Young chef’s Mauritius work experience has made her a more well-rounded person

by Tia
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Klipspruit West resident Michaela van der Westhuizen graduates with her culinary degree this year but her chosen career has already seen her working outside of South Africa.

The 22-year-old completed her studies at the Rosebank campus of Capsicum Culinary Studio last year and was chosen to be one of 12 students to take part in a five month placement at a leading 5-star hotel in Mauritius as part of the school’s acclaimed Work Integrated Learning (WIL) programme.

Van der Westhuizen, who recently returned from working at Lux Belle Mare, formerly known as Beau Rivage, says the experience more than lived up to expectations

“It wasn’t only my food and culinary knowledge that benefited from the experience – I learnt about another culture and was blessed to meet the most friendly people. It has also made me more independent.”

Van der Westhuizen said her interest in food started around the age of six, helping her mother and aunt with their baking, something which is still her passion.

In five years’ time she would like to be a well-established cake decorator.

We asked her a few fun questions:

Name five things always in your fridge or pantry:

Soy sauce, rice vinegar, pasta/egg noodles, beef mince and curry paste.

What would be your last meal?

Ricotta ravioli served in a pink sauce.

What do you not eat?

Avocado

Favourite celebrity cook?

Alex Guarnaschelli

A Capsicum spokesperson reveals more about the school’s WIL programme and its benefits for Capsicum students: “The benefits are numerous. Firstly, it bridges the gap between theory and practice, allowing students to gain practical skills and knowledge that are highly valued by employers. It also helps students develop a professional network and industry contacts, enhancing their future career prospects, and it promotes personal and professional growth as students learn to adapt to actual challenges and get to work collaboratively with industry professionals.”

Michaela also shared her recipe for light and fluffy Japanese milk bread

 For the tangzhong or water roux

  • 2 tbsp bread flour (2tbsp is approx 20g)
  • 90 ml water

For rest of loaf

  • 300 g bread flour 
  • 7 g fast acting yeast 
  • 120 ml milk (lukewarm or room temp)
  • 28 g unsalted butter melted, again not hot
  • 5 ml salt
  • 42 g castersugar 
  • 1 egg

 To glaze

  • 1 beaten egg 

Instructions

 For the water roux (make ahead)

Put water and flour in a small pan. Mix until smooth and no lumps remain – do this before turning on the heat. Gently warm the flour paste gently over a medium-low heat until it thickens, stirring constantly. Put aside to cool.

To make bread

  • Measure out the remaining ingredients into a large bowl (flour, yeast, milk, melted butter, sugar, salt and egg). Add the cooled water roux and mix it well. Mix all the ingredients together then knead, either in mixer or by hand on a floured surface. Add a little more flour if needed.
  • Once the dough is no longer sticky, transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and leave to rise in a relatively warm place until doubled – around 1 hour.
  • Once it has risen, knock back the dough, divide into three pieces. Set the other pieces to one side and roll one piece into an oval.
  • Fold one side of dough over to halfway across the remaining dough then fold the other side on top so you have three layers. Gently roll slightly, if needed, then roll up the piece of dough as you would a Chelsea bun.
  • Repeat with the other pieces of dough then put all three rolls of dough in an oiled loaf pan – 22x12cm or slightly smaller.
  • Cover and leave to rise again until the loaf is just reaching the top of the pan. Preheat oven to 175C. Lightly beat the egg and brush the top of the loaf with egg wash.
  • Bake the loaf for approx 30 minutes until golden brown. If it browns too fast, tent with foil for the last part of cooking. Cool on a rack.

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