Meet Irene Country Lodge Executive Chef
Food presentation is as important as the taste according to Ryan Houston, the recently appointed Executive Chef at African Pride Irene Country Lodge. “Food communicates. Your guests should feast with their eyes and through the aroma of the food want to eat and complete this wonderful sensory journey.”
His first assignment has been to review the entire food offering at the five-star lodge. Apart from revamping the menus, Chef Ryan has set about ensuring that every dish coming out of the kitchen tastes and smells as good as it looks. This award-winning chef hopes guests will appreciate the culinary art addition to the buffets and a la carte menus. Experimental with his cooking, he describes his food as a fusion of Asian and French cuisine but with an African twist.
“I have been privileged to work with some of the best chefs in the industry who have helped me mold and hone my skills for using all senses in food preparation,” says Chef Ryan.
Growing up in Magaliesburg, Ryan’s father loved cooking and there was sown the seed and interest in food. However it was not until he broke his leg playing rugby that he became involved directly with the industry. In 1998 his father bought a Mexican restaurant franchise where the young food connoisseur worked for the next four years learning the ropes of the business.
By this time the food bug had firmly bitten and he got an opportunity in his neighbourhood in Magaliesburg at Mount Grace Country House & Spa to work as a junior chef. Around the same time he got a scholarship from the South African Chefs Association to study for an international diploma from the City & Guilds Hospitality Training and Associates which allowed him to work at the same time. He completed his in-house training at Mount Grace and was promoted to Junior Sous Chef.
In 2006 he moved to Valley Lodge as senior sous chef and a year later moved in the same capacity to Legacy Hotels Bakubung Lodge. Another opening came up at Mount Grace in 2009 as Executive Sous Chef which he took up for a year and a half before moving to Avianto as Executive Chef.
“I believe that learning is a lifelong journey and in this industry you learn new things everyday. I am glad I got to work my way up from the bottom as the lessons learnt along the way are invaluable.
“My greatest desire is to perfect my art of cooking and leave a mark in this industry and also ensure that Irene Country Lodge is a renowned food destination,” says a contented Chef Ryan, a family man who loves entertaining especially since he recently became a father.