Chef Frank Salentyn at LIONSROCK

Chef Frank gives a new spin to the LIONSROCK menu 

New LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary chef, Frank Salentyn, reshaping the menu with dishes in a sustainable gourmet style


The new LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary chef, Frank Salentyn, is an experienced Dutch chef who made South Africa his home in the eighties and has never looked back. He is now reshaping the menu at the reopened accommodation and restaurant at the Sanctuary, with dishes in a sustainable gourmet style.

Chef Frank is passionate about creating healthy dishes and committed to sourcing local ingredients. He has had an incredible journey through the world of food, cooking in several restaurants worldwide in places such as Israel and the Far East as well as in South Africa at the Hilton Hotel in Johannesburg and Sun City.

To Chef Frank, cooking remains a relaxing task which makes him happy.

“You need to be cheerful while you are cooking to pass on the good energy. This means you have to be happy with yourself and satisfied with your life. So, it is important to see to it that you are putting your happiness first so you can fulfil your passion in a sustainable way.”

LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary chef, Frank Salentyn

His passion for cooking and the ability to relax while doing it, have motivated him throughout his life. This love of cooking was kindled by his late wife, Reetha, when he met and married her in South Africa. She taught him to cook her beloved Indian curries, a skill that he would like to pass on to other chefs.

“It is a way to keep her legacy alive,” says the affable chef.

The redesigned and re-opened accommodation and restaurant at LIONSROCK, has a strong focus on ethical tourism and sustainability, values that he strongly supports.

“With a specific visitor concept, the Sanctuary is a choice destination for ethical tourism and animal welfare education. Letting visitors get insights into the lives of rescued animals enables us as staff members and the Sanctuary to spread the word about the global work of FOUR PAWS, here in South Africa, as well as around the world. It is a centre of excellence for animal welfare. For me as a caring individual and being part of the staff at the restaurant, that is important.”

Chef Frank sees his tenure at the sanctuary as an opportunity to share his love of working with food and has decided to focus on creating healthy dishes with local ingredients.

When it comes to serving healthy, nutritional food, each of the FOUR PAWS sanctuaries like LIONSROCK is committed to preparing and serving food in a climate-friendly way and to offer many plant-based, regional and seasonal dishes in their restaurants and thus support local farmers.

FOUR PAWS recommends following the 3Rs-Principle of Reduce, Refine and Replace when it comes to a healthy, balanced and at the same time an animal- and climate-friendly diet.

In detail this means to reduce the consumption of animal-based products as much as possible, to replace animal-based products with plant-based alternatives whenever possible.

Having worked in many different establishments, Chef Frank says it takes more than just the ability to cook to become a successful chef. He encourages aspiring chefs to think about it as a profession where personality and the right approach are key to creating dishes that are truly special.

Preparing meals for a full restaurant does not stress him out. To the contrary, it makes him relax.

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“I enjoy the creative process of putting unique and delicious meals together for our guests,” says Frank with an easy smile.

He emphasises the importance of cooking from your heart: 

“You must feel the food and the mood of the diners. It is not a job for those who just want a nine to five working space to fill.”

When it comes to creating a menu that will make guests excited, he is confident in his ability to add his own spin to dishes already on the LIONSROCK menu and make them both delicious and aesthetically pleasing. He is also looking forward to surprising diners with new dishes.

To achieve this, he is presently working with staff members to make sure the menu is dynamic and full of flavour, while introducing a few tweaks to old favourites. By doing this, he is aiming to bring a heightened dining experience to LIONSROCK.

His speciality lies in pasta and seafood dishes. He is sure diners from Africa and abroad will love his take on these.

Some of his proudest moments as a chef were when he had the opportunity to cook for the Netherlands football team during the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg and recently for the FOUR PAWS International Board during their visit to LIONSROCK.

“With both these occasions, I was under a bit of pressure but in such a good way. The kitchen staff and I embraced the challenge of creating delicious and healthy dishes in the vegan and vegetarian style of cooking in the case of the LIONSROCK visit.”

He is proud of a vegetarian stew dish of broccoli and cauliflower that he served and could plate to the members of the FOUR PAWS Board in the newly designed restaurant with the light and modern feel.

When it is time to downing his chef’s knives and hat to relax a bit, Frank says that LIONSROCK is a place of peace and joy to him. He often finds himself in awe of the sight of the big cats in their enclosures, and the landscape of gentle hills and valleys make him feel at peace with himself.

This feeling is also replicated when he listens to visitors telling stories at the tables of the restaurant relating their experiences of seeing the animals living their forever lives in a happy and healthy way.

He feels cooking at restaurant so close to the sanctuary has provided him with a deeper sense of purpose. 

“I am proud to be a part of the LIONSROCK family and thankful for the opportunity to contribute to the sanctuary’s reputation. I am dedicated to supporting the sanctuary, the staff, and the animals in any way I can.”

Elize Parker_ZA Press Officer

Elize Parker

Public Relations Officer

Elize is a former environmental journalist who specialised in the writing of wildlifecrime and endangered species. She was also a columnist for seven years with a weekly magazine and has a popular column on a foremost portal. She has published more than 40 book titles ranging from fiction to motivational books.

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