I am able to enjoy what I love every day.
With over 23 years of experience in the industry of hospitality, Stuart Cason, 39, the executive chef at Hilton Sandton, has an abundance of experience in the food and beverage industry. His birthplace was raised in Johannesburg.
Mr. Cason always had a dream of becoming a chef. He at 16 years old, he began his apprenticeship at Sandton Sun and Towers Intercontinental Hotel.
Stuart hasn’t looked back since. “I have the privilege of doing the things I love every day. It’s rare to hear that. I enjoy my job. It is a pleasure meeting the people I have the pleasure of meeting and developing lasting relationships with many of them.”
In 1999, he was awarded the bronze medal at the first Salon Culinary competition, and the following year, he was selected to take part as a participant in the Inter-Hotel Chefs Academy. This provided Stuart the chance to work for some of the top hotels in Johannesburg and to study at the International Hotel School. “This gave me the upper hand in my career, and I was extremely privileged to be able to participate in such a prestigious challenge at the start of my career,” Cason stated.
At the age of 21, he became the youngest chef to take home his first prize in the Unilever Chef of the Year contest.
“After having left the Sandton Sun, I spent several years in Kievits Kroon in Pretoria, the Saxon as sous chef, and the Castle Kyalami and the seven years working for the Radisson Hotel Group. In that time I’ve competed and won numerous competitions. I was the Unilever chef of the year award was won in 2003, 2004, and 2010 and I also represented SA during Dubai during the MLA black box finals in 2008. I was also awarded the”Chef of the Year” award for 2018 from Hilton Middle East and Africa.”
He said: “Before I joined Hilton Sandton, I worked at Radisson Hotel Group, which was based in Radisson Blu Gautrain. I worked as an Area head chef in Sub-Saharan Africa, looking after 18 properties. While working at Hilton Sandton, I was transferred from the city of Doha to Hilton Doha, Qatar, where I stayed for the entirety of 2019 before returning in December.
“Hilton has been a blessing for my growth and development. My five-year plan is to take an executive course through Hilton and my goal is to progress into a general manager position. My next goal is following the course becoming director of Operations for a short period before moving to a general management position,” Stuart said.
Regarding food trends, the spokesman declared: “One of the major trending areas in recent years is the entire plant-based diet. It’s fascinating to me. The public is becoming more aware of the things they put in our bodies.”
The globe has changed. “The Covid-19 pandemic has proved very destructive and has been a challenge to our industry. As a business, we must ensure that we are taking care of and safeguarding our customers, guests, and employees. Many clients want us to return to normal operation; others aren’t aware of the regulations and guidelines of the government that we have to follow, which can be a real challenge.
So, from a global trend viewpoint, he stated: “Covid-19 has opened up opportunities that a lot of people had not even thought of in the past. Many establishments are now making meals for their customers at home. Many excellent restaurants rely on it to pay for their bills. I think this trend may last and evolve into a different way of eating. Traditional grains are still in fashion and so are plant-based diets.”
The kitchen is a place that brings to mind many stories from behind the scenes. “I have a hilarious account that I continue to share with my chefs today. Make sure you double-check the quantities of food, and make sure you give an appropriate handover.
“While I worked as a new Chef working at Sandton Sun, I was working in the banqueting kitchen. The menu featured potatoes, and I was given the task of counting potatoes. Three potatoes on each plate. And 800 vessels – totalling 2400 potatoes. For each of the 50 potatoes, I placed one side. After that, I counted all the potatoes (which equals 50) and found 2500.
“I marinated them and then put them in the refrigerator. In the course of service, we had four stations that were plating. The potatoes were equally distributed across all four stations.
“The chefs at the top were equipped with radios and, half halfway through the meal, I saw the executive chef call to get more potatoes. The executive sous chef walked in, and we went through our hot box and were running out. I was thinking to myself, how could I have gotten these wrong?
“After a heating service, you are trying to find your favorite dish?
To be truthful, I don’t have an enticing signature dish. There are some recipes I can do very well.
