Michelin stars, staffies and rugby

Chef Tony Kocke is now overseeing 11 kitchens and a 77 member kitchen-brigade at Fairmont Zimbali Lodge and Resort.

Fairmont Zimbali Lodge and Resort’s new executive chef has teased the taste buds of celebrities and royals around the world with his simple motto – funky not fancy.

Originally from Berlin, Chef Tony Kocke said he wants his customers to understand what they order.

“If you cook, cook with passion or do not cook at all. There is no point in trying to reinvent food by giving it fancy names.

“What we do is refine food. Simple scrambled eggs and salmon can be mind blowing, if it is done with passion,” said Kocke, who lives in Ballito with his wife, Michelle and two Staffies, Ozzy and Abbey. He has been in the culinary world for 38 years.

“When I was about ten years old, I figured out that cooking was cool. My plan was to work on a cruise liner and see the world.”

He worked on a cruise liner in the Carribean for about six months, but he preferred cooking on land. He went to work in London, until one particular customer ate his food.

“Back in the 1985, the owner of the Royal Hotel at the time ate my food and offered me a job at his hotel. I stayed there for two years and was head hunted to be the executive chef at the Durban Gentlemen’s Club. That was very different, no women were allowed!”

Besides claiming his first executive chef position at 25, he was also voted Best Young Chef Garde Manger in South Africa and in 1989 he was awarded the Hudson Knight Chef of the Year award.

After nine years in SA, he returned to Europe for a while, opened his own restaurant, Ma Cuisine in Brandenburg, Germany and was awarded a Michelin star for his high quality and exceptional cuisine.

After five years of owning his own restaurant, he sold it and moved back to South Africa.

He was repeatedly headhunted from hotel to hotel, spent 14 years in Cape Town and last worked at the Beverly Hills, Umhlanga before recently becoming the executive chef at Fairmont Zimbali.
After a long day of cooking, Chef Kocke comes home to cook some more, dinner being his favourite time as he gets to sit down, relax and eat.

“I cook daily at home. And I always wash, starch and iron my own chef whites. Only I am allowed to clean them, which drives my wife crazy. It is a pride thing. My uniform is my life, it means everything and we have become one.”

When he is not cooking, you will find him driving to the bush or beach, wherever there is no cellphone signal, in his Land Rover Defender or watching the Sharks or Springboks play.

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  AUTHOR
Elana Geist
Journalist

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