Face to Face with Success

Meet Luke Dale-Roberts: Master of culinary invention

Luke Dale-Roberts is an icon of the South African food scene.

He is one of the country’s most celebrated chefs, and is famous for his innovative creations, fresh flavours and consistent pursuit of excellence – admitting to Charlotte Kilbane that his “work ethic is pretty extreme”.

He began his South African in journey in 2006, when he was appointed Executive Chef at La Colombe, determined to see the restaurant regain its place on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

It took him three years, but he finally managed.

I think ego, if it’s properly managed, drives you to success, but if its left to go out of control then it becomes all-consuming and it will destroy you.

Luke Dale-Roberts

Dale-Roberts then opened The Test Kitchen at Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill – a restaurant that, since 2012, has cracked the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list five times.

Not content with that, he opened three more highly acclaimed restaurants in quick succession – including X at the Saxon.

“By default, I will look for the next thing,” he said, adding, “That is very unhealthy, and I’ve realised that now.”

Dale-Roberts fell into the world of food by chance, initially planning to become an engineer – which he hated – before landing a job at a manor house, which required him to do all sorts of things – something that he fully appreciates as equipping him with the skills needed to successfully run a restaurant.

It’s a machine, and you need to be able to understand every component of that machine.

Luke Dale-Roberts

A broken leg, three months on crutches and a journey through Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, and the cooking bug bit. Hard.

I think that to be successful at anything you need to know the craft really deeply, you have to understand it.

Luke Dale-Roberts

Now, Dale-Roberts is bringing that craft to a new generation of chefs – raising staff members from the lowest ranks and investing in them and their training.

In this week’s episode of Face to Face With Success, Luke Dale-Roberts shares his passion for food, his definition of success, and what moment still gives him butterflies.

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