Ask any chef what they like to do on their day off, and they'll probably answer with a single word: eat. South African-born Elderoy Arendse, chef de cuisine of Fraîche Restaurant, craves two things on his days off: food and table tennis.
Visit the chef at his Hollywood apartment on any Monday night and you'll find he's forsaken his chef's knife for a professional table tennis racket. His game? Arendse plays fellow restaurant professionals in best-of-five rounds. Chefs, sommeliers, servers--and even some curious neighbors--step up to the green table to prove who has the best game.
"We don't play ping pong," says Filip Milicevic, co-owner of the Roxbury Café and regular competitor against Arendse. "We prefer to say table tennis." He adds as he knocks the ball across the green table. "It's like the difference between saying sauté or fry."
Not to be confused with the amateur's game of ping-pong, table tennis matches are fast, strategic games that require excellent hand/eye coordination--an important skill for a chef. "It's a form of exercise," Arendse says as he hits the white ball over the table's short net. "And it's right in my backyard."
After playing a few rounds, Arendse heads inside to stir a pot of Cape Town curry that's been warming on his vintage gas range. Unlike the Italian inspired dishes he prepares weekly at Fraîche Restaurant in Culver City, Arendse prefers to cook up South African comfort food at home.
Arendse's "Curry Malay" is based on his mother's recipe for a popular Cape Town curry that fuses South African and Malaysian spices. Using potatoes, peas, curry spice, onion, garlic, tomato paste and fresh ginger, the curry is an earthy dish with an approachable heat. Arendse serves it with generous helpings of mango achar (a spicy, pickled mango condiment) and rooti--a South African flatbread.
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"When I started, I was the worst guy in the kitchen," Arendse says. "In the kitchen you have to work as hard as you can. Every day you have to show that you're self-motivated."
Arendse has done that: he's gone from washing dishes to working with chefs like Chef Gino Angelini (Angenlini Osteria and Minestraio) and Jason Travi. "My heart will never let me down," Arendse says. And from the looks of it, neither will his paddle.
Fraîche: 9411 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 839-6800.