Pete Goffe-Wood is as straight up as they come. A level-headed man that knows how to have a good time, knows when it’s time to get serious, and is never afraid to speak his mind, even if he knows he will get flack for it.
I met Pete a few years ago at one of La Mouette‘s fabulous “Twitterati Parties”. We enjoyed a couple of glasses of great wine together and talked primarily about food and woman (as one does). I was drawn to his “No BS” attitude, because I have much the same outlook on life. It is simply is too short to waste our time time on pretentiousness and BS.
Pete’s latest claim to fame is of course being one of three judges of Masterchef South Africa, the second season of which has recently come to a close. Pete was definitely well known and respected in the food industry before Masterchef came to town, but I think the majority of South African’s may know very little about the history of the man.
I caught up with him at his Kitchen Cowboys food studio in Woodstock, Cape Town, to get the juicy details.
Pete was born in London, but has been living in South Africa since the age of 5. He frequently ate at restaurants with his dad as a youngster, and knew from an early age that he enjoyed restaurants. He could see himself owning or running a restaurant some day, but it never occurred to him that he’d be the one doing the actual cooking.
After a few “wasted” (pun intended) years at university, and a number of dodgy jobs, he enrolled in a course called Food Services Management at Cape Tech. At the end of their first year, Cape Tech arranged holiday jobs for the students, where they could choose between working in the kitchen or front of house.
Still under the impression that he was only there to learn about running and managing restaurants, Pete thought that if he wanted to do a proper job of being a manager one day, he at least needed a basic understanding of the inner workings of the kitchen. With that in mind he chose to go work in the kitchen for a couple of weeks, and still haven’t quite managed to leave it 28 years later.
Literally from day one he was smitten. Assigned to the Woodstock Holiday Inn over Christmas holiday, there were all manner of banquets and parties going on.
He walked into the kitchen and found what he describes as “orchestrated chaos, like an anthill ballet.” On the surface it looked like complete and utter madness, people shooting past each other in various directions, but when he really looked at it in more detail, he found that everyone knew exactly what they were doing and were knocking out amazing food left right and center.
He was amazed to find how ordered and structured things actually were, as opposed to feeling of total chaos that he got at first glance. That was that for him, the man had found his home.
Pete completed his classical training at the Beverley Hills Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks, after which he returned to London for 9 years, working under top chefs in some of the West End’s most prestigious restaurants.
On return to South Africa he helped open La Couronne Hotel & Winery (now Month Rochelle) in Franschoek, which was named one of the fifty most exciting restaurants in the world by Conde Nast Traveller in 2000.
In 2001 he started his consultancy business, PGW Eat. His work as self proclaimed “food alchemist”, consultant and events coordinator has taken him all over the world. He has cooked for South Africa embassies and other clients in Paris, Budapest, Stuttgart, Istanbul, Zagreb, Moscow and of course London.
Locally, he has had a hand in the development of some of Cape Town’s busiest restaurants, like Blues, 95 Keerom Str, Balducci’s and Salt.
Pete was food editor for GQ magazine for eight years and has made freelance contributions to numerous other publications.
In 2011 he won the South African leg of the Global Pizza Challenge, and won a 1st place in the Dessert Pizza Category when he represented SA at the International Finals in Sydney in 2012.
Pete has also featured in a number of local and international television programs, including Master Chef most recently of course.
As you can see the man has had a long and illustrious career, yet I can assure you he remains humble with his feet firmly on the ground.
When I originally asked him if he’d be willing to do this feature with me I was rather nervous to be honest, but he put me at ease and made me feel right at home while showing me the ins and outs of working with fish.
He is a man that has earned his living for the better part of his life doing something that he absolutely adores, and it shows in his friendly, humorous demeanor. Pete Goffe-Wood, I salute you sir!