Peter Francis, the 49-year-old executive chef at Johannesburg’s upmarket The Raj restaurant at Michelangelo Towers, has cooked for the president and a host of visiting dignitaries and diplomats from India as well. His specialties include dal makhni, lamb roganjosh and butter chicken.
Born in Calculatta, India, Francis went to Lucknow where he did his schooling to fifth grade. He then joined his father in the restaurant business in Lucknow. As tradition has it, Francis was trained by his father who was also taught by his father and his father before him. Francis proudly boasts that he is the eighth generation of his family to whom this talent has been passed on.
‘These skills,” he says, ‘are not learnt from text books but passed on from generation to generation.”
Before moving to South Africa in 1991, where he helped launch an authentic Indian restaurant, Francis worked as an executive chef in North Indian Moghlai cuisine at the five-star Clarks Hotel in India.
During his stint at the Good Food and Wine Show, Francis will be doing a hands-on workshop cooking class where he will prepare one of his specialties: chicken tikka masala (chicken pieces cooked in a tandoori oven, then simmered in a creamy tomato and onion gravy flavoured with fenugreek seeds and cardamom). He will also demonstrate the making of Punjabi samoosas — a North Indian specialty filled with peas and potatoes, onion pakora (sliced onion rings dipped in a spicy batter and deep fried) and tadka dal (yellow lentils tempered with garlic and cumin seeds).
In the Afrox Chefs Theatre, he will be demonstrating his cooking skills with delicious lamb roganjosh (tender pieces of lamb cooked in a brown onion paste with whole garam masala, chopped tomatoes and yoghurt, and garnished with fresh coriander) and chicken biryani (tender pieces of chicken cooked with fragrant basmati rice and drizzled with aromatic fresh herbs and oils).
Francis is one of the many chefs, including an overseas contingent, who will participate in one of the biggest food and wine events in South Africa.