Chef Nicky Gibbs
~ Biography & Inspirations
“ Some of my best meals still come from my mom’s home…”
Nicola Anne Gibbs, born in Cornwall, England, 24 July 1962, moved to South Africa, with her family, to the town of Virginia, in the Free State – (named by her grandfather, and opened the Harmony Gold Mine, shortly afterwards). Nicky’s mother had spent her life growing up in London, a trained nursing sister, who had a great passion for food. Food, was only Farm Fresh and Healthy. She had a great understanding for great cooking. This influenced Nicky greatly.
Both Nicky’s father and step-father, had large vegetable gardens, full of organics, all their own composting and loads of fruit trees. Meat curing, sausage making, smoking, fish curing, was part of their daily routine.
Nicky and her siblings, in order first-born Nicky, then Helen her only sister, “SuperCoolCreativeCaringHero”, patron of HelonMelon. Oldest brother Ken, co-owner of the Crofter’s Kitchen home and Civil Engineer, “SuperKindCaringGivingHero”. Next Ryan “SuperCoolRelaxedAlways-HelpfulHero”, Captain of the Seas, then Richard, the youngest, “SuperFriendlyLoyalGivingHero”, London Marketing Legend. The Gibbs Family, have a large family mentality. When it comes to meal time, take all you need first time round.
The family moved around a lot, therefore Nicky went to several schools and finished off at Eunice High School for Girls, in Bloemfontein.
“I never studied cooking at school, but cooked loads at home. I loved being in the kitchen, from a young age. I got my first recipe book, from my Aunty Judy, when I was 6 and it was not long till I had made every recipe in the book. For the holidays, I would bake relentlessly, so that we had enough home-made biscuits and fudge for the entire holiday!”
After Nicky completed school, her first job was a receptionist, at The Bloemfontein Sun Hotel, (Which is where Garth Stroebel got his first Head Chef position too.)
Here Nicky received a very good training, in all areas of front of house, under, Eef de Haast’s guidance.
Then Nicky moved to Wilderness, to the Flat Rock Hotel, working as a Restaurant Supervisor, which included bar and restaurant service. Later Nicky returned to Reception, as Assistant Front of House Manager.
Moving abroad, Nicky returned to her roots in the UK. Here she worked in London, at The Chelsea Hotel, Knightsbridge, gaining House-Keeping experience and later became a Night Auditor. Thanks to Chef Ricky Parlanti, her partner at the time, Nicky met lots of Chefs, which became instrumental and influenced Nicky greatly, in wanting to become a Chef.
Returning to South Africa: Cape Town, Nicky searched for a Chefs’ Course. She enrolled with Protea Hotels In-House Training Course. Here, Mary Taylor and Bill Stafford, were very influential. Training under the best, working at The Heerengracht’s: Van Donck Restaurant, Nicky soon became top trainee and won several awards. Later, moving on to The Royal Grill Room, at the Royal Hotel, Durban, where Chef Werner Koch, became her guiding light. Here, Nicky, became the first female saucier, in a male dominant environment, achieving Top Restaurant Awards.
[…I also became an ace boogie boarder, askChefDJ.DoctorSolo-Banana and ChefRingpiece, as down time was just as important. We were the A-Team that rocked Durban! …]
Top positions took Nicky on to: Fancourt – one of the top, elite golf estates, in South Africa, working as Chef de Cuisine, in The Fine-Dining, Montague Restaurant, as well as in Cape Town, as the Executive Chef at The Capetonian Hotel, with Richard Johnson.
Deciding to return to London, Nicky took the challenge on the QE2, as Special Orders Cook, for the Royal Grill. Moving on to, Crystal Harmony where she spent 6 years and travelled the world. …
I was the first female chef out of 100 kitchen strong. I loved the traveling and working with the top chefs of the world (Keller, Bourdain, Hom, Mosimann, Trotter to name but a few) as guest chefs on-board…”
Nicky took on various positions as Garde Manger, Poissonier, Special Orders, Crew and Italian Restaurant Chef de Cuisine. Nicky loved experiencing all the ingredients from different countries. With a sound South African training, Nicky went on to win The International Cruise Ship Recipe Challenge and was flown to Miami. It was an absolute honour, to be the first woman to win this prestigious award. Nicky then moved on to, Top Cruise Liner: Garde Manger, creating ice, fruit and veg carvings and exclusive buffet work.
Back on solid ground, in London for a year of Quaglinos, as first female Sous Chef, with a unique kitchen-pass, incorporating Modern British Cuisine. The 2nd busiest restaurant in Europe, at the time. (Averaging 7000 couverts a week)
For the next 6 years, ‘Eat Your Hearts Out’ was Nicky’s next adventure, experiencing great fun and top challenges in her career. Cooking for stars in the music industry, all over the world, and traveling, like a moving circus, building up and breaking down. Shopping for food at local markets and creating delicious menus.
Returning to South Africa once more, Executive Chef at The Melrose Arch, in Johannesburg and later on to the Intercontinental Sandton Towers, The Westcliff and By Word of Mouth. Back in Hotels, training budding chefs on the job, is something, Nicky really loves.
Produce quality, has always been an important value and standard, for Nicky. Since opening its borders, South Africa, became a country, where exquisite foods from all over the world, are readily available. This inspired Nicky to create international menus and moved towards Afro-Asian style cooking, as well as Mediterranean flavours. Local cuisine and Butchery studying, whilst setting up large corporate kitchens and menus.
Once again, Nicky has returned to Cape Town, sharing the Noordhoek neighbourhood, Crofter’s Valley, with Frank Dangeraux, from The Foodbarn. They have shared, inspired and celebrated success together. Now Nicky is building up her own business – Crofter’s Kitchen. Using locally sourced ingredients and produce, directly from her garden, onto the table.
“…I have South African recipe books from 1906, “Hilda’s Where is it? of recipes” and 1923 “The Practical Cookery Book for South Africa”. The only way these recipes work is to use the best organic quality, as all food was organic in those days. It was also simple and no microwaves – which to me is the worst and most unhealthy invention, ever made.