Celebrity Chef Luke Dale Roberts has always pushed the boundaries of the fine dining restaurant scene since opening The Test Kitchen back in 2010. Throughout his career, across critically acclaimed restaurants and earning a string of global awards, Luke has always let his food do the talking, and now it was time to celebrate those marvellous recipes on paper.
This month Luke launches his first cookbook, a 520-page hardcover masterpiece that showcases a variety of The Test Kitchen recipes that helped cement Cape Town’s reputation as a fine dining culinary capital. Luke unpacks the founding of the iconic Test Kitchen, his personal culinary journey and the inspiration he has had behind many of these beautiful dishes. If you’ve been following this chef for a while, it is easy to fall in love with his cooking style, his sheer passion for what he does and the details behind every dish.
“It’s a cookbook, but it’s also a tribute to the work that I have done over the past decade,” says Luke. “It’s a line in the sand for me. This is what The Test Kitchen was all about, and this is who I am as a chef.” The book begins with a foreword by Heston Blumenthal, who calls Luke “a kindred spirit” and hails his “dishes full of curiosity, commitment and emotion.” It is “a book to fire up your culinary imagination,” says Heston. The imagery that follows will captivate your heart while Luke’s words captivate your soul.
For Luke, it is a project that has been five years in the making, started while The Test Kitchen was at the peak of its fame, and before the Covid pandemic forced the closure of what had become an icon in Africa’s fine dining landscape. During its 11-year run, The Test Kitchen was hailed for its multi-layered plates, delving deep into a brave new world of flavour, texture and culinary adventure. So, unsurprisingly, The Test Kitchen cookbook is not aimed at your everyday chef, or those looking to whip up a quick dinner. Instead, it pays homage to an unforgettable era of fine dining in Africa. It’s a memoir and treatise; a tribute, and a celebration.
“We’ve taken a lot of care to break down the recipes into specific steps, to make them achievable for passionate cooks to make in a well-equipped home kitchen. But no, you’re not going to whip any of these up in 20 minutes!” says Luke with a laugh. “But most importantly, it really is just a beautiful visual book to explore.”
While The Test Kitchen may be closed, his culinary journey continues with Salon, described by Luke as his ‘new baby’. The former The Test Kitchen space today plays host to TTK Fledgelings, where budding chefs with boundless enthusiasm are given invaluable training and opportunity to forge a career in the kitchen. “The TTK is a closed door. I enjoyed every single minute of it, and I wouldn’t have changed that experience for the world. But it was important to close it, to give us room to breathe for new, and new creativity.”
The book is certainly a true celebration of iconic dishes, a passion for food and also allows The Test Kitchen to live on even after they have closed their doors.