Chef Luke Dale Roberts

Chef Luke Dale Roberts: every restaurant, every service, and every plate of food, a masterpiece

Chef Luke Dale Roberts is so prodigiously decorated for his feats in gastronomy, he’d have to hire an airplane hangar to house all of his awards. A titan within South Africa’s culinary scene, his achievements on local turf have created seismic waves so far afield there is scarcely a top chef in the world who hasn’t encountered his name or that of his Cape Town-based restaurants: The Test Kitchen, The Potluck Club, The Shortmarket Club, and Salsify at the Roundhouse, which he opened in 2010, 2011, 2016, and 2018 respectively.

But now this chef, this demi-god, is making a move to Johannesburg with brand new iterations of The Test Kitchen and The Shortmarket Club: the start of a post-pandemic chapter that foodies are paying close attention to. And for good reason. Chef Luke has not only garnered relentless international acclaim for just about everything he’s touched but he’s also managed to put South Africa on the map as a fine dining destination. Here’s how it all happened.

My time in Europe taught me to cook; my time in Asia broadened my horizons.

Chef Luke Dale RobertsBritish-born Chef Luke Dale Roberts embarked upon his culinary training at the historic 5-star Baur Au Lac Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, whereafter he returned to London to work under the watchful tutelage of Chef Kevin Hopgood at Elena’s L’Etoile, a Parisian bistro-style restaurant in the West End. From here, he graduated to executive sous chef at Soho House Media Club, where he catered for the likes of Oasis, Kevin Spacey, and Madonna.

Then, in 2000, Chef Luke was offered executive chef position at the international Accor Hotel Group, which put him at the helms of hugely successful restaurants across Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and the Philippines. During this time, the limitations of his classic French training fell open with the influx of exotic ingredients, spices, cooking techniques, and food traditions. “My time in Europe taught me to cook; my time in Asia broadened my horizons,” he has said.

Awards enough to decorate a Christmas tree

Finally, in 2006, Chef Luke set down roots in his wife’s homeland, South Africa, becoming the executive chef at La Colombe in Constantia Uitsig. And thus began the stratospheric rise to success that most South African foodies are familiar with: La Colombe wins the Acqua Panna’ Best Restaurant in Africa and the Middle East’ award and 12th position in the 2010 San Pellegrino’ World’s 50 Best Restaurants’, the highest-ranking a local restaurant had ever received in the 19-year history of the awards.

In 2010, Chef Luke opened the bastion of gastronomy that was The Test Kitchen, which went on to smash a first-place victory at every annual Mercedes-Benz Eat Out Awards for six years, much to the chagrin of every other ‘top 20’ restaurant that fought knife-and-fork to dethrone it. This is just to mention a few accolades. There are many more, but I’m pretty sure that, by now, you get the picture.

Your food is a reflection of the life you’ve led.

There is something unbelievably special about Chef Luke Dale Roberts. He has a vision untethered to orthodoxy and convention; he vigorously throws himself into the unknown; he prioritizes creative freedom and experimentation; and pushes diners to the limits of their discomfort with the pay-off being multisensory enlightenment. It doesn’t matter how well something works either. He relentlessly challenges himself and his team to pursue new, fresh, and interesting flavour combinations, striking unforgettable chords on the nose and palate.

Perhaps it’s best summed up by his statement: “The most important thing is flavour, and layers of flavour”, and it shows in Chef Luke Dale Roberts’ approach to his art, of which every restaurant, every service, and every plate of food, is a masterpiece.