Every day I get to do the things I love

Stuart Cason is a 39-year-old executive chef at Hilton Sandton with more than 23 years of experience in hospitality. He has an extensive knowledge of culinary arts. He was born in Johannesburg.

Mr Cason dreamed of becoming a chef and began his apprenticeship at Sandton Sun and Towers Intercontinental Hotel at 16 years old.

Stuart hasn’t looked back. “I am able to do what I enjoy every day. This is something that not many people can claim. I enjoy what I do. “I love meeting people and building relationships with them.

He won a bronze in 1999 at his first Salon Culinary Competition. The same year, he was selected to attend the Inter Hotel Chefs Academy. Stuart was able to train at the International Hotel School and work in prestigious properties in Johannesburg. Cason stated that this gave him the edge in his career, and he was privileged to have the opportunity to take part in a challenge of such prestige at the beginning of his career.

He was the youngest chef to ever win Unilever’s Chef of the Year competition at 21.

After leaving the Sandton Sun, I worked for a few months at Kievits Kroon in Pretoria. Then, as a sous-chef, I moved to the Castle Kyalami and spent seven years working with the Radisson Hotel Group. During this period, I won many competitions. Unilever Chef of the Year 2002, 2004, and 2010. I also represented SA at the MLA Black Box Finals in Dubai in 2008. “I also received the Hilton Middle East Africa Chef of the Year Award 2018.”

He continued: “Before joining Hilton Sandton, I was working for Radisson Hotel Group at Radisson Blu, Gautrain, as a chef de zone for Sub-Saharan Africa. I looked after 18 properties. After Hilton Sandton, I moved to Hilton Doha in Qatar, where I spent all of 2019 before returning home in December.

“Hilton was great for my career development. In five years, I plan to take a Hilton management course and then move into a role as a general manger. After the program, I would like to become a director for a little while and then transition into a role as general manager,” Stuart said.

He said that in terms of current food trends: “One major trend is the plant-based diet. It’s fascinating. “People are becoming more conscious of what they put in their bodies.”

The world has changed. The Covid-19 pandemic is a major challenge for our industry. We as an industry need to ensure that we protect our clients, guests and employees. Some clients want to return to normal operations but don’t understand the government guidelines or procedures. This is a real challenge.

He said that from the perspective of global trends, “Covid-19 opened up new opportunities for many people who had not thought about them before.” Many establishments now prepare meals for the home. Many of the best restaurants rely on this to pay their bills. I believe that this trend may stay and evolve into a different way to eat. “Ancient grains are still popular as well as diets based on plants.”

Many stories are told behind the scenes when working in a restaurant. “I still tell my chefs a funny story. Double-check the quantities and communicate clearly.

“When I was a chef in Sandton Sun’s banqueting kitchen, I was a very young chef. I was given the task of counting potatoes. There were 800 plates, with three potatoes each, for a total of 2400 potatoes. I placed 1 potato on the side for every 50 potatoes. After counting all the potatoes, which equaled 50, I had 2500.

“I marinated them and placed them in the refrigerator. We had four plating stations during service. The potatoes were evenly distributed between the four plating stations.

I could hear the executive chef asking for more potatoes half-way through service. We were running out of potatoes when the executive sous chef came over. How could I have gotten this wrong?

“After a heating system, what is your signature dish?”

Sincerity be told, I do not have a signature recipe. There are some dishes that I can do well.

The 18-hour sous vide lamb is on our banqueting menu.

It is delicious and a favorite. It’s delicious and a favorite. That’s it, SOLD. I make a smoked beef brisket with a biltong spice rub for special occasions. I slowly smoke the brisket for 18 hours total. Serve with fresh ciabatta roll. Divine.

What are the trends in conference food?

In the current Covidpandemic, I’ve had to adapt. Many other chefs, I am sure, are also affected. Bowl food was popular.

The senior chef didn’t see the potatoes, and they weren’t cooked. It was not fun, but it makes me laugh every time I recall that night.

Stuart and Desire have been married for 12 happy years. They’ve been together for 18 years. She is also in the entertainment industry and knows the pressures and hours of the business. I’m very fortunate to have her as a friend. We have two sons, Jaydon, nine, and Ryan, six.

He enjoys entertaining family and friends with a braai. In the summer, he loves to spend days relaxing by the pool with his family.

“A few decades ago, I had my first experience of hunting. I try to hunt at least twice a month. I wanted to experience the whole process, from the hunt to the final product. It’s easy for Chefs to order meat in any quantity. After going through the process of hunting, I learned to respect our products more. We have now started doing everything ourselves, including skinning the meat, breaking it down, deboning the carcass, making mince to make dry wors and cutting, marinating, and drying the Biltong. Stuart said, “It’s a wonderful experience.”

He concluded by offering some advice to those who want to be an executive chef. “When you are an executive chef in a large operation, you can easily forget cooking. The daily routine includes administration, crisis management and people management. You should find the time to work in the kitchen with the chefs. Show them that you are capable of doing the work you expect from them. You will gain more respect and trust from your team, and therefore achieve more.”

What is your signature meal?

Sincerity be told, I do not have a signature recipe. There are some dishes that I can do well.

Our banqueting set includes a 18-hour sous vide lamb shank. It is delicious and my favorite. It’s delicious and a favorite. That’s it, SOLD. For special occasions, I make a smoked beef brisket with biltong. I slowly smoke the brisket for 18 hours. Serve with fresh ciabatta roll. Divine.

What are the trends in conference food?

I’ve had to adapt my cooking to the Covid pandemic. Many other chefs are probably doing the same. Bowl food was popular.

Now, I’ve created a menu for conferences, which is based on individual portions and, when possible, in biodegradable containers. The food is all served in a buffet style, but it’s also grab-and-go. It has been a great success so far.

What is the one constant in this industry today?

Every day, the passion, understanding, and commitment of everyone in Everything else changes and evolves. We all have to evolve and change with the times.

What is your favorite beverage?

Everybody knows me in the hotel. The staff will always bring me Coke.

Craft gins are also a big interest of mine at the moment. I try to sample as many as I can. I like amber gins made by various manufacturers.

What is your favorite food?

Porcini and truffle-infused risotto would be my favorite meal.

What is your biggest pet hate?

The industry has been constant. It’s time to do something.

What is your greatest love?

It’s my family, of course!

Are you adventurous?

I consider myself adventurous, but I have a fear of heights. But I’ve been to some strange and wonderful places. I moved with my family to Doha for a whole year.

We would go to the Hazyview and Drakensberg area on weekends before we had children. I also like to try new and strange foods.

     

 

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