The young chef who’s all at sea and loving it!
Michael Behmer is seeing the world thanks to his decision to study at Capsicum Culinary Studio.
The tenacious 24-year old, who hails from Pretoria, is currently employed as a chef aboard the cruise liner Norwegian Gem, a multi-award-winning ship that sails to several destinations year-round.
Behmer studied part-time for the Capsicum Professional Chef Programme while working as a salesman and graduated from the school’s Pretoria campus earlier this year.
Behmer says he cannot believe how his life has been transformed in less than 12 months. “Not only am I gaining invaluable work experience, but I am also getting to travel around Europe and seeing some amazing places in Greece, Italy and other Mediterranean countries. I am so pleased to have been given this opportunity and I hope the knowledge and skills I gain will benefit me in my career as a chef.”
We spoke to him while he was at sea and got him to share a recipe that he was due to prepare that evening for the ship’s passengers.
When and how did your interest in food and cooking start?
I know this sounds clichéd but ever since I can remember I have loved cooking, not only for myself but for others. It truly is a passion and I cannot see myself doing anything else with my life. I have always had a dream of owning my own restaurant and I am now closer to making that dream a reality.
Who were/are your food idols or mentors?
My mother, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay
What made you choose to study at Capsicum and what was it like?
I was not about to settle for less than the best when I started applying to culinary schools. Even though I only completed the Professional Chef diploma, I enjoyed every class and every practical and as I completed the course part-time, it meant that the classes and practical sessions ended late at night, even after a long day at my regular job.
How did Capsicum prepare you for the industry?
It has equipped me with almost all of the culinary skills that I need to be able to succeed as a chef. It taught me how to work under pressure, the inner workings of the kitchen, the responsibilities of a chef and the basic practical skills I need to be a chef. I can only improve my skill set from here and I hope to one day be able to return to Capsicum and complete more courses.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in this industry?
The working hours are very long and the pressure is very real but it is so worth it. If cooking is truly your passion then all of these things will come easy. Work hard and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even though the chefs are strict and might seem a bit scary, they are always willing to help if they see you putting in the effort.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would not have been able to complete the course or be able to now work abroad if it were not for the amazing people who supported me along the way. I am forever grateful for their encouragement, motivation and financial support and for being my test subjects whenever I was trying out a new recipe!
And a few fun questions:
Name 5 things always in your fridge or pantry
Garlic – no meal is complete without it! Then milk, butter and flour because a chef always has to be prepared to make the perfect béchamel sauce. Lastly, chocolate ice cream for those late-night snacks!
What would be your last meal?
The juiciest, most tender, medium-rare fillet with a creamy black pepper and mushroom sauce.
Is there anything you do not eat?
I’m not the biggest fan of olives.
If you had to cook dinner for five famous people, who would they be and what would you make them?
Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Chris Pratt and Chris Evans. This stems from my love of action and Marvel films! And obviously Gordon Ramsay – I think any chef would be honoured to cook for him and to have him like their food! I would cook that perfect medium rare fillet with their choice of sauce.
Who is your favourite celebrity cook?
Reynold Poernomo from MasterChef Australia. I am fascinated by his pastry and dessert creations.
What are the three latest food trends?
Firstly, zero-waste cuisine. I wholeheartedly support this ‘trend’ as we move toward more sustainable living. Secondly, plant-based foods, which is also a positive shift toward more sustainable and healthier living. Rather than going fully vegan or vegetarian, this food trend embraces thoughtful moderation. It’s a great transition toward a more environmentally conscious way of eating. Finally, food fusion, which is where you is incorporate more than one type of cuisine into a dish. This will yield more creative menus and new flavour combinations.
What chef do you admire most and why?
Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen. As a fellow South African, he has worked hard to establish himself in the culinary industry and despite challenges, he has had a successful culinary journey. He inspires me and makes me more hopeful that I will achieve my culinary dreams.
How do you rate South African cuisine?
On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate it as an 11. Having experienced a variety of different food from other cultures and countries, I can confidently say that South-African cuisine easily stands out in flavour and diversity.
Social media handles:
- Instagram: chef_Michael98
- Facebook: Michael Behmer
Michael Behmer’s Sole Grenobloise
1 Dover sole
Salt and pepper
Base sauce (recipe below)
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp chopped parsley
A handful of baby potatoes
Pat the Dover sole dry with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper then dust with flour on both sides. Warm up a non-stick pan with little olive oil and sauté the sole on both sides until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. For the sauce, add some butter to the same pan and when it begins to brown, deglaze with a tablespoon of fresh lemon and some of the base sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of capers and one tablespoon of chopped parsley. Add a little water to humidify the sauce and add seasoning as needed. Place the sole on a fish plate and pour over the Grenobloise sauce. Finish off by garnishing with parsley and capers and serve with lemon and chive potatoes (recipe below)
10ml white wine
20ml fish stock
10ml lemon juice
Salt and pepper
In a saucepan sweat the shallots (do not colour) until soft. Add the white wine and reduce until almost evaporated. Add the fish stock and lemon juice and reduce by half. Season with salt and pepper and add to the sauce for the sole.
A handful of baby potatoes
3g of chives
Cut and peel the potatoes, place them in a medium pot, cover with cold water and add salt. Bring the water to a boil and cook until the potatoes are ¾ cooked through. Remove and set aside. Before serving sauté the potatoes in a pan with olive oil and butter, making sure they are warmed through. Garnish with chopped chives and serve with the sole.