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Executive Chef David Tilly

Taj Cape Town

French-born and discovering his love for food at a very early age, David developed his passion and talent as he travelled the world gaining experience in some of the world’s top restaurants. 

Before moving to South Africa, David also worked in London as Sous Chef at Morton’s Club where he took part in the Gourmet Summit Awards in Singapore and promptly fell in love with Asian cuisine – and hence was the sewing of the first seed of his ongoing love affair for Far Eastern flavours.

When asked if he had a favourite dish at Bombay Brasserie, Chef David said that it is very difficult to pick a few dishes only but he loves all tandoors whatever it is. David and his team have also just recently introduced more local meats such as ostrich, duck and springbok to the menu which make interesting and great dishes.

What sets Bombay Brasserie apart is its authenticity. No more does David have any kind of language barrier, as all five resident Indian chefs speak the same language as he does – the language of spice.

For Taj Cape Town, Chef David manages not only Bombay Brasserie, one of the finest Indian restaurants in Cape Town and the newly renovated Mint Restaurant and Terrace, but also all food aspects for Taj Cape Town in its entirety, from breakfast to dinner, in-room dining, large and small scale catering as well as afternoon teas and events.

When David Tilly is not in the kitchens creating magic, David can be found either hiking, fishing, cycling or spending time with his family and has a nugget of wisdom for any aspiring executive chef: “Be prepared, it’s time-consuming, nothing falls from the sky, it takes effort but if you love it, go for it!”

Speaking of his time with Taj Cape Town, Chef David said: “I’ve enjoyed every bit of my time in Taj Cape Town, it’s a similar heritage building than the one I was in London but on a smaller scale which gives more time with the chefs and in the kitchen. Not mentioning the climate, the beauty of the city and of course the ocean. I am a coastal born and brought up the boy and I missed the ocean while I was in Delhi, Morocco and London.”


Q & A with Executive Chef David Tilly


1. The main influences that made me interested in food and cooking as a career...

My uncle was a chef and had his own restaurant, I spent a few summers there to make pocket money when I was 14.

I also spent lots of weekends and holidays on my Grand Parents farms as a child. Cooking was always happening in their kitchens and everything was organic growing from the neighbour's farms including vegetables, chickens, duck, pork, milk, etc. it really inspired me to better understand the fresh ingredients as well as the whole cooking process.

2. My earliest memory in the kitchen...

Was at the age of 16 as an apprentice and earning a little bit of money. Looking at the pile of oysters and fish boxes coming in fresh in the morning and wondering how we are going to get ready before Lunch service.

I remember how my hands were bleeding with small cuts for a very long time.

3. My favourite dish to cook...

Any homemade food, it can be anything from a stew to a braai, it really doesn’t matter. Just no pressure, cooking in a relaxed atmosphere while chatting. I simply love it.

4. A cuisine that I want to learn...

All of them, I like to learn and get a little bit of knowledge on all cuisine types from all countries around the world. It is so diverse for each country, I like to try different cuisines.

I would love to learn to cook and prepare Japanese Cuisine in Japan not only for their food but also with the way they work. They are so meticulous and rigorous.

5. My secret to great food...

To cook with love and accept critics and feedback. If you do not put your heart into it, it will never be a good result.

6. The last cookbook I bought or the last incident that has inspired you...

I use more books for recipes or methods. Inspirations are more in everyday life either with the team or the places I go to. Food markets, etc..

7. A culinary show that I love to watch...

I really liked Chef’s Table on Netflix.

8. In my free time, I would like to... 

Just spend time with kids and family.

9. The kind of adaptations I have had to make while combining two cuisines/palates/guest taste...

Must have good knowledge of the cuisines you want to infuse first. Can’t infuse all cuisine together, it’s more about trying rather than adapting.

10. My guilty pleasure...

White chocolate and caramelized nuts.

11. I will describe my restaurant/hotel to a first time customer...

Heritage with a fresh and modern feel. Very dedicated staff towards customer and service delivery

12. My menu design....(what kind of research goes into its preparation, can you walk us through the process)...

I usually first look at what is not selling much. Keeping in mind there must be options for everyone, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, etc. I will discuss it with the team and we will all work trials to put ideas together as a team.

13. My recommendations in my restaurant...

The most interesting addition to the new menu is the selection of small plate dishes.  These will give diners the chance to experience a sample of Indian street food and we believe this will be something unique for Cape Town.   The new Bombay Brasserie menu still includes firm favourites, such as Adraki Masala, Karoo lamb chops, and Chicken Tariwala (home favourite chicken curry enhanced with fenugreek). Eight new star dishes have been added, including Baingan Bharta (clay oven smoked Aubergine crush with crumbled feta) and Tikka Masala (Charred Tikka, fenugreek, onion and tomato sauce).