Keanon Michaels is hip and happening. The Capetonian is a chef, surfer and an enthusiastic dancer. It was this active life – and the huge appetite it gave him – that lead him to develop his culinary talents.
Michaels grew up in Strandfontein, Western Cape with two sisters, Megan and Rhonwyn. He says as a young boy, he would get hungry all the time. Eventually, it resulted in Michaels having to cook his first dish.
“The constant need or want to eat led my mother to encourage me to cook with whatever was left in the fridge. As in many coloured homes rice is a staple, so egg fried rice was the first dish I ever cooked at 9,” says Michaels. Years later as an adult, he ate the very same dish again in Asia.
When he is not busy with food, his love for surfing takes over. Michaels was only 15 when he first stood up on a surfboard, gliding on the waves. He says it was an instant addiction and he still surfs today. “It’s the glue that keeps my life together a lot of the time”.
And if that is not enough you will find him popping a few moves on the dance floor. He says he’s been dancing from a young age.
“I’m a passionate dancer. I love to close my eyes and feel the sweat dripping down my back, while I feel every bassline. In that moment it’s just me and the music and I let the music dictate how my body moves.”
His greatest childhood memories include his family going to the beach and spending Christmas or family get togethers at his grandmother’s house in Bonteheuwel.
The 36-year-old also fondly remembers how he watched his father, Brian, play rugby on winter mornings in Crawford. This got him motivated to also get into sports.
In 2000, Michaels matriculated from Muizenberg High School. Afterwards he obtained a national diploma in catering and hospitality studies from Protea College, now known as Northlink College, in Bellville.
Since then he has worked in the kitchens of esteemed restaurants and hotels such as the Westin, Cape Royale, The Bombay Bicycle Club and Five Flies Restaurant & Bars.
“I’ve had the honour of working under some of the most gangster chefs out there, not forgetting my mom is the OG – original gangster in my family when it comes to cooking,” says Michaels.
He was also appointed as the inflight chef for Etihad Airways in 2011. During his time at the airline, Michaels highlights that he had the opportunity to cook for the singer Paul McCartney, the Fast and the Furious actress Michelle Rodriquez and the band Coldplay.
Michaels launched his business, Keanon’s Kitchen, in 2017 and says he doesn’t ever recall that kind of pressure in his 18-year culinary career. Luckily a lifelong friend and fellow chef, Wayne Harris, assured him that everything would be successful. The event was extra special for him, because he got to experience it with the people closest to him.
“I was first overcome with relief when the feedback poured in. I have been dreaming of this moment since I was 9, and it nearly brought me to tears.”
His future plans include setting up a kitchen on his property to empower and train young chefs from other neighbourhoods close to where he grew up.
“I would like to have two teams of highly skilled and extremely passionate chefs from my surrounding coloured communities. I want to train up chefs who want to learn and pursue their passion. I think it’s imperative that we invest into the next generation.”