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From waiter to celebrity chef

From humble beginnings, Pete Goffe-Wood became a huge figure in the South African food industry.

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Pete Goffe-Wood, widely known as Mzansi’s Kitchen Cowboy, started his brilliantly crafted career as a waiter 33 years ago and never looked back.

Today the 54-year-old celebrity chef owns two restaurants and he’s published three cookbooks while he runs a number of market stalls and a food truck business under the name Kitchen Cowboys.

Born in London, England, Goffe-Wood and his family immigrated to South Africa when he was four. He grew up and completed his schooling in Johannesburg.

His food trek started when he moved to the Mother City in 1986. While studying business science at the University of Cape Town (UCT) he picked up a holiday job, waiting tables.

“I figured if I was able to work at restaurants, I would basically spend some time in the kitchen. I took the opportunity over the December holidays to work in the kitchen and I absolutely loved it,” says Goffe-Wood.

Goffe-Wood worked as the food editor for GQ magazine for 8 years.

Needless to say, the culinary world stole his heart and Goffe-Wood dropped his UCT course to join a three-year apprenticeship at Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal to become a chef.

Goffe-Wood slowly started building his career as a chef. He worked at Chapters restaurant in Johannesburg for a year before moving to London where he worked as a chef for nine years. “I worked in a number of restaurants in London, including 192 Kensington Park Road, The Groucho Club, Alistair Little’s, The Brackenbury, The Phoenix Bar & Grill and Sonny’s.”

In 1999, Goffe-Wood returned to Mzansi and the following year he was appointed as GQ Magazine’s food editor where he worked for eight years. As a hospitality consultant he then worked with more than 50 restaurants, while also writing for magazines such as Food & Home on a part-time basis.

As a chef, Goffe-Wood has travelled to a number of countries, from South East Asia and Europe to North Africa and Australia. “I think it is important for chefs to travel the world and see what other people are doing with food. This will help them to learn more. You have to continue to educate yourself all the time, otherwise you stagnate as a chef,” he says.

His career highlights include being featured on the television programmes the Ultimate Braai Master and Master Chef, cooking all over the world and seeing his first cookbook in print.

“I published three cookbooks. First off is the book Blues Restaurant – The essence of Cape Town. I was consulting for them and it’s just pretty much the history of the restaurant.”

Goffe-Wood used to run cooking classes for men called Kitchen Cowboys and this gave birth to his second cookbook with the same title. His third book, titled A Life Digested, is a semi-autobiographical work about his journey in the kitchen and his relationship with food.

“I think it is important for chefs to travel the world and see what other people are doing with food.” – Pete Goffe-Wood

In 2015 Goffe-Wood teamed up with comedian Chris Forrest. They created a theatrical piece called Don’t burn your sausage. According to the duo there are three types of people who liked the show – those who like food, comedy and sex. “People loved the show and it was all sold out in Grahamstown, Cape Town and Windhoek, Namibia,” he says.

Together with food writer and TV presenter Justin Bonello, Goffe-Wood is the co-judge on the South African television show The Ultimate Braai Master. He also judged the South African culinary spin-off show Master Chef for four seasons.

Last year he started distributing his own barbeque sauce under his brand name Chef Pete’s.

His new restaurant called Viande (meaning “meat” in French) opened in July this year. “I have a restaurant in Paarl at the Grande Roche Hotel. I also have a number of market stalls and a food truck under the name Kitchen Cowboys. We serve burgers, steak sandwiches, pork belly rolls, that kind of things,” Goffe-Wood says.

Goffe-Wood and Chris Forrest has a show together called ‘Don’t burn your sausage’.

As a braai master himself, Goffe-Wood will be judging the build-a-burger and braaibroodjie competitions at the annual Groot Plaasproe. The event offers a fun farming experience for the entire family and takes place from 12 to 13 October on Sandringham farm in Stellenbosch.

Goffe-Wood says that he is certainly looking forward to publishing another cookbook. He and Forrest are also working on a couple of television programme ideas, and he will start shooting the 7th season of the Ultimate Braai Master in the new year.


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Chantélle Hartebeest
Chantélle Hartebeest
CHANTÉLLE HARTEBEEST is a young journalist who has a fiery passion for storytelling. She is eager to be the voice of the voiceless and has worked in both radio and print media before joining Food For Mzansi.
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