Chefs on holiday – David Tilly

Posted on 13 May 2020

Here’s what David Tilly of the Taj Cape Town does with his time off.

David ‘really enjoyed the different culture’ of Japan – this is one of the foodie alleys near Shibuya Station in Tokyo. Image: Getty Images

My love of travel came from my grandfather, who was a sailor on the largest French cruise ship at that time. He would always tell us stories about his trips around the world. Also, my uncle was a chef who worked on the French Caribbean islands, so as a child I knew there was plenty of opportunity to travel as a chef.

For holidays I prefer seaside first, then bush, and cities last, but some trips have been very food-oriented, such as Thailand. Then I’ll eat four or five times a day because I want to try everything!

I always want to travel somewhere I haven’t ever been and discover new things. The only place I go back to often is home – France – but even then I try to visit a new city or region I haven’t seen yet.

I love India for its diversity of colours, flavours and smells, and not forgetting the street food – you’ll have people, all sorts of vehicles and animals surrounding you while you eat! On the other hand, Japan is the complete opposite, with everything so well organised, ingredients of high quality and well packaged. Both countries surprised me in a nice way.

My most memorable holiday was the trip to Japan, because it was just me and my wife – no kids – for 15 days, so we were free to do what we wanted.

Image supplied

The best meal I’ve had on holiday? It’s too difficult to choose one! Skewers and pad thai in the streets of Bangkok; sushi and sashimi at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo; ramen and gyoza (dumplings) in Fukuoka; kebabs and butter chicken in Old Delhi; couscous and tagines in Marrakech.

I must say Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen in all my travels. And the food is good.

Morocco is also a must – nice landscapes, with the Atlas Mountains and Atlantic Ocean, street markets that are full of life, and amazing food.

My favourite place in the world is Brittany, where I am from. It has the most beautiful beaches and the best seafood on Earth. I just wish it had a better climate!

Kerlouan, on the coastline of Finistère in Brittany. Image: Getty images

David’s delicious baked mussels recipe

‘Of course I love cooking on holiday. The kitchen is the place to spend time with family. And when you are a chef, family members will expect you to cook for them. Here is a favourite seafood recipe of mine – you can also use clams:

1. Rinse 200g mussels in clear, cold water. Place them in a pot with 4 sliced shallots and a glass of white wine. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until they open. Set the pot aside to let it cool down.

2. Cut 150g butter into small cubes, finely chop 2 shallots as well as some garlic and parsley (to taste). Add it all to the soft butter and work it in with a fork.

3. Once the mussels are cold, remove one side of the shell and place a dollop of butter on top of the flesh. Bake in the oven for five minutes at 170˚C.’

About the Taj Cape Town

David heads up three eateries at this five-star hotel in the heart of the CBD. The Bombay Brasserie offers Indian fine dining (set menus from R425 pp), the Bombay Brasserie Bar serves small plates based on Indian street food, and Mint Restaurant & Terrace, which spills out onto St George’s Mall, has a global menu inspired by David’s travels – try the Table Tandoor (R195 pp). ‘I like colours, and wild and fresh ingredients on a plate. Make sure you have the best-quality ingredients and cook with your heart and passion if you want a great result.’ 021-819-200


This article was first published in the February 2020 issue of Getaway magazine.
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