New chef creates vegan Christmas menu at Radisson Red

Chef Andre Hill prepares the all vegan Christmas meal.

The Radisson Red Hotel will host its all vegan ‘Yes Ve-Gan’ Christmas Day three-course meal again this year, under the guidance of new chef Andre Hill.

The menu, which comprises of pumpkin steaks, vegetables made in different ways, coconut and cauliflower curry, and apple crumble for dessert, was served to a handful of guests at the hotel.

Assistant chef Safwaan Baker from Harmony Village in Mitchell’s Plain helps plate the dishes.

The general manager at the Radisson Red, Leonie Andereya said while she was not vegan, she often eat vegan food and there were many occasions that she felt like there weren’t enough restaurants dedicated to just vegan food.

“This menu is for those who have to bring their own food to family meat braais or traditional roasts. We wanted to give vegans somewhere to go to have a traditional Christmas lunch.

Shinnai Visser from Muizenberg lent a hand with the toppings.

The menu was put together by Mr Hill, who says he has designed the menu with locally sourced ingredients.

Mr Hill, who is originally from Bo-Kaap but now lives in Brackenfell, has been cooking for about 20 years, and recently started his tenure at the Radisson Red Hotel after the restaurant he owned called Upper Bloem in Bo-Kaap closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said his mother was a good cook, so he spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her.

Asked about his style of cooking, Mr Hill said he loves celebrating local flavours in his food – the flavours he grew up with. “When I started cooking 20 years ago, cooking local wasn’t a thing – it was all about going overseas and cooking everything there, and importing.

“When I opened up my restaurant (Upper Bloem) about four years ago, my career came full circle and what I’m hoping to do is continue that here (at Radisson Red).”

He said while it is challenging to find flavours that work together without animal products, the experimenting makes it enjoyable. “I am familiar with vegan cooking because we always had it as an option at Upper Bloem.”

A vegan snack platter served by Mr Hill includes chickpea paaper, hummus and mushroom vetkoek.

Mr Hill said he tends to cook with vegetables rather than meat substitutions, as there is a wide variety of flavours to choose from. “For example, something salty, something sweet and having texture and acid, then having the flavours all work together.

“My thinking behind the new menu was to first find balance and make sure each ingredient was elevated and let each dish speak for themselves.”

Most importantly, looking at seasonality and making sure it tied into the Christmas look and feel.”

While Mr Hill is not vegan, he said there was a large vegan community in the city, however, it was nothing out of the ordinary as the Radisson Red caters to the preference.

“This is alternative and different – so we encourage people to give it a try. There is a large community of vegans out there and while most places do substitute, I think we are the only space that provides a full-on vegan Christmas lunch.”