Willie Strauss is Cullinan’s own diamond

Henry

Willie Strauss shines in front of people as a television personality, actor, singer, songwriter and food expert. Every performance is an effort from the heart.

“I don’t like to poo-poo,” says Willie. “If I do something, I go big or leave it.”

Plenty of ingredients

This native of the Northern Cape, who studied performing arts at the then Pretoria Technikon, could already relate to his mother and grandmother’s baking and brewing sessions in the kitchen as a child.

Although Willie is quick to say that he is not a trained chef, there are enough ingredients in his creative pantry to produce a surprise.

“Fortunately, my fountain has not dried up yet,” he says. “I am inspired by other people and research I do. I will taste something and try to make a dish too, but in my own way and in my own style.”

No one can overlook Willie’s passion for food.

“I make a lot of mistakes,” he says and likes to tell about his mother’s chocolate pudding and sauce that during a recording of Food is on the table flopped three times. “It’s a recipe I make very often,” he says, “but that day it just didn’t want to work. I just laughed later. To this day, I don’t know why the recipe didn’t work. We later scooped out a piece in the middle for the camera to take.”

When something like this hits Willie, he just keeps going and tries again.

“My head is always busy and looking for new ideas and things to tackle to stimulate my creativity.”

Recipe for success

Whether it’s in his Sinkhuisie on Cullinan or somewhere in a strange venue or kitchen somewhere in the country, Willie enjoys entertaining people and sharing his food knowledge with them.

“Everything I do has its own charm and fun for me,” he says. “I think that’s why people the cook and singproduction so enjoyed. I cook a dish, demonstrate how to make a fondant rose and sing well-known songs, and new creations, accompanied by Henry-John Williams.”

For Willie, it is the icing on the cake when he sees his audience enjoying his food.

“Cooking a new recipe makes me excited to taste the end result,” he says. “I literally hang out with the audience and it’s nice and informal.”

Cooking on a stage in strange places taught him to adapt to any situation and especially to think on his feet.

“I have to quickly make a plan in case something goes wrong,” he says.

Willie mentions that he has always loved cooking, but that the food thing, as he refers to it, is an organic thing that happened.

“Magda Swart asked me to Report Journal writing contributions for the food column. It was very popular. I then started to make more and more food. When I woke up again, I was talking to Jacques Botes about food every Saturday on Pretoria FM.”

Then followed her cookbook and frequent talks with Amore Bekker on RSG. This was all the precursor to the birth of her Cook and sing-production.

“Today I am so grateful to Magda and Jacques for taking me out of my comfort zone. I believe that when you get a chance, you have to take it and go all out.”

For Willie, his cookbook is a highlight in his career.

“It was a dream of mine,” he says. “Then I must add that doing inserts on RSG and Pretoria FM is another dream come true.”

On the menu

February is the month of love. For Willie, a bottle of sparkling wine is a must on the table during a romantic meal.

“And then a restaurant where I know the food is good,” he says. “Preferably not a place where there is a play park for children. It should be a peaceful evening with good food.”

When you want to entertain your loved one at home, Willie suggests spending time making the table, and yourself, beautiful. Although red is mostly associated with love, white is also a color that symbolizes love for Willie.

“White is such a pure and clean color that you can do anything with,” he says. “It creates possibilities.”

Willie recommends that recipes be tested in advance if you are going to cook yourself.

“Don’t tackle a dish you’ve never made before,” he warns. You are putting unnecessary stress on yourself. If you would like to spend a special evening at home and you cannot cook, order the food and just serve it. Make it a night to remember rather than spending the whole evening wondering if your partner is going to eat your food. No one needs to know you didn’t cook it yourself.”

An extra taste for the year

Fans can still look forward to a lot this year.

“I am currently working on two manuscripts that I am excited about,” says Willie. “One is a cookbook and the other a book with daily pieces about gratitude. Gratitude is so important to me. Every night I mention three things I’m grateful for on Facebook and it changed my life, because you now look at things in your life differently.”

Good news is that there is also a new theater production, Stories by Strauss, come.

“There are so many famous people with the surname Strauss, but there is only one Willie Strauss,” he says. “In the show there is a new song or three and also new stories that I and my accompanist, Henry-John Williams, have created ourselves.”

One wonders if there is something that people do not know about Willie, he assures you that he is an open book.

“I tell everyone everything and don’t really have secrets,” he says. “I don’t think people realize how shy I really am. I like alone time and being on my own at my Sinkhuis.”