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sábado, 7 de mayo de 2016
South African Steph, 27, left home for nature lover Paul, 33. Now the couple share a passion for native ingredients. Yin & Yang: Steph Pronk & Paul Iskov
Yin & Yang: Steph Pronk & Paul Iskov
William Yeoman - The West Australian
South African Steph, 27, left home for nature lover Paul, 33. Now the couple share a passion for native ingredients.
I was born in Cape Town and grew up on the west coast of South Africa in a very small town, maybe 100 metres from the beach and surrounded by nature reserves. It was absolutely beautiful.
I did gymnastics from pre-primary all the way through to year seven before I started to get a bit bored with it. From 16, I started waitressing at a small holiday resort on the weekends and during school holidays. I really loved it, especially the interacting with people. Once I finished high school, because I was good at maths and accounting, I decided to do a degree in internal auditing and followed that up with a chartered accounting degree. While I was studying and waitressing I got into Forex trading as well, which I really enjoyed.
Then a friend and I decided to go on a road trip. It was awesome; we stopped everywhere along the east coast of Africa. It was then, about the second day in actually, when I first met Paul. I would have been around 23 at the time. We were staying in the same backpackers and he was sitting all by himself. I still remember the first thing he said, it was so funny: “Hi, I’m Paul but my friends call me Yoda.” He ended up hanging out with me and my two girlfriends the rest of the evening. That turned into a couple of days. Then I thought, I actually really like this guy. He loved nature and was so passionate about everything. Now I think Paul is the nicest and most humble person you could ever meet.
Eventually Paul had to fly back to Australia. We kept in touch via Skype and email. I ended up working at the same backpackers we stayed in. Then one day he just said “Why don’t you come to Australia? Don’t worry about anything. Just get here.” I thought “OK, I have nothing to lose.” I just loved everything about it. I loved the country, I loved Paul, I loved his family. And here we are today. Of course, I also love our pop-up restaurant business, Fervor. It’s amazing. Food, nature and travelling: what more could you want?
I’m more front of house, whereas Paul’s in the kitchen. But I’m also more business oriented, which is why I look after the office too. Working and being together, I’ve also noticed he’s more patient than I am with people, more lenient. I’m way more strict.
He never gets angry with anyone, either. That’s definitely one of the qualities he has that I wish I could have. Obviously, over the years you learn to communicate better with each other too, and I’ve learned how to say things in ways that don’t upset him. I don’t believe relationships are all moonshine and roses. But If you love someone, you work on it. That’s why they call it a commitment. It’s a case of finding that person who’s worth making that commitment to. For me, Paul’s definitely that person.
I had a great childhood growing up in Perth, very family and friends oriented. We used to holiday a lot down south and play lots of sports. I enjoyed school but decided to finish at the end of year 11 to go to TAFE to study refrigeration air-conditioning. I did that for a living, down in Yallingup, then worked on a farm before getting a job in a restaurant in Dunsborough. I was 19 and couldn’t even cook rice. So it was a bit of a learning curve. The great thing about the job is I didn’t start till 3pm each day, so I could surf all morning. Eventually I moved to Albany, basically because the waves were better.
I loved surfing, but as I worked in more restaurants over the years I realised how much I enjoyed cooking. I travelled overseas and when I came back started working with Hadleigh Troy at Restaurant Amuse. At that stage they’d only been open six months. Hadleigh was an amazing chef, classically trained and doing food that was exciting and new. From then on I knew what I wanted to do. After working a little interstate, I booked a 12-month world trip, during which I worked in more incredible restaurants, such as Coi in San Francisco with Daniel Patterson and D.O.M in Sao Paulo with Alex Atala, probably my biggest inspiration for what we do with Fervor. It was during this time I also met the wonderful Steph.
I originally started Fervor with my sister Bree, and she still helps out occasionally. The idea was this: why are people not using more indigenous ingredients in restaurants? Indigenous Australians have been using these for tens of thousands of years. This stuff is so healthy. It’s not genetically modified. It’s sustainable. We work as much as we can with Aboriginal communities, sourcing our food such as wild-harvested Kakadu plum from them when possible. We have some great Noongar friends in the South West and learn so much about plants from them. It’s all about being respectful and thinking more about how indigenous and non-indigenous cultures can come together.
In March 2013 we did our first pop-up, in a barn in Margaret River. We had so much fun we wanted to do it again straight away. So now we set up in different regions and communities, cooking, seeing and learning the whole time. Mostly we’re cooking under the stars, and we don’t have power, water or lights. So we have to take absolutely everything with us. We could drive out to the desert and set up a full pop-up restaurant offering a 12-course meal.
Steph and I get on so well because there’s a balance. I probably give people too much leeway, then Steph will pull me up and say I need to be a bit firmer. She’s also really organised and a good leader. She’s also unbelievably generous and will help anyone. I’ve become a little detached from that in recent years. But thanks to her, I’m starting to find that space again, to just stop and look around me.