Now she's the owner of Du Monde Gourmet Catering, offering "Gourmet on the Go." Du Monde means "of the world," and she said that's the perfect description of her menu offerings.
Upon graduating from high school, Van Der Merwe participated in an apprenticeship in a five-star hotel. She said she felt the itch to travel and explore the world, so she ended up moving to London and working in pubs. After realizing she was unsuited for the London lifestyle, she was persuaded by her brother, who was working on yachts at the time, to fly down to Spain and begin her own yachting career.
"My first summer was spent on a sailing yacht as a cook. We traveled the Greek islands, Turkey and the rest of the Mediterranean," Van Der Merwe said. "When we were on our way back to Spain, we stopped in a little town in France called the Antivves, and I fell in love with it."
Van Der Merwe ended up basing herself in the Antivves and working on the yachts from there. After 13 years of working on the sea, she went back to school to receive formal training and became a classically trained French chef.
She went back to working on yachts as a head chef, traveled the world as a private chef with a Venezuelan family for a year and traveled to Palau in Micronesia to work on the yachts one last time, which is where she ended up meeting her husband, Greg Copper.
"He has old roots here in Park City, so after we met and decided we wanted to be together, I decided to go back to France and he followed and spent the summer there," she said. "At that point, we discussed either going back to South Africa or to America."
Van Der Merwe and her husband decided on Park City, where his mother and father were retired and available as a support system. They married and had a daughter named Sofia, and that is when Du Monde Gourmet Catering got its start.
After seven years in Park City, Van Der Merwe has established what she calls her own brand international cuisine learned in the actual countries themselves. She also works as the executive chef at Casa Nova, a rental property that received the title of "Best Ski Chalet in North America" during the World Ski Awards in November 2013.
In her spare time, Van Der Merwe is committed to the Spice Kitchen Incubator, a non-profit organization tied in with the International Refugee Community. She has helped them come up with a culinary program that will support female entrepreneurs that want to become involved in the food industry.
Van Der Merwe stays busy, but she said Du Monde Gourmet Catering is her main focus. The gourmet food she and her eight chefs prepare for both private parties and for locals and visitors to pick up and take home is made entirely from scratch with fresh ingredients.
"I like to say it is private chef dining without the private pricing," she said. "It is health-conscious and we have GMO-free, fat-free and gluten-free options."
"Gourmet on the Go" features regional cuisine that must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance and is available on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The locals' pick-up menu is available daily with no need for advance notice. The menus feature Pan Asian, Southwest, Mediterranean and Rocky Mountain cuisine depending, upon the day of the week.
Du Monde has partnered with a local delivery service to take Van Der Merwe's international cuisine straight to people's doorsteps in labeled packaging, such as mason jars and sturdy, plastic containers.
While Van Der Merwe will be busy catering Casa Nova après ski cocktail parties, breakfast and lunch parties and several other private parties, she said the door is always open to those wanting to pick up affordable gourmet cuisine after a day on the slopes or at the festival.
"The menu is priced so that everybody can have a certain part of this kitchen," she said. "That's the biggest thing about our locals program so that locals don't think twice about coming to pick up food or having it delivered. Now they can have me and my food delivered straight to their door."
Du Monde Gourmet Catering