At the Prue Leith Culinary Institute open days, we highlight in our presentation that successful chefs are “glass half full people”. When crisis strikes, as it often does in the kitchen, we think on our feet, we stay positive and make a new plan.
The Covid-19 pandemic is the ultimate crisis that has hit our industry, and Charles Jacobs, a part time Foundation of Cooking student, who is about to graduate, has perhaps been our best example of that “glass half full chef”. Not only has he started up a business during these challenging times, but he did so using the skills he learnt in one of the most feared practical assessments – the chicken galantine. Deboning an entire chicken without piercing the skin and leaving as little meat as possible on the carcass, then rolling it evenly around a flavourful farce and cooking it to perfection takes skill, and lots of practice.
“This is the one dish I first thought was absolutely insane, but it was also the one thing I enjoyed the most learning how to do. I then saw the opportunity for creating a product that people do not have time for – deboning a whole chicken. I mean…who does that… only the French, right?” says Charlie.
And that was the start of Charlie’s Chicken Roll Factory. A business that turns local free-range chickens into gourmet dinners, ready to defrost and pop in the oven. It is the flavour combinations of the fillings, that reveal that there is a chef rather than a butcher behind this chicken factory. There is basil pesto, bacon and pecorino filling or Turkish apricot, Danish feta, honey, and walnut stuffing to consider, but our favourite, if you are feeling adventurous, is the fig, pistachio, and cranberry stuffing. For the traditionalists there is a spinach, feta, and peppadew option, but when it comes to local flavours, we love that you can stuff chicken with Bobotie!
Studying part time and changing careers takes courage and serious dedication. “There was a time that I was questioning why I enrolled, what am I going to do after this…especially at my age and during such a challenging and weird time we live in. And is it all going to be for nothing? So, I feel extremely proud and blessed that I had the opportunity and the courage to do this course. I kept on telling myself… If I only take one thing I have learned from this course and make something of it, it will be a blessing… And I got so much more.”
Charlie’s delightful chickens are available for online orders from the website or at the Hazel Food Market in Pretoria on a Saturday.