CHAMPION BARBECUE BY KOBUS BOTHA

I have been keeping a terrible secret for a while now and it's time I got it off my chest. Mom, I love you, but I can no longer honestly say that your Bobotie (1) is the best I've ever had. I found the best Bobotie and it is being served by a staunch Boerseun (2) in the heart of Paris.

Words by Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen and Anna-Bet Stemmet

Pictures by Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen

Meet Kobus Botha, proud South African and owner of My Braai in Montreuil. Kobus looks like what you would imagine an Anglo-Boer warrior would look like if he decided to forgo the hardships of the battlefield in favour of stoking the home fires for the return of the victorious hoards. Genial, bearded and barbecue-savvy, there is no mistaking the immense presence of this inimitable chef who has succeeded in introducing the French to the humble art of the braai (3).

THE MEAT CUTE

A few years ago I read about another fellow South African who was making a go of feeding the French. Naturally, I had to meet the bloke! So I made my way to My Food, honestly expecting to be cowed by the legend that is Kobus. Listen, I’m not going to lie, the man’s sheer bulk is intimidating, but then again you’d expect nothing less from the guy who decided to design and build his own custom braai equipment because nothing else would quite suffice.

However, once I was done feeling just a tad sorry for my scrawny self, I immediately recognised a kindred spirit in the magical Mr Botha. The moment I walked into his restaurant (which is situated in an area uncannily similar to Woodstock in Cape Town – think tough, but manicured) I felt like I had been transported straight to South Africa. Mariam Makeba was playing in the background and the unassuming blackboard boasted a long list of all my South African favourites - bobotie, boerewors(4), péri-péri chicken, chakalaka (5) like you only get in Soweto, malva pudding (6), rooibos tea, home-brewed ginger beer and (to my utter childlike delight) Sparletta Crème Soda (7)! Naturally there is also an extensive wine list boasting popular South African vintages.

ONE BRAAI IN PARIS

Kobus Botha met with me as a fellow countryman with Africa running through our veins, but there was something else. This man understood me and understood the challenges I had gone through to relocate and open a restaurant (of all things!) in the country known to be the bastion of the culinary world. It was like running into a childhood friend - a laaitie(8) who also understood the innate love of the smell of a wood-burning fire and meat juices sizzling onto the coals.

Kobus does what we all thought impossible – he braais in Paris. The former film producer is highly creative and adaptable and has become extremely popular with a large local following. His cuisine is also not merely confined to My Food; he has taken his show on the road with immensely impressive custom-designed metal braais that can feed up to 3000 hungry Parisians in one go!

CHAMPION BARBEQUE (THE BOOK)

I was commissioned a while ago to do a shoot with Kobus for Food & Home (a South African lifestyle publication) and it was such a treat. The man himself welcomed us with icy cold beer and paper-thin slices of moist beef biltong that still had that prized half-moon of glossy fat on the rind, and the day only improved from there.

Naturally I was delighted when I learned that he wanted me and the fabulous food stylist Inemarie Rabie to assist him with the photography for his book, 'Champion Barbecue'. We shot for five fun-filled days and I honestly can't decide what I enjoyed more - the food, the company or the pleasure of photographing Kobus' rugged, honest fare.

The book is set to take the culinary world by storm. Aside from a selection of delicious recipes, it also contains detailed instructions regarding the stacking and lighting of a proper fire; correct braai times for different kinds of meat, as well as invaluable info about choosing your braai ingredients.

Sometimes you meet someone and you immediately feel the click of a similar energy. Here's to you Kobus - to taking chances, to tanning a tjoppie(9) and guzzling ice-cold glasses of Klipdrift (10) & Coke! Viva la France, Viva Ubuntu (11)!

GLOSSARY

  1. Bobotie - A South African dish consisting of curried mincemeat with a topping of beaten egg baked to a crust.
  2. Boerseun - Farm lad
  3. Braai - Cooking meat over the coals of an open fire (similar to American BBQ, but way more rugged and manly)
  4. Boerewors - A traditional South African a sausage containing spices, usually made of beef and pork.
  5. Chakalaka - A South African vegetable relish, usually spicy, that is traditionally served with bread, pap, samp, stews, or curries. To balance its fiery flavour, it is sometimes served with amasi (thick sour milk).
  6. Malva Pudding - Malva pudding is a sweet pudding of Cape Dutch origin. It contains apricot jam and has a spongy caramelized texture. A cream sauce is often poured over it while it is hot, and it is usually served hot with custard and/or ice-cream.
  7. Sparletta Crème Soda - A green-tinged carbonated soda beverage that instantly cures a hangover. Guaranteed. Also known as the Green Ambulance.
  8. Laaitie: A mischievous young boy.
  9. Tanning a tjoppie: Barbequing a chop.
  10. Klipdrift: A South African brandy
  11. Ubuntu: An African philosophy that can be summed up as ‘I am because we are’. 

The details for My Braai are as follows:

My Braai

WEBSITE: Mybraai.fr

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/MyFoodSudaf.

FOR ENQUIRIES ON HOW TO GET THE BOOK, SEND KOBUS AN E-MAIL: jcdbotha@gmail.com

Originally published 21 April 2016