Pressure from customers and friends convinced me that my story was worth sharing, not only with the culinary community at large, but with all interested parties. Whether a hobby cook or fellow professional, I believe you will find my life journey and recipes entertaining, liberating, educational and inspirational – just as life is today in South Africa.
In this book he shares many recipes for people of varying skills in the kitchen.
Owner of La Pentola (The Saucepan) and author of “The edge of Fusion”.
Foreword by Victor Strugo (food writer for The Star)
I’m lucky I know talented people. Thanks to them, I get to appear in books by writing only a couple of pages while they do all the real work.
Although many South African chefs have written recipe books, I’m always excited when a real innovator like Shane Sauvage records his work for posterity. Through other caring hands, his creations can multiply the pleasure, surprise and overall satisfaction that thousands of diners have enjoyed in Pretoria’s Riviera suburb over the last twelve years.
Shane always knew he wanted to cook. From a very young age, he understood that a family kitchen is a factory that manufactures happiness. I knew the same in my mother’s kitchen, but I was self-indulgently content to receive it, through mouth and heart. The young Shane must have possessed a more generous soul that also wanted to give happiness.
He kept on practising and learning, both at home and later in his Aunt’s restaurant kitchen when his family moved to the coast. Returning to Pretoria to complete his conventional education, he took on a variety of café and restaurant jobs. He honed his kitchen discipline during military service in the Army’s School of Catering. At notable eateries like Rugantini and Giovanni’s, he discovered an attraction to the edible and feminine joys of Italy – whereupon he acquired his ‘one hundred percent Italian, but locally assembled’ wife, Janet.
When the strategically situated fine-dining establishment Chez Patrice came up for sale in 1995, Shane realised a personal dream with the launch of La Pentola. Exactly translated, this is the Italian name for a straight-sided stockpot with an inner colander used for cooking pasta. With a dash of poetic licence (surely justified by pasta’s global appeal), Shane dubbed his Pentola The International Saucepan – a shrewd springboard at a time when the fusion food movement was in its ascendancy.
In Shane’s hands, fusion was the natural way to embrace both emerging South African identity and universal curiosity. In deference to his legendary predecessor, Shane initiated his own exploration of ‘Afro-Parisian fusion’. The French connection became a conscious commitment to respect classical cooking methods.
This value of tradition sets Shane apart from hordes of cooks who think of fusion as a short-cut to culinary fame. That’s why the title of this book is so apt. Shane’s food is, indeed, at The Edge of fusion. It explores and mixes, but never loses its sound foundations.
Or as a nimble wordsmith once remarked, “Shane’s deft touch, intuition and sensitivity make his fusion not a confusion but more of an effusion of enthusiasm.
”Whereas ancient alchemy was based on four elements, modern alchemist Shane bases his Food Philosophy on five. The acronym FRESH (Fruit-Real-Emotions-Seasons-Herbs) is appealingly simple. Observing that “fruit is already perfect” is sheer poetry. And his belief that cooking reaches a level of art only if it engages the soul along with the senses, is absolutely right.
The FRESH credo tells the truth, but not the whole truth. As you will discover in almost every recipe, Shane has a significant sixth element: booze! Cooking with wine and spirits is nothing new, but when Shane pops a cork, he adds a flaming new sense to the culinary arts. He really understands liquor’s versatility as an ingredient.
For Shane, alcohol (both shaken and stirred) is a Licence to Thrill. Teetotal dishes are rare at La Pentola. I’ve been astonished by a maraschino-sauced calamari steak and quacked up by the heady Cognac aroma of a succulent duck confit. I’ve appreciated the original use of honey liqueur to add sweetness to a game dish, and got tipsy from the fumes of Stroh rum burning for five full minutes beneath a sizzling ostrich chorizo.
As the flambé trolley approaches a table, Shane intuitively tailors his pyrotechnics to how keenly a suitor wants to impress his date; or how much eau-de-vie Dr Shane prescribes to revive a melancholic diner. Even the colour of the flames (brandy burns red, Calvados blue) may be spontaneously varied to match the mood.
Of this book’s many original dishes, the most celebrated dish is surely the remarkable concoction of cinnamon-scented, chilli-sparked, chocolate-sauced, tequila-spiked Aztec Mushrooms. Though a prize-winner in its earliest form, it has continued to evolve. Why? Because Shane Sauvage is not one to rest on his laurels: he is much more likely to cook them.
The Edge of Fusion is a launching pad for exciting culinary journeys, a palate revolution with a hearth full of soul. The intense flavours and creative exuberance contained in these pages cannot fail to seduce any person with a detectable pulse.