Raising a chef

We chat to Wilma Van De Elzen about bringing up Mike, her chef son of The Food Truck fame.

  1. What is Mike’s background?

Mike was brought up on a farm on Don Bucks Road called Exchange poultry farm, as it was next to the Telephone Exchange. When he was 10, we sold and moved to a larger poutry farm in Henderson Valley. Mike has two older sisters, Monique and Elizabeth.

  1. What were Mike’s favourite things to do as a child?

It was always something to do with cars or motorbikes, whether it was building them out of Lego or sitting on Dad’s bike, he loved them all.

  1. What things did you enjoy doing as a family?

Every Sunday, the family had to collect the eggs on the farm because the workers had the day off, so we all worked together as fast as we could so we could enjoy the rest of the day. Sundays often involved visiting relatives, so that the kids could play with their cousins.

  1. What were Mike’s favourite subjects at school?

Mike loved cooking of course, but he was also very interested in woodwork and, believe it or not, maths. I guess, being brought up on a chicken farm, there was alot of building and counting of eggs!

  1. Has Mike always been interested in food?

Yes, right from the beginning, Mike was always helping me in the kitchen with the family dinner or making traditional Dutch delights. I think that he thought working in the kitchen was alot easier than working on the farm!

  1. When did Mike get his first taste of working in the food industry?

Tony’s Vineyard was the first professional kitchen that Mike worked in. He started as a dishwasher at the tender age of 15. I often lay awake at night, wondering when he would be home, he worked such long hours!

  1. In what ways did you encourage his interest and love of food and cooking?

We didn’t really need to do anything to encourage him, I think he became hooked all by himself. I do know his home economics teacher at school was the person that first gave him the most direction.

  1. What would Mike be doing if he wasn’t a chef?

I think Mike would have loved to have become a builder. Looking at him now, I know that whichever career he had chosen, he would have worked extremely hard to become the best he could.

  1. Who are Mike’s role models?

I would love to say his parents, but I know for certain his wife Bee is a huge role model for him. She certainly keeps him on the straight and narrow!

  1. What aspects of Mike’s personality have made him a successful chef?

Hard work, long hours and a passion to succeed, equalled by a fear of a failure.

  1. What is most important to you in regards to raising your children?

We worked hard to ensure our kids could have a better education than us. Honesty was big – I will never forget the time I caught Mike and his friend stealing grapes from the vineyard next door, he got a big book around his little bum! Keeping our children away from drugs was also very important to us.

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