#16: Nicolas van der Walt & the Business of Sugar Art

Making his first wedding cake at the tender age of 12, Chef Nicolas van der Walt is now one of the top pastry chefs in the world.

He has worked at renowned hotels including the Park Hyatt Hotel (Rosebank), the Savoy Hotel (London), the Michelangelo Hotel (Sandton), the Saxon Boutique Hotel and Spa (Sandhurst), and the Castle Kyalami Hotel (Johannesburg), and is also responsible for opening a fine dining experience restaurant, @ The Square in the arty town of Clarens in the Free State.

His list of awards and achievements is longer than my arm! Starting off with the World Championships, in Maastricht, Holland in 2001, he won a gold medal and named the most promising pastry chef in the world. In 2007, he achieved first and second place in the Salon Culinaire Showpiece section. 2018 saw him compete in the World Championships in Luxemburg, Germany where he won a silver medal in the sugar showpiece category. In 2020 he was part of the South African Culinary team that competed in the Olympics which were held in Stuttgart. He won bronze in the individual category for Sugar Showpieces and placed 5th with the Team Sugar showpiece.

He has been featured in magazines like the Good Taste, The Culinary Artist, Food & Home, Sarie, Rooi Rose, Inflight, You and Huisegenoot, and appeared on TV number of times including several features on the national news.

He is now the co-owner, program director, principal, and Advanced Diploma Pastry Lecturer of the FBI Chef School and Patisserie Academy in Randburg, Johannesburg.


Show Notes:

Quote: “My question to him [Chef/Doctor Billy Gharriger] was “what should I do with my life if I want to be one of the best chefs in the world”? And he said to me, “There’s three legs… The first leg, if you want to be the best, you have to train with the best and work always with the best. Leg number two, become the best manager in the world, because if you can manage you’ll have your own business one day, and the third leg is (to) become the best teacher ever.””

Quote: [On developing skill] “Gran had a huge influence here… I’d say “I want to make the best rose” in the world… She hasn’t made it in her life and we’d sit down and for hours we would play and she taught me (to be) patient.”

Quote: [On perfectionism] “Don’t think that you are God. You’re just human.”

Quote: [On success] “You have to fail first, sometimes.”

Resources: Range – David Epstein

Resources: The Culinary Institute of America

About FBI Chef School

Since its inception in 2005, FBI Chef School is a professional culinary arts training and examination centre. Offering a range of locally and internationally accredited qualifications, the school has produced chefs and pastry artists who can be found in hotel and restaurant kitchens around the world.

You can find the school (and Chef Nicolas) on their website, Facebook page, and Instagram profile.

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