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New Executive Sous Chef for Meropa Casino / Polokwane

Love, and a pinch of salt are chef Earl’s favourite cooking tips

Love is one of the most important ingredients in Earl Larkin, the newly appointed Executive Sous Chef at Meropa Casino and Entertainment World’s dishes.

After matriculating, the young Pietermaritzburg Larkin was on a career day outing at the Durban University of Technology when he was shown the hotel school campus. “It was a tough decision (deciding what to study) but I’ve never looked back.” Today he holds a National Diploma in Catering Management.

By re-joining Sun International, the chef comes full circle – he started his career in 1993 at the Wild Coast Sun. “We operated the Bengal Brasserie under the watchful eyes of the resident chefs,” he recalled. Following this, he completed his in-service training at a hotel in Port Alfred and at a 5-star game reserve in the Eastern Cape. “An opportunity was then afforded to me to join a corporate catering unit, which I did until 1998 when I became executive chef at a Country Club in my hometown.”

In 2007, the bright lights of Sun City beckoned, and he worked there as a chef until 2016. “This period was one of the most rewarding learning curves of my career,” Larkin said.  It was here that he experienced his proudest cheffing moment, being part of the team in the opening of Sun City’s entertainment centre.

He left to broaden his expertise, working at various hotels around the country and ending up in Gauteng. Larkin was retrenched in June 2020 due to Covid-19 affecting the hospitality industry, and re-joined Sun International in early 2021. “I am hopeful that being back with Sun International will open more doors and ensure a rewarding career.”

With Covid-19 health and safety regulations in full force, Larkin said all food was virtually contactless on the serving side. “Hygiene has to be paramount and food has to be individually wrapped and served to our esteemed guests and colleagues.”

Current food trends are that people want to eat healthier food, “with lots of texture, colours, flavours”. “We also have to look at our environment and animals with regards to meat and its exploitation,” he said.

The hot kitchen is his favourite place to be. “I love to play with low and slow foods, slow roasted brisket, twice cooked pork belly, deboned leg of lamb stuffed with rosemary and garlic, gravies to accompany these foods. Recently I have also started to make my own signature aged chilli sauces which are absolutely delicious.”

Larkin is married to a Mauritian, whom he describes as “my soulmate” and the couple have two dogs which are the “apple of our eyes”. His favourite meal is his wife’s chicken biryani with all the trimmings, but he says he does not enjoy anything in the offal line-up.

His favourite piece of kitchen equipment are his hands, and Larkin says he loves seafood and fresh ingredients – chilli garlic, white wine, cream. “This paired with wonderful friends is all you need for the perfect meal,” he said.

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