Taking patrons on a flavourful journey for the taste buds at Marimba Restaurant
Food has always played a big role in Claudia van Eyk’s life, and it was of little surprise to her family when her career path led her into the kitchen.
“My family was always involved in catering, cooking or entertaining – if we were not hosting rugby club parties, it was catering for the church or the community or for guest house,” the new head chef at Sun International’s Meropa Casino in Limpopo said.
Van Eyk’s goal is to create a menu and ambience at Meropa’s newly branded Marima Restaurant which tempts its customers to make repeat visits. “We hope to take our patrons on a food journey,” she said. “I work with a great team, and we are creating dishes and flavours which put smiles on faces. I believe food and cooking has everything to do with emotions.”
Born in the Eastern Cape, she spent her formative years in a small town in Germany and after matriculating in South Africa, studied culinary arts and obtained her Grande Diploma in Cordon Bleu Qualification from Silwood Kitchen. In 2019, she achieved her national trade test qualification as an artisan chef.
“My first job opportunity was at a restaurant called Five Flies in Cape Town. I worked there with the most amazing team and learnt most of what I know in that kitchen.”
In her 23 years in the industry, the mother of three - Nicholas (17), Isabella (11) and Sebastian (9) – has earned her stripes in kitchens around the country, from the legendary Linger Longer in Johannesburg to fine dining, the Palace of the Lost City at Sun City and even lecturing at the Prue Leith Academy.
“I really enjoyed my time at Sun City, where I also spent five years as Executive Chef at Cabanas Hotel until our family relocated to Polokwane and I joined the Limpopo Chefs Academy as Centre Manager and head lecturer.” Ironically, Van Eyk is married to Riaan, the previous Executive Chef at Meropa.
The past 20 years have seen trends come and go from the early 2000’s when food was “over-complicated and fussy”. “These days everything is fresh, somewhat deconstructed, and simpler – more focused on the natural flavours of the few components that needs to do the talking on a plate.” Other noticeable trends include experiential dining, meal kits and cooking with sustainable ingredients which are low on salt and sugar.
Her signature dish is penne pasta tossed with smoked chicken, caramelised peanuts, crispy bacon bits, blue cheese and camembert cream reduction, “finished with avocado and rocket”.
In her spare time, Van Eyk enjoys reading and spending time with her family, but said cheffing was a career not a job. “It is a lifestyle. For the young chefs entering the industry, my advice is to work hard, learn everything possible, from any chef they are in contact with. You cannot think you know everything when you have completed your culinary studies. In this career you never stop learning. That’s what makes it such an exciting job – every day is different.”