Duncan Welgemoed is currently one of Australia’s most-watched and sought after culinary talents, fascinating enfant terrible of the food scene, his mesmerising dishes renowned for hitting all five senses hard, and then some.
His entrance into the world of food was built on a South African heritage and a home life defined by passion, drive and a side of eccentricity – three qualities which now define his body of work. A chef father, Portuguese and Italian godparents, a music addiction, and the fraught, cultural melting-pot that is South African society have developed the core of Welgemoed’s cooking ethos; do it with love, take no prisoners, buck trends.
Duncan fell into prestigious kitchens, as often happens in the world of hospitality, through a series of fortunate twists and with enough determination to keep someone who mattered interested. He sharpened his craft as a chef in the UK under executive chef Michael North at The Goose at Britwell
Salome, who were awarded a Michelin star during Welgemoed’s time as head chef there.
This was followed by a move to the notoriously cut-throat Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons where Welgemoed thrived; a restaurant considered an institution with a veritable army of Michelin stars.
Welgemoed’s curiosity eventually led him to Adelaide. Here, the critically acclaimed Bistro Dom was born with Duncan at the helm as executive chef.
Bistro Dom saw accolades pile up on the doorstep such as The Australian’s Hottest Restaurant in SA (Top 50 in 2013 and 2014), SA’s The Advertiser’s Chef of the Year (2013), the inaugural Howard
Twelftree Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Food and Wine in SA’, as well as Gourmet Traveller’s Top 100 restaurants in 2014/2015/16, and one Gourmet Traveller star. In his time at Bistro Dom, Duncan was awarded the ‘Rising Star’ by Restaurant Australia.
In 2013 Welgemoed kicked off Adelaide Festival's Lola’s Pergola. The festival within a festival, which Duncan curated himself, was designed to highlight Adelaide’s creative underbelly of art, music, culture, food, and wine. One festival not being enough, Duncan was also involved in MONA’s Dark Mofo, Tasting Australia, and the Adelaide Food and Wine Festival. Ben Shrewry, of Attica fame’s WAW Gathering was a project Duncan was especially fortunate to be involved with and counts as a revolutionary point in his career.
Welgemoed moved to open Africola in November of 2014, in a collaboration with designer James Brown (Sydney’s Harpoon Harry, Bali’s Motel Mexicola, Melbourne’s Hotel Jesus, EVO), a venture that won best new restaurant in SA not even one year after opening as well as best in state in the Australian Financial Review. In less than two years Africola has been awarded 4/5 Australians by The Australian’s food editor John Lethlean, appeared in Conde Nast, The New Yorker, GQ, and Travel and Leisure Magazine.
The cartoon-esque interior and earthy, unapologetic food of Africola was easily turning heads within the industry; the fledgling restaurant placed in the Gourmet Traveller ‘Top 50’ (2015/2016), ranked in The Australian’s ‘Hot 50 Restaurants’ (2015), Gourmet Traveller Best New Restaurant (2016), ranked in the ‘Top 10 Best.
Restaurants’ by The Observer’s Food Monthly, Best New Restaurant in South Australia’s The Advertiser, and saw Welgemoed nominated for ‘Chef of the Year’ by the Australian Financial Review in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Duncan’s trajectory continued its rapid rise as he found an entire new audience through his appearances as a challenger on Nine’s Masterchef in 2015. He featured on SBS’ Food Safari in 2016 and this year will see his inclusion in the airing of their new Chef Line program.
Duncan was recently reviewed again by John Lethlean and awarded 4.5/5, which is the highest score ever given to the state and one of the highest in the country. The restaurant is frequented by visiting international celebrities, including Duncan’s friends Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, Mike Patton of Faith
No More and touring artists such as Katy Perry, Violent Femmes, Lamb of God, cast of the film Slumdog Millionaire, comedian Bill Bailey and a host of international deejays. It is also the eatery of choice for many Australian and international chefs.
Duncan will this year head the new Adelaide Festival Club Palais, which sees him curate a series of lunches cooked by Australia’s best chef as well as program the food and beverage offering for the masses. During this time, he will join an all-star cast of Aussie chefs to host some of the world’s most prominent business people and dignitaries at a dinner held for The Lonely Planet. He will also host San
Pellegrino’s lauded The World’s 50 Best Restaurants dinner in Adelaide.
Duncan also co-writes a monthly column, ‘Rare Treats’, for The Review in Melbourne and Adelaide when he can spare five minutes.