It has the the DNA of a restaurant you’re likely to read about on iPads and smart phones and in the pages of glossy magazine for years to come: a massive open kitchen bathed in the amber glow of gentle lightbulbs, a cocktail program loaded with the twists and tinctures made famous in big-city speakeasies, reservations rare as unicorns.
The other trappings of the hyper-ambitious modern restaurant are there, too: young stagaires from the world over cutting their teeth by mincing shallots and peeling potatoes, a prime location in the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, a trendy warehouse neighborhood with a racy mix of artists and dope dealers, hipsters and homeless, and a name—The Test Kitchen—that suggests ambition, innovation and a certain brand of boundlessness.
And Luke Dale-Roberts has the type of pedigree you could build a brand around. Born and raised in London, he learned to cook in the kitchens of the masters of continental cuisine before trekking east to work in Singapore, Malaysia, and Tokyo. He landed in South Africa in 2006, brought on as the executive chef of La Colombe, a high-end destination restaurant in the Constantia wine valley. Three years later, La Colombe was named the best restaurant in Africa and the Middle East on the San Pellegrino list of World’s Best Restaurant; shortly after, Dale-Roberts broke off to start The Test Kitchen.