken, seafood and meat dishes.

“I believe in good quality ingredients as the first base,’ he says sipping what he swears is his third and last cup of cappuccino for the day. “Fresh seasonal vegetables, sauces made from scratch, a decent stock pot, seafood that has never seen the inside of a freezer and only top quality meats and cuts. If you start with the right ingredients and follow the correct procedures you can be proud of every dish that leaves your kitchen.”   

But don’t take Whitham’s word for it. Come to Café Jiran and taste and try. A refined eating experience awaits you whether you are stopping for a healthy snack and a freshly squeezed juice, a slice of chocolate cake and a latte, a business lunch or moving in for an evening of sumptuous flavours delivered by a chef who takes extraordinary care to present only the finest and the best.