A group of 11 local youth have qualified as chefs after completing the internationally-recognised Highfield Qualification in Food Production and Cooking, a year-long diploma course offered by Stellemploy.
The youth were able to finish the course thanks to a generous donation from the AALL Foundation. They were trained at Stellemploy by Chef Léta du Toit-October, who also lectures at the Institute of Culinary Arts.
Stellemploy is a non-profit company (NPC) that was established in Stellenbosch in 1995, to combat unemployment and poverty in the local community by offering free skills development training to the youth.
Since then, Stellemploy has trained close to 4 780 youth to become assistant plumbers, electricians, gardeners, painters and handymen that specialise in building maintenance.
The chefs were able to complete the course this year in spite of the many challenges posed by lockdown.
According to Betta Augustyn, CEO of Stellemploy, 2020 was the most challenging of her 23 years at Stellemploy.
“Stellemploy used the lockdown period from April to May to install sanitising equipment and order masks needed to do training according to the required Covid-19 safety protocols,” she explained.
In June, the trainee chefs returned to the training centre to complete their portfolios.
“We were fortunate that Volkskombuis gave two students the opportunity to complete their practical hours and that some of the chef students with limited industry exposure could gain experience by preparing meals for the artisan students who also started training in June,” added Ms Augustyn.
Dr Hannes Koornhof, the chairman of Stellemploy’s Board – as well as a representative of the Amicus Trust SA, one of Stellemploy’s donors – congratulated the graduates on completing the programme during a tough year, and wished them well on this new chapter in their life and career.
The students were also addressed by Adrian Hadlow, head chef at Rupert and Rothchild Vignerons, the venue at which the graduation was held.
He encouraged the graduates to remain determined in the pursuit of their goals, and talked about the inspiration he draws from Makazole
Mapimpi, a member of the 2019 Springbok Rugby World Cup winning squad, who attained many successes in his career in spite of all the challenges he has faced in his life.
“I see him as somebody who defied the odds to get to where he is today. His story inspires me to do the same. It has shown me that if you pour your heart into something, if you work hard, and want it enough, you can get what you want,” said Mr Hadlow.
Other Stellemploy donors who attended the event included Distell, Remgro, and the Jannie Mouton Stigting.
Among the 11 graduates to attain their diploma was Sisipho Bawuli, from Franschhoek, who did her internship at Grande Provence with executive chef Marvin Robyn as her mentor, who had completed his training at Stellemploy in 2012.
Ms Bawuli and another graduate, Zizipo Keli, are currently employed at Grande Provence.
“2020 has been one of the most remarkable years in my life,” said Ms Bawuli, who applied for the chef’s programme in 2019 only to appease her mother, and without any hope that she would get past the selection interview process.
Today Ms Bawuli is a qualified chef, and has learnt other important life skills, such as being assertive and confident in her own abilities, skills and knowledge.
Ms Bawuli also received the Best All Rounder prize at the ceremony, while fellow graduate, Britney Wenn, was awarded the Best Academic Achievement prize, and Andrea Scheepers received the Best Practical Performance prize.
Ms Scheepers, who hails from Klapmuts, had always wanted to work in a restaurant kitchen.
Without the skills to do that, she worked as a waitress at Anura Vineyards in Klapmuts for 12 years.
“I had never heard of Stellemploy before, but when I saw the ad for this programme in the local newspaper, I immediately called to find out if I could apply.
“At the beginning, I was really nervous about the programme as you don’t know what to expect,” said Ms Scheepers.
However, as she started to learn everything from making sauces from scratch to baking, she gained more confidence in the kitchen and her cooking skills.
“Working in the kitchen is very different, because you don’t see the guest anymore, but I love working in the kitchen and focusing on the preparation of the food now,” she added.