Gas Monkey roars into a funky and flavoursome future
The funky and fantastically popular Gas Monkey Pub & Grill, an American franchise that has been given an enthusiastic welcome in Vanderbijlpark, is set to open two more outlets in Gauteng – Strubens Valley, Johannesburg and Gezina, Pretoria – before venturing to various other metropoles. McCain Foods (SA) joined Chef Andries Grobler at the restaurant to learn the secrets of their success.
How long has Gas Monkey been in business?
We were aiming at an official opening towards the end of November 2016, but on a Sunday a week or so before the official opening date we had a staff training and tasting day. Before we knew it members of the public were pouring in and we served them. The next day, we were so crowded all day that we eventually had to turn people away that evening. We have been busy ever since. One weekend we went through 250kg of McCain chips.
When did you join the business?
I was involved from the start, advising on kitchen design, menu creation, and the kitchen staff training. The three co-owners are Graham Duncan, Shawn Delport, and Hennie Pistorius, all from the Vaal Triangle area, all from different career backgrounds – and all newbies in the restaurant business loving every minute of it.
What do you believe makes the Gas Monkey so successful?
It’s very different. The décor is interesting, clever, and eye-catching, the service is friendly; the location is good; and the food – which is all made from scratch in our kitchens, with the exception of our McCain Rustic Cut Chips – is worth coming back for, again and again. One guest from Texas came back four nights in a row for our ribs saying they were the best he’d ever tasted, and then shortly afterwards, his neighbour from Texas came by too.
We are also extending the franchise to include spin-offs such as Gas Monkey merchandise, alcoholic beverages, and energy drinks – which will help to build the brand in South Africa.
Who are your typical customers?
We seem to have universal appeal. We have families, bikers on breakfast runs, classic car enthusiasts, singles, groups, young and old, and from all walks of life. One reason our menu is so varied is to ensure that we have international appeal.
What is the signature dish that you’re known for?
Our most popular dish by far is our beef ribs and chips. Also popular is our range of jaffles that includes Italiano with mince and cheese sauce, Cubano with roasted pork, bacon, and pickles, Cape Malay with chicken biriyani, Malaysian with prawns, and Boertjie with chicken livers and green tomato relish – in three sizes up to the 21cm ‘gorilla’ jaffles.
You currently use our McCain Rustic Cut chips. What made you select these chips for your pub?
We needed chips that would taste and look great every time, with every meal option. We offer chips or rice and vegetables with many of our meals, and chips are by far the most popular.
What do your customers want in terms of chips?
I believe they want chips that don’t disappoint, chips that add taste and texture and substance to a dish, and are consistently crispy. Our customers love the McCain Rustic Cut chip because they don’t absorb too much oil.
What advice do you have for pub owners when selecting chips?
Choose a chip that gives you a consistent quality and that suits your menu. If you have a high staff turnover, which we are fortunate is not the case at The Gas Monkey, make sure you have a chip that’s easy to work with. The McCain Rustic Cut chips are very forgiving; the coating keeps it crisp and if you leave it in the oil a bit too long it doesn’t overcook. Our customers think our chips are fresh, not frozen.
What inspires you as a chef?
I spent many years in catering and in non-catering jobs, but I love coming back to food. I love creating five-star pub-style dishes that are enjoyed by the clientele. I am inspired by a wide range of influences, including international cuisines, upmarket pub food trends, and creative ideas from my kitchen staff, all of which I use as inspiration to create dishes that reflect my own culinary signature and style.