Multi award-winning Mzansi chef David Higgs says his recipe for success is working diligently and consistently. Higgs launched his own cooking school and catering company almost 20 years ago and today he’s known as one of South Africa’s most sought-after chefs.
The 49-year-old, who’s starred as a judge on the SA version of the culinary television show My Kitchen Rules also initiated the Food Cycle project in 2014, to promote the benefits of eating healthy and encourage cycling in poverty-stricken communities.
Higgs was born in Cape Town, but his story starts on the West Coast of Namibia, in Walvis Bay, where he was raised as an only child. He remembers spending hours with his father, Charles, who was a strict man and loved to fish.
His father was a storeman at a fishing factory and his mother, Elizabeth, worked at a tyre shop. Their simple lifestyle evokes the fondest memories of his childhood.
“My love for cooking came from fishing with my dad. We had a vegetable garden in our backyard and we literally grew everything that we ate. The hunting and fishing that we did on holidays was never for sport. It was basically to feed ourselves,” says Higgs.
At the age of 12, he jetted off to De Villiers Graaf High School, a boarding school in Villiersdorp in the Western Cape. After matriculating in 1988 Higgs registered to study professional cookery at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and obtained his diploma in 1993.
“To be able to eventually find a space where you’ve decided you are happiest and where you work with people that are consistent is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me.” – David Higgs
In that same year he scooped up his first award. He was crowned the Young Chef of South Africa by Chaine de Rottisseurs, an international society devoted to choice dining and the camaraderie of the table. He took up his first job as chef cooking breakfast at The Tulbagh Hotel in the Western Cape Winelands.
He has since worked in high ranked kitchens such as the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel and as the executive chef of Saxon Hotel and Spa until he opened his own restaurants, Marble (in 2016) and Saint (in 2018), with his business partner Gary Kyriacou.
“I think the biggest thing for me was definitely Marble and Saint restaurants. To be able to eventually find a space where you’ve decided you are happiest and where you work with people that are consistent is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Higgs says.
Despite his raving success in the culinary industry, Higgs continues to stay grounded. As an enthusiastic cyclist he started the Food Cycle project in 2014 to support young children from poverty stricken areas who are interested in cycling.
“I’m mad about cycling. Road biking and mountain biking is a massive part of my life,” he says. The Food Cycle project “aims to educate kids about the benefits of short term and long-term eating habits and proper nutrition. We also help them reach their full potential in cycling competitions,” he adds.
“Through cycling, I’ve gotten involved in and been able to support different charities. It has enabled me to give youngsters a career within Marble and Saint restaurants, which has been great. That’s what happens through sports.”
Both his parents have passed on. He remembers them through the shared memories, old photographs and his mom’s recipes, which she inherited from her grandmother.
“I don’t need more than that. I think the memories are basically the important things – the memories of why I cook, why I started cooking. It was largely because of the hunting and the fishing that we did,” Higgs says.