Jade Sullaphen

Humble home cooking made haute cuisine

Kitchen veteran Jade Sullaphen is a stalwart in iconic kitchens across South Africa these days – but he seems most at home, today, in the lively kitchen of the Southern Sun Montecasino. Now at the helm of several Tsogo Sun Hotel Kitchens, Sullaphen uses his valuable experience every day, as he guides a team of chefs and food service professionals.

Running a full-service catering company isn’t what Tanzer envisioned when he was nose-deep in textbooks, studying medical technology in the 80s. Then in true renegade styleSullaphen has cooking in his blood. Growing up, his mother and aunt ran a small catering company, specialising in humble, home-cooked favourites like fish and chips and curry and rice. In his spare time, he helped out in the kitchen. “When I surfing, I quickly learned that nourishing and filling foods could also be delicious,” says Sullaphen. “I’d surf for a whole morning, come home salty and exhausted, eat a huge meal and be back in the sea a few hours later. We ate uncomplicated, authentic South African food – and I soon fell in love with making and eating it.” After school, Sullaphen studied at a local hotel school, working in hotel kitchens on weekends and during the holidays. When he spotted an ad in a local newspaper for a position to continue his apprenticeship overseas, he jumped at the opportunity. He was chosen as one of ten students to be sent on a culinary internship to Ireland. “Working in Dublin, I discovered a whole new realm of restaurant food, cooking things like soda bread, razor clams and mackerel,” explains Sullaphen. “Although the food industry was still pretty static at that time – a side salad was some iceberg lettuce and wedge of lemon – it opened a whole new world for me and gave me an understanding of a food culture other than my own.”, he escaped to Holland, in protest against joining the South African army. “The only job I could get in Holland was washing dishes, because the Dutch government wouldn’t recognise my South African diploma,” explains Tanzer. “I took the job, got myself elbow-deep in grey dishwater and then, in a stroke of fortuitousness, was offered an apprenticeship under a professional chef.”

When Sullaphen returned to South Africa, he successfully opened the very first O’Hagan’s in Durban, inspired by the flavours he’d tasted and cooked in Dublin. In search of the big city, he subsequently moved to Johannesburg and took up a position at the Rosebank Hotel, where he ultimately became Chef de Partie. He then moved on to the Hilton Hotel in Sandton – the first of its kind in South Africa. Here he rubbed shoulders with Belgian and French chefs, and further finessed his cooking style. Within a few years, he’d moved onto the Castle at Kyalami and the Intercontinental at OR Tambo International Airport before settling at the Southern Sun Montecasino, where he’s been for three years. “Heading up the kitchens across a few properties is a huge responsibility, but it constantly pushes me to refine and modernise my style of cooking, taking into consideration changing trends,” comments Sullaphen.

“Salt has transformed the food industry in the last four or five years,” explains Sullaphen. “It’s started a movement in textures, flavours and cooking methods that I’d never experienced before. Cerebos has always been one of the key ingredients in my cooking, but the range of salts available now changes everything.” Sullaphen tries to keep his dishes simple and celebrate the flavours of the best possible ingredients, while experimenting with interesting visual seasonings and preparation techniques. Though none of his professional experience could end his unconditional love affair with the simplest dishes – bacon and cheese sandwiches and lamb stew.

In imagining his 90s-inspired dish, Sullaphen looked to the dynamic, ever-shifting cooking trends of the decade. “The 90s, more than anything else was a time of boundary-pushing and food fads,” says Sullaphen. “But the one trend that resonated with me was the desire for aesthetic perfection – dishes had to be plated immaculately, with loads of curly parsley, contrasting colours and delicate finishes. This is my take on that obsession.” Sullaphen used Cerebos salt to cure a sirloin of beef, which he assembles into a stunning edible masterpiece. “Curing prolongs the shelf life of a piece of meat by drawing out the moisture and bacteria – once a piece of meat is cured, it can be stored for a few weeks, the flavour will intensify, and it’ll be delicious. I also used sugar and herbs in the curing process to add extra flavour to the meat.” Sullaphen balanced the salty intensity of the beef with sweet, pickled marmalade and asparagus. He used Cerebos salt flakes generously in the seasoning of his buttery avocado puree, and finished the dish with crispy, crunchy onion rings. “Everything in cooking is about yin and yang, salty and sweet, hot and cool. This dish is an homage to the constant search for that perfect balance,” concludes Sullaphen.

Cerebos-cured sirloin with avocado mousse and crispy fried onion

For the cured sirloin

  • Sirloin of beef
  • 250g Cerebos fine salt
  • 250g white sugar
  • 1kg sirloin of beef, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2g fresh rosemary
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • Small bunch of sage


  1. Roughly chop all the herbs, add the Cerebos salt and white sugar. Mix all ingredients together and rub and coat the beef with the mixture.
  2. Wrap in plastic wrap tightly and cure in the fridge for 3 days.
  3. After three days, rinse off the excess salt and sugar mixture under cold water, dry with a cloth and let it rest in the fridge to be sliced later. This will enable the meat to firm up for slicing.

For the avocado mousse

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Generous pinch of Cerebos Salt
  • Smooth cream cheese


  1. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Set aside in a squeezy bottle.

For the black cherry and onion marmalade

  • 250ml red wine
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 250g white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tin of black cherries, chopped into small pieces


  1. Fry the onions, brown sugar and chopped black cherries until soft and cooked. Add the red wine and reduce until the mixture becomes thick and onions are a dark, burgundy colour.
  2. Set aside and cool.

For the crispy onions

  • Deep fry thinly sliced onion in corn flower until lightly golden brown.

To assemble

  1. Place thin slices of the cured beef on a large white plate, with poached asparagus and slices of grilled tomato. Top with crispy fried onions and avocado mousse.