26 Sep, 2012

The Flying, Biking Chef

The Flying, Biking Chef

He is currently running two popular Boland restaurants, has done a bit of TV work, and has cooked for celebrities such as Trevor Manuel and Tokyo Sexwale, former British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher, author Jackie Collins, actors Beau Bridges and Wynona Ryder, and Bono of the band U2, but Matthew Gordon is also an avid mountain biker, in between time with the family and pursuing other interests.


Born in London, Matt (45) grew up in Johannesburg and completed a two-year chef’s course at Wits Tech Hotel School. “As a kid I did a lot of cooking at home, and it evolved from there.” An overseas stint followed before Matt returned to SA. He first had to do two years of national service, but his training was put to good use as head of the army’s functions kitchen in Pretoria.



After a few years working at the Sandton Sun, then moving to the Mount Nelson in Cape Town, Matt went solo in the early 90s and opened his first restaurant, Le Ballon Rouge, in Franschhoek. That led to an offer from Haute Cabriere wine estate to run their restaurant, and he also opened the French Connection Bistro in Franschhoek in 2002, which he still owns. Then came the opportunity at Harvest at Laborie in Paarl, on the Laborie wine farm.


“The restaurant had basically gone out of business, but owners KWV decided last September to get it going again, so they called me in. We refurbished the place and made it a kiddie-friendly family restaurant, and it’s such a lovely farm setting, just 2.5km from the centre of town and thus easily accessible. The farm also offers mountain biking or trail running routes, and adjoins Paarl Rock Nature Reserve, so we’ve held adventure races and orienteering events here.”


Matt raced motocross bikes when he was younger, and then got into mountain biking eight years ago to keep fit. “It’s the ideal sport for me, living in Franschhoek, near the Berg River Dam, with vineyards, forests and mountains right on my doorstep” Matt is married to Nicky and they have two daughters, Emma (12) and Katie (8), and the whole family is regularly out mountain biking.



So with two restaurants to run, and a family, how does Matt find time for exercise? “I’ve got staff that have been with me for a long time, and it makes my life so much easier having a capable crew behind me. I can usually go riding five times a week, with two spinning sessions and three rides on the mountain.”


Matt also finds time for his other passions: Flying, techno gadgets and playing the drums. “I redesigned Haute Cabriere with a helipad on the roof, so got to know the pilots and got plenty of unofficial training. I got my helo licence in 1998 and fixed wing licence in 2004.”


Matt says he will possibly do a recipe book in the near future, and would also like to do more TV work. “I would like to tie in my flying and cooking, by flying to interesting places to go cook with people. There aren’t that many flying chefs around, so I think it would be an interesting show.”


Matt’s Harvest ‘Energiser’ Smoothie

Ingredients: 500ml plain yoghurt, 200g muesli, 150g smooth peanut butter, 3 tablespoons pecan nuts, 7 small bananas, 30ml Honey, 1cup ice blocks.

Matt says: “Blend everything together in a blender until the ice is crushed, and this recipe should make five servings. It really gives you a bit of grunt, so you can drink it before a training session or race.”