What were you doing when you got word from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants?
PT: I was in Durban visiting my Mum and Dad. I got a call from reservations to say that there was an email from 50 Best and they had started to read it. Going from 92 into the top 50 is so incredible, we weren’t sure it was quite true. So, we had to read it and re-read it, sending it to each other to pick it apart and ensure they hadn’t made a mistake. We even compared the two emails (last year’s top 100 and this year’s top 50) to be sure we had placed in the top 50. At that point Jennifer got the shakes and I just started welling up. I remember working at Greenhouse years ago towards the same award and we never achieved it, so to have been able to accomplish it at FYN so quickly is a lifetime achievement.
How are you at keeping secrets?
PT: It was hard; it’s something you want to share with everybody, but we were sworn to silence. However, we don’t mind keeping secrets – especially one like this – so we just shut up.
What does receiving this accolade mean for you personally?
AM: It’s one of the only ways that a chef can get international recognition in South Africa without the likes of the Michelin guide, so it’s an incredible honour being recognised. It’s been the craziest thing… having people contact me who I’ve worked with from all over the world wanting to congratulate me. That alone has been an honour.
What are some of the attributes that you believe make FYN deserving of the top 50 in the world?
PT: It has everything an exciting restaurant needs: a great location set off the street, incredible style, innovative food, exceptional service and comfort. The food is honest and unpretentious. We try to take as many things off the plate as we can, while still aiming to create exciting food.
How does an accolade like this change things for FYN?
PT: Now the pressure is on. All the critics and foodies will turn up and want to see what all the fuss is about. They’ll come with their clipboards and will be making notes, dissecting us with their sharpened pencils like scalpels and if we don’t meet expectations. We just need to be aware of it and keep doing what we have been doing, keep innovating. That’s how we have gotten to where we are – we keep pushing the boundaries and try not to become too stagnant with dishes and concepts.
How does service play a part in the making of an award-winning restaurant?
JH: An award-winning restaurant is a place that should touch and enhance all the senses of every patron. The experience should be a story; it should be exciting and simple, but luxurious. It should create a memory that never fades. Service is a key element of this experience. Food, ambiance, wine – these can all be amazing but without knowledgeable, professional and personable service, these other elements are lost.
Is this an accolade you specifically strive for as a restaurant?
PT: Yes. It’s the holy grail of restaurant awards.
What makes FYN’s food worthy of a spot among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants?
AM: Our unique approach. We fuse South African ingredients with Japanese techniques, and this has given us an edge. We aren’t very formulaic, we like to let our dishes evolve organically. We pride ourselves on sourcing the very best local produce and applying the Japanese methods and ethos to this, keeping our dishes simple and constantly maintaining their evolution.
Since being placed among the top 100 restaurants in the world a year ago, what has FYN been up to?
PT: We’ve been continually pushing. Right now, we’re looking at how people used to cook in South Africa. The Strandlopers, for example, used to incorporate a lot of kelp into their diet. They’d take their fresh seafood, plug the hole with kelp and then braai it, so we are creating a dish based on that technique using kelp that we source weekly from Simonstown. We’ve also recently returned from Japan with a container full of interesting and exciting ingredients: a couple of tonnes of rice and flour and will be opening a little ramen restaurant on the ground floor of Speaker’s Corner in September.
How do you successfully merge Japan and South Africa on a plate?
PT: We’ve decided to take the Japanese techniques as the main focus (just like some would do French techniques), looking to their flavour profiles, but have used African ingredients, African stories and African culture. Some people say that FYN is a Japanese restaurant in Africa, but really it’s an African restaurant that borrows from Japan. It has been very exciting to use a strong African flavour profile and apply these Japanese techniques to it. Instead of using a smoked fish from Japan like katsuobushi, we’ve used smoked snoek and the flavour profiles are really interesting. That journey of discovery has been very exciting.
You’ve been open for just 4 years, half of which have been under the grip of the pandemic, how have you managed to garner success in spite of it all?
PT: It’s been 3 and a half to be exact, 4 in November. We’ve been reinventing ourselves while remaining consistent. We offered something unique from the norm both here in South Africa and in the rest of the world given the African influence. Offering a Japanese African spin on food is quite unusual because they exist at such opposite ends of the scale – refined and raw. It certainly piques the interest of diners. Our interior has been very well curated too, it’s unique looking and caters to everyone’s needs. We offer excellent service thanks to Jennifer Hugé and have an incredible chef in Ashley Moss…so the stars have aligned.
What advice would you give to other restaurants wanting to make the World’s Top 50?
PT: I’d tell them it’s very possible. Make sure that you get the right people around you. Follow your dreams. Don’t look at any ingredient and think it’s not possible – nothing is impossible. And, without sounding like a Vulcan from Star Trek, apply logic!
What happens now that you’ve made the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list?
JH: When a restaurant is included in the top 50, there is even more of a responsibility to offer a top shelf experience. We will continue to strive to give our guests more than what they expect in terms of food, service and atmosphere.
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+27 (0)21 286 2733