Laurie has had a passion for cooking since he was a young boy. He fondly remembers that his first ‘date’, at age 11, involved the making (and eating) of pancakes. Through high school he continued to organise meals for family and friends, and explained that when cooking, he felt “settled and care-free”.
After high school, although he retained his love for cooking, Christo never really considered this a viable career path. In his words, “I was influenced by the idea in my mind that I could live the high life quickly, make money and just get ahead.”
He made the decision to study Logistics Management through the University of Johannesburg. This lacked the creative outlet that Christo wanted and he then committed to study Industrial Design, which, despite enjoying the experience, he felt that it was not rooted in reality. “It was a façade really, it felt like I was trying to become a movie star and I was not being true to myself,” said Christo.
At this time while exploring different fields and avenues, Christo never ventured too far from the culinary world. Whilst studying he continued to work part-time in restaurants and capitalise on valuable practical experience.
It was at this point when Christo experienced a moment of huge significance in his life and benefited from intense self-realisation.
“I guess I experienced a change in personality…
This was a defining moment in the youngster’s life – it was here when he viewed cooking in a new light and saw it, for the first time, as a viable and credible career path. Christo started to build his CV in the restaurant industry.
In 2012 Christo enrolled at the Johannesburg-
Although he used to listen to the advice of family and friends, it was only at this stage when Christo had entered a new phase of maturity and began to truly heed the words of those closest to him.
“My closest friend Ross and I used to discuss career options and our plans. We agreed that whatever we chose to do would have to challenge us, it would have to challenge our perspective, otherwise we would not be growing,” he added.
Perhaps it was life’s way of affirming that Christo’s decision to follow his passion was the right one but, as Christo puts it, he has always been fortunate enough to be surrounded by the elite of the industry and have the opportunity to learn from these influential people.
Reno Alexander of Fratelli Craighall Park fame is one person that Christo says played a hugely important role in his development, both in terms of his career and his character as an individual.
After graduating with a 1 year Diploma, Christo officially embarked on his journey within the culinary world.
Working within demanding kitchens run by no-nonsense professional chefs, such as James Diak at Coobs restaurant in Parkhurst, Christo cut his teeth in the industry and gained valuable experience and the value of a strong work ethic.
“It was tough, the expectation was nothing less than perfection…but this is what actually inspired us. We knew that we were the best and what it took to be the best,” says Christo.
A fresh chapter
Using this experience and a refined sense of himself and what he wanted in life, Christo set aside any immediate plans to establish a business and went, instead, into partnership with his mother Martina Laurie. Martina is the owner and CEO of mobile massage and wellness services specialist company Hands On Treatment and winner of the South African Premier Business Award 2013/2014 Women-Owned Enterprise Award.
Together they represent the force behind Fresh Fine Foods, a restaurant established to compliment the wellness service that has served its target market for some years.
The menu is flexible and is adapted to suit the palates of guests who are seeking to take some time out, to relax and ‘recharge their batteries’. However, their most prominent and frequent visitor/ demographic is the middle-aged female.
“Going forward we aim to launch ‘harvest table’ Sundays, to encourage family attendance, and fine dining on Fridays and Saturdays,” says Christo.
The young Chef is optimistic about the future and believes that while the country is experiencing difficulty, he is adamant about remaining in South Africa to be a part of the solution.
His long term plan centres on combining the restaurant trade with self-sustaining farming and nutrition. This plan is based on his belief that nutrition for everyone should be a fundamental human right.