Chef Kenneth Ngubane’s ‘larney’ fries at Crowne Plaza
McCain Food Service South Africa met up with award-winning Chef Kenneth Ngubane at Tsogo Sun’s Crowne Plaza Johannesburg – The Rosebank, which he joined in March 2018 as the hotel’s new Executive Chef.
McCain: Congratulations on your new position! What are the food and beverage areas in this hotel that you are responsible for?
KN: Thank you – it has been an exciting transition from Montecasino for me. The hotel has Fresh restaurant, which serves both buffet and à la carte menus, the Circle Bar where we have a separate bar menu which offers tapas-style tasters as well as lighter meals, room service for 311 rooms, and banqueting, which can accommodate up to 250 guests, and which is our main source of revenue.
McCain: What are your signature dishes?
KN: In the past I was always a seafood person, but lately I have fallen in love with lamb. We have beautiful lamb in South Africa, but there tends to be limited dishes on menus. I have been experimenting with noisette of lamb, using the leg and loin and braising them, stuffing them with pine nuts, rosemary, thyme and butter, and covering with bread crumbs.
McCain: Which McCain chip products do you use?
KN: We use two – the McCain Signature Rustic Cut Chips and the McCain Classics Shoestring Fries.
McCain: What made you choose those products?
KN: When I arrived here, the kitchen was using the McCain Straight Cut Chip. I have had such a good experience with the rustic cut chips at Montecasino that I decided to change. The Rustic Cut chips look like homemade chips and when they are deep fried, they blow me away – they are crisp on the outside with a soft texture inside. We added the Shoestring Fries to try something different and they are quite popular. They’re great if they are eaten immediately.
McCain: How do you manage producing multiple fries in the kitchen?
KN: We have systems in place to ensure easy access from the freezer to the fryer and exact measuring of portions to reduce wastage, eliminate the chance of refrying, and streamlining the process. In fact we had help from a McCain representative (name of rep) who did a two-hour training session with our brigade here and showed us how to improve our processes and efficiency when it comes to the fries.
McCain: What profits are you making on your fries?
KN: We have very happy with the profit we’re making, which we’ve managed to increase to a profit of 150% on fries with a dip to 150%.
McCain: What chip options do you offer on your menus?
KN: In the restaurant we offer either fries or mashed potato with many of our menu items. In the bar we offer fries with a Tabasco mayonnaise or a barbecue sauce, or what we call ‘larney’ fries, with truffle salt and parmesan shavings. More often than not, our guests opt for salt and vinegar with their chips, either with their meals or on their own. We don’t serve fries at our buffet, because of the hold time, but we’ve heard rumours about a new chip that McCain is launching that will retain the heat and has a vastly improved hold time, in which case we’ll be able to offer chips for our banqueting purposes.
McCain: Who are your typical customers?
KN: We have mostly corporate customers in our restaurant, although we do have some leisure guests too. The corporate customers are particular about what they want; they want classy meals, but they are also aware of price, so we plan our menus accordingly. Being in Rosebank, we also have ‘old money’ guests who know what they want.
McCain: How do you get new ideas for your menus?
KN: For new ideas, you need to go out to see what other restaurants are serving and what the newest food trends are, and then assess what your customers will want. We have customers who will make suggestions, and we take those comments very seriously and try to ensure that the next time they come, the meal is according to their preference.
McCain: What inspires you as a chef?
KN: Great feedback from customers is a real inspiration for me. Gone are the days when chefs didn’t interact with customers. Now we need to be out there, chatting and hearing from them. It means we are constantly adding a new touch or twist to a classic dish – and enjoying the compliments.
McCain: How important are your fries to you?
KN: When customers have an excellent meal, they remember every detail. If they come back for it again, it must be the same as it was before. To achieve this, we need consistently great quality products – and that’s what McCain does.