Restaurant Reveal: Jafflz delivers pocket-sized global cuisine
Park City-based chef Meryl van der Merwe took her lifelong love of global cuisine, added her years of experience as a chef on super yachts for high-end clients, and wrapped them in a favorite piece of her childhood to create a fast food that she wanted to cook and eat – Jafflz.
Jafflz derives its name from a South African pocket sandwich: the jaffle, which can be filled with sweet or savory fillings. Traditionally round with concentric circle grill marks, jaffles are sealed at the circumference with the jaffle iron to keep in the filling. Common in South Africa, where van der Merwe grew up in Cape Town, jaffles are also popular in Australia.
Van der Merwe made them her own by transforming them into a vehicle for diners to experience international foods, not just South African cuisine.
“For me, having conceptualize the jaffle and to be able to bring the jaffle to America and to be able to take my experience of serving all these difference cuisines and putting them inside a sandwich pocket, which is cute and round, it’s the perfect, approachable way to introduce international cuisine,” she said. “My mission is to feed people global cuisine.”
Van der Merwe started feeding people at an early age.
“I, in fact, had to fight my mom to get into the kitchen, and I remember cooking family dinners as early as 10 or 12 years old, whatever I could do to be around food, prepare food and cook food; it was natural for me,” she said.
During her apprenticeship, she traveled to the United States with her family to visit her brother, and set her sights on becoming a private chef on a yacht. She built her culinary career in the yachting industry, first in service and then cooking, and built a list of clients that included royalty and celebrities, Eventually, they became the demographic for what she coined her platinum level of service.
The years of private cheffing aboard yachts traveling the globe taught her to be creative with available vegetables, fruits, and protein sources when more familiar ingredients became limited.
She met her now-husband while visiting the Republic of Palau in Micronesia, and together they formed DuMond Gourmet Catering after moving to southern France. Eventually, they returned to her husband’s town of Park City, moving the business and catering to local clientele.
Cooking the global cuisine she had mastered only for high-end patrons wasn’t enough for van der Merwe anymore.
“Our vision of what we thought DuMonde Gourmet could become is coming true now … to provide globally inspired foods to a large demographic, and not just the platinum level doing the private cheffing,” she said.
Jafflz offers global fillings between local whole wheat bread that range from the familiar: kid-friendly mac and cheese, barbecue sloppy joes and apple pie-like sandwiches, to farther-reaching Indian vegetable curry, and Mexican poblano and chilaquiles. Because all the sandwiches are grilled shut at the edges, they easily become to-go meals, and a healthier version of fast food that doesn’t require utensils to eat.
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