High temperatures, cold beer and good friends made for a flavourful afternoon as we sat down for pizza and some SATURDAY lagers with husband and wife culinary power-couple, Wes and Jules Randles.
Having met at Silwood Cookery school in 2007, the gourmand couple climbed the ranks of Cape Town’s top restaurants and went to work at some of Africa’s top kitchens honing their craft as they went. Wes and Jules’ story came full circle when the power duo opened street food ionsored late-night venue The Commissary in 2018.
Just weeks before the opening, Jules fell pregnant with their son Jack, which changed everything. Five restaurants, thirteen years and a global pandemic later, they realised they needed a different approach and threw themselves into two startups focusing on home deliveries.
While Wes gets his hands dirty mixing all kinds of bold and unapologetic flavours, Jules satisfies the sweet side of things with her imitable treats and makes sure every aspect of the business runs smoothly. Just like a hot slice out of the wooden-fired oven and an icy, freshly-poured AND UNION steiner, these two are the perfect pairing.
Read on as we discover everything from how to make a pizza dough using AND UNION’s THURSDAY dark lager, the future of the local restaurant industry, plans for new business ventures, to settling the pineapple on pizza debate once and for all…
- How have things changed since we spoke last year and what was the inspiration behind your new business venture?
We were originally put into a really hard position with COVID and we realised we had to improvise and find a way forward.
We built our kitchen, pizza oven and entire outside area in the midst of lockdown and loadshedding with the aim of being able to cook regardless of electricity. Once the oven was built, I incorporated a sort of training ground to continuously improve my skill sets. Learning how to perfect pizza in a wood-fire oven is a whole art in itself, so I started immersing myself in different doughs and flours and trying to figure out how to make the best possible product.
If there’s one thing Jules and I know how to do – it’s cook. So we’ve been able to thankfully find a positive light during these times.
- Why My Neighbour Marvin?
[laughs] Marvin is my dog, and we’re in the neighbourhood…
- What made you focus on home delivery as part of your new business model?
We took a risk and followed our intuition. If we didn’t, it would’ve been an entirely unexplored avenue – so we decided to slowly put little building blocks in place to get to where we are and where we want to be.
Selling food that we’re good at making became our foundation for supporting our family. The whole pizza concept was a cool way of selling something on the side, and figuring out how to experiment and further my knowledge at the same time. It could also lead to future opportunities for pizza and/or restauranter consulting which would be fantastic.
- A pizza consultant sounds like the dream job to us!
It definitely is [laughs]... As long as you have that larger spectrum. You can’t strictly have a fine-dining mindset of how to do things. There are many different styles that you need to be proficient in and pizza and bread-making is something entirely different.
- How do you see the industry operating and adapting post-Covid?
Support of small businesses has definitely risen and those just opening are definitely taking the leap. Continuous lockdowns have stunted everyone in trading and earning income as we normally would, so all of a sudden, we’re being pushed beyond our boundaries.
I think the future of the industry looks positive. I see there being a massive reset in Cape Town when it comes to food with younger generations slowly establishing themselves and having an opportunity to thrive.
- Current favourite tracks on your cooking playlist?
Still sticking old school – a lot of The Cure, The Smiths, Neil Young...
I’ll often throw on a Spotify playlist from The House of Machines because I know they’ll always serve up something good.
- What is your favourite pastime with food and family?
One of my favourite experiences of all time is when Jules and I were both working in Italy and took a train down to Rome for the night. We were walking in the city and stumbled upon a one-of-a-kind restaurant, Riciolli – a 150 year old deli which we didn’t realise was one of the most popular and beloved in Rome.
Once we tasted the food, we knew it was something pretty special. I still classify that as one of my favourite restaurants on the planet.
- The greatest piece of advice you’ve been given as a chef?
It wasn’t necessarily advice given, it was advice stated, which was to embrace change quickly and learn to adapt.
- Current AND UNION beer of choice?
Still all about the SATURDAY Lager!
- How would you infuse AND UNION beer into a pizza recipe?
I’d love to experiment with the THURSDAY Dark Lager Dough. Our pizzas are unleavened, which means we don’t use yeast, but instead, yeast in the air made up of natural bacteria. The more the air clings to the flour when mixed with liquid, and the more the bacteria is fed with flour, the stronger the natural flavour. If we took AND UNION beer to create the bread starter, then the final product would have these awesome, slightly sour yet subtle flavours in the background.That would be the best way to introduce beer and taste the true notes of the fermentation.
- Pineapple on pizza? Let’s settle the debate.
I would say – if you want to be a traditionalist, no, because pineapple is not a common or compatible flavour, so why would it ever be on a pizza? But if everyone just stuck to tradition we’d end up with nothing new, so why not?
I also think nowadays while you should always pay respect to where things come from, your goal should be to continuously push beyond the mark and make the best possible product. Don’t stick within the boundaries too much. Respect the tradition and then expand. You’ll never figure it out until you take the risk.
- Do you have current plans to open any further restaurants?
- What made you decide to make the move to St. Francis?
Lifestyle and a better upbringing for my son. Out here we are closer to nature and a better sense of community.
- Tell us about the vision behind the Character Hotel and Restaurant.
The Lighthouse is a landmark icon. When I was presented the opportunity to run the whole precinct with the vision of a boutique hotel and a restaurant. I had to jump at it. Once in a lifetime opportunity!.
- Last but not least, when can we expect to try it for ourselves?
[Editor's note: The dynamic duo have recently opened Nevermind, located at the Seal Point Lighthouse.
Nevermind, Seal Point Lighthouse, Cape St Francis, St Francis Bay, 6313.Hours: Monday Closed
CHEF RANDLES’ SUGGESTED PIZZA AND BEER PAIRINGS:
WEDNESDAY Weiss: Goes best with Dduja
SATURDAY Lager: Goes best with Olives & Anchovies
THURSDAY Dark lager: Goes best with Stracciatella
FRIDAY and SUNDAY Ale: Goes best with Spicy salami
Interviewed by Emma Hessen for AND UNION
Photos by Grant Payne