“I didn’t complete my course [because I was] determined not to end up cooking in an industrial hotel kitchen,” he explains. “I dropped out and went travelling.” He eventually came home and ended up working as an online journalist for South African publication Eat Out, but in 2010 he left that job and Cape Town behind to run his parents’ country store in Paternoster.
He also helped out with their restaurant, Oep ve Koep, which at the time had a short menu of mostly fish and chips. Kobus gradually changed the menu and wrote on the blackboard outside: “Hyper-local, considered, heritage, slow, seasonal Strandveld food served here.”
In early 2017 he stepped back from Oep ve Koep to open Wolfgat and pursue his vision. A collaboration with the botanist Rupert Koopman on the cookbook Strandveld Food helped increase his knowledge of the veld, its wild plants and the coastal bounty of seaweed, which today inform his style of cooking. That style is seasonal, inspired by the weather, with a naturalist approach and minimum intervention, so that the ingredients – especially the wild and the foraged – come into their own. It feels like a restaurant that’s giving back to the community.
All of its team are locals, many of them from fishing families, have never worked in a restaurant before and have trained on the job. Kobus is a believer in doing away with the traditional hierarchy of kitchen and front of house. The restaurant is very much a team effort and there is only one team.