For our banquet set menu, I’ve got an 18-hour sub vide lamb shoulder.
It’s delicious and popular. Suppose clients attend tastings of food and try it. That’s it, SOLD. To celebrate special events, I make smoked brisket with the rub of Biltong. I take it slow for approximately 18 hours. It is served with fresh ciabatta rolls. Divine.
What are the trends that are forming in the world of conferences regarding food?
I’ve had to adapt to the current pandemic. As I’m sure, there are many other chefs as well. There was a trend in bowl food.
What I’ve done is design a menu for a conference, based on the last dishes that were served when we entered the refrigerator and discovered that the staff chef at the canteen was able to move half the potatoes off the shelf. I placed the potatoes on to a different frame. The head chef didn’t look at them and didn’t cook them. It was not a fun night, but I do laugh when I recount the tale, and I recall the night.”
Stuart has been married for 18 years to Desire, and they’ve been together for over 18 years. They are currently in their 18th year and have been happily wed for a total of 12 years. “She is also working in the field and knows the working work hours and demands of the area. I am extremely blessed to have her around in my daily life. We have two sons: Jaydon, who is nine years old, and Ryan, age six.
For relaxation, he likes spending time with his family and friends at a braai. In summer, he loves having a relaxing day at the pool with his family.
“A couple of months ago, I took a trip for my first hunt experience. I hunt at least twice per year. It was extremely important for me to follow the entire process of hunting until the final product. As chefs, it’s easy to call and make an order for the amount of meat you’d like. However, if you experience the hunt I have learned to show more respect for the food that we consume. My brother-in-law and me have been building Everything completely from scratch currently, including cutting the carcass into pieces to deboning and making mince for the dry wors cutting, marinating, and drying the Biltong. It’s a wonderful adventure,” Stuart said.
In the end, he gave some tips for newcomers who want to make the transition into executive chef: “When you become an executive chef for an enterprise, you will quickly overlook cooking. Administration, people, and crisis management are part of your everyday routine. Find time to enter the kitchen to work with the chefs. Perform the difficult tasks demonstrate to them that you are able to perform what you would like them to accomplish. Your team will be more trusting and respect you more and you’ll be able to accomplish much more.”
What is your most loved food item?
I don’t own an enticing signature dish. There are a handful of words that I really enjoy.
On our menu for banquets, I’ve included an 18-hour undervide shoulder of lamb. It’s delicious and popular. Clients come to tastings of food and try it. That’s it, SOLD. On special occasions, I smoke brisket with the rub of Biltong. I take it slow for approximately 18 hours. It is served with fresh ciabatta rolls. Divine.
What are the trends that are forming within the industry with regard to food?
I’ve had to adjust to the pandemic happening at the moment. There are there are many other chefs as well. There was a fashion to serve bowls of food.
What I’ve done is design the menu for a conference, built around individual portions. It is possible to serve them in biodegradable dishes. It’s served buffet style and is all a grab-and-go type. We have received great feedback from the restaurant to date.
What is the one thing that has remained constant in this business?
The enthusiasm un, understanding, and commitment everybody has for Everything else is constantly evolving and changing. Everyone needs to evolve and adapt in line with the changing times.
What is your favorite beverage?
Everyone is familiar with me in the hotel. They always have Coke.
I am also interested in craft gins right now. I am testing different gins in the event that I am able to. I love the amber gins of other manufacturers.
What is your favorite food?
My favorite food would be the porcini and truffle risotto.
What’s your favorite thing about yourself?
The industry has remained steady. Their time is now to get things completed.
What is your greatest love?
It’s simple – it’s been my family!
Are you adventurous?
I would like to imagine myself as an adventurer; however, I am terrified of heights. However, I’ve been to interesting and beautiful locations. I packed Everything up and relocated to Doha with my family for an entire year.
Before we had children, we would take a trip on weekends and visit the Drakensberg and Hazyview regions. In addition, I always experiment with weird and delicious food items.