From an early age, pastry chef Benja de Villiers’ happy place was in the kitchen – in front of the oven watching her creations transform into tasty desserts. After being inspired by both of her grandmothers who were fond of baking and creating recipes, the Melkbosstrand-born chef went on to complete her professional cookery and advanced pastry diplomas at the South African Chefs Academy and came out on top in both courses.
Benja started working at the Damhuis Restaurant in 2014 as a commis chef, but thanks to her passion, hard work and dedication, she quickly worked her way up to head pastry chef. And while she is open about the fact that “love, joy, and pride” are the three secret ingredients in all of her delicious creations, we wanted to get to know her a little better.
Getting to know Pastry Chef Benja de Villiers a little better…
1. When did you fall in love with the idea of creating pastries, desserts, baked goods, etc.?
I would say I first fell in love with baking desserts as a child, under the guidance from my grandmothers and family, but as time went on, that love and passion grew stronger. Today, I not only have a love for baking, I am blessed to do it every day at the Damhuis Restaurant.
2. What is your philosophy when it comes to baking?
“Never allow your passion to die, the rest will follow.”
3. If you could bake for anyone (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Honestly, my Dad. I would love to be able to bake something sweet for him once again. He used to love all my baked goods, especially the chocolate pudding that his mother used to make. Luckily, I inherited the recipe! For him, nothing was ever too sweet, and there was no greater joy than to see him enjoy it dearly.
4. Which celebrity would you like to challenge to a bake-off?
Australian chef Curtis Stone. He learned to cook as a child under the guidance of his grandmother as well. He is a brilliant chef with a love for pastry, and one can see how he enjoys his profession as a chef. To be in the same room with him, both baking for the love of it would truly be amazing!
5. What do you appreciate the most about the Damhuis Restaurant?
The fact that they appreciate me! We’re a family.
6. The one ingredient I cannot do without is…?
7. If you were asked to make a pastry inspired by Donald Trump, which ingredients would you use?
Now, this is interesting. I would say oranges, chilli and some of that dollar sign chocolate coins that take me back to my childhood. Maybe even some Mexican sweet spices for that extra flair.
8. Happiness is…
…loving what you do as a profession! (that’s what you spend most of your time doing after all).
Be sure to check out which tasty treats we served up on our dessert menu