Edik van Nantes: Winter is the fourth and last in Nataniël and his brother Erik’s kykNET series, finishing a particular story which started with the one brother living in the area and the other joining him to, amongst other adventures, discover their roots. DIANE DE BEER reveals more about the Le Roux siblings’ French love affair which can be seen from July 4:
Food is the binding factor although Nataniël is quick to insist that it isn’t a cooking show. “I hate those,” he says, “they’re boring.” Even if his brother has cooked in restaurants and he has spent his whole life dealing with food in some way, neither regard themselves as a chef. “We’re home cooks,” he says. But they make an abundance of food in the series, making sure there’s lots of chat and other things happening in-between.
Their secret ingredient is that Nantes is Erik’s environment, his home, and one that Nataniël has lost his heart to. “I love the old buildings, it’s as if they keep me safe,” he explains. And this love affair spills over into every frame of the series.
He won’t leave South African soil, he knows he really misses his people – his family and friends – but when he is here, he misses Nantes, the place. It’s a different universe, one where he can immerse himself in culture and architecture, art and innovation. Erik is excited by Brittany’s food even though Nantes is no longer part of the region, while Nataniël delves in the Huguenot history. And the food is hearty and wholesome, food they like to eat. “Neither of us is attuned to fine dining,” he says.
The first season focussed on farm life, followed by châteaux (castles proliferate in the French countryside) and then the previous series focussed on city life. “Most of Europe spend most of their life in cold weather,” says Nataniël and he realised that while they had been cooking spring and summer cuisine in the first three Nantes series, the last would have to feature winter food. That, he also knew, isn’t the easiest thing to present, because the most prominent of dishes, stews, don’t film well. “There’s only so much you can do to tart it up visually,” he says. And they don’t like fiddling with the food because it also serves as meals for cast and crew.
“Everything we made was a full-on feast for all of us working, following the shoot,” he explains.
Village life was to be the setting for this one, that and a search for their forefathers. “I needed to know what this landgrab would mean for me,” he says with a twinkle in his eye to not only South Africans but also his French hosts.
While he believes this series is visually the most beautiful, it also cost blood, sweat and tears. “We don’t have stylists and set designers and builders. We had to do it all ourselves.” What he means, is that they had to create the studio where all the cooking is done. Because they were shooting village life, it had to be in one of those tiny houses that open onto a French street. “The house literally starts shaking when a baby in pram passes by,” he says. And the ceilings are too low and…
So what they did was to recreate a miniature studio for themselves in the loft of one of these homes. Then they had to deal with the cold. “A dishcloth turns to ice and when you’re cooking and chatting, steam seems to pour from your mouth.” But they were getting used to extremes because Europe is currently experiencing the hottest and coldest seasons for decades. “We have cooked in both 17 and 47deg,” says someone who likes a temperate environment.
And while they were battling the cold, they were also fighting the clear blue sky and the sun. “When it rained and snowed, that’s when we got the cloudy weather we needed, but at its coldest of course, are these beautiful days that don’t translate as winter on television!”
The atmosphere he wanted to encourage was a spooky one with evocative death dolls and missing soldiers, superstitions and investigations of mourning, all part of his French tale.
Their food choices were also determined by the harshness of winter in this region. Pantries had to be stocked with all kinds of delights which could be added to meals that would be prepared later. “It’s the concept of living inside, something foreign to South Africans – pretty much. Think home movies, crafts, hobbies, board games, all the things people do when most of their time is spent inside the home.”
Because they were shooting in winter, they had to contend with the darkness descending earlier, which they weren’t used to, and then you have to get through long evenings. The result was that Nataniël could again have fun with his lavish table settings. This time he was inspired by the shocking colours and grotesque images from across the street where a Salvador Dali retrospective was being exhibited, the largest ever held outside Spain. “It was pure coincidence, but we could watch the queues snaking around the building and see the amazing images of people hanging out of windows and strange creatures,” he explains.
“The Tannies are going to complain because it all exploded on my tables!” He describes what he created as a cross between Salvador Dali and the Owl House in Nieu Bethesda.
Knowing that this is the end of a very specific chapter in his life, one that he describes as the most joyous, he is grateful to Nantes that turned into a city of inspiration. It is as a city of contradiction, he says “It’s a Medieval city that has an obsession with modern art!”
That’s what this place brought to the table. Because he believes and finds food TV boring, he understands that you have to introduce different flavours. It also helped that the two Le Roux brothers were creating this series from nothing. Neither of them watches food television and they’re not part of that world, so what they do is completely instinctive and inspirational.
Always the one pulling the strings and managing his own career, he doesn’t say what’s next and doesn’t want to show his hand just quite yet. Enjoy this current series of 13 episodes which starts on July 4 on kykNET (channel 144) at 8pm (with re-broadcasts during the week). But remember to wait and watch, Nataniël is again entering a new phase and if anything, it will be something he is excited to reveal – and play with for the next few years.