The future is cooking for aspiring chef

Zanele Fani, middle, from Klapmuts, proudly shows off her uniform inscribed with the name of one of South Africas most celebrated chefs, Bertus Basson, who owns Bertus Basson at Spice Route, where Fani works, as well as The Deck, Overture, and Spek & Bone restaurants in Stellenbosch. With Zanele is her mother, Jennifer, and a family friend, Ernest September.

Not too long ago, Zanele Fani from Klapmuts in Stellenbosch was waiting on tables trying to make ends meet.

Today her dreams have come true, thanks to a sponsorship from the Stellenbosch Municipality’s Mayoral Youth Skills Development Programme, which allowed her to complete Bergzicht Training’s internationally-recognised City and Guilds’ professional Cooking and Food and Beverage Service Programme.

Ms Fani is currently completing the work-integrated learning opportunity component of the 10-week programme at Bertus Basson restaurant at Spice Route in Paarl.

The programme is presented in collaboration with The Private Hotel School (PHS) in Vlottenburg, which works with Bergzicht Training, a skills development NGO in Stellenbosch, to train students in the City and Guilds’ Skills Proficiency Awards in basic food preparation, and food and beverage service.

The entire programme consists of seven weeks of theoretical and practical training at the PHS campus, followed by the three-week learning opportunity at a range of hospitality and tourism organisations.

Students who complete the programme are able to work as professional waiters, cooks, kitchen assistants and assistant chefs in the hospitality and tourism industries.

“Thank you for everything you have done for me,” Ms Fani said to Stellenbosch Mayor Gesie van Deventer, at her graduation ceremony last fortnight.

“Today I am working with Bertus Basson at Spice Route and I am so excited to be learning from him.”

She said the training she received through Bergzicht Training and PH S, has prepared her well for the work environment in Bertus Basson’s kitchen.

“We are also very lucky as we are getting more training from Bertus Basson every Thursday. I am still learning new things every day.”

For the past two years, funding received from the municipality through the Mayoral Youth Skills Development Programme has helped Bergzicht Training to train 37 Stellenbosch residents, of whom 18 have found jobs at some of the Winelands top restaurants, based at Hartenberg Wine Estate, Cavalli Estate and Tokara, as well as at the Woolworths and the Blue Crane and Butterfly restaurants.

Ms Fani is one of 13 students from Stellenbosch to be funded through the development programme in 2017.

According Michelle Aalbers, the manager of Community Development in Planning and Economic Development Services at Stellenbosch Municipality, the Mayoral Youth Skills Development Programme was established in 2013 with the aim of benefitting the youth in Stellenbosch beyond an annual Youth Day-centred celebration on June 16.

“We wanted the youth in this town to leave with more than just a T-shirt after Youth Day, because we realised that we were not contributing to real change and the empowerment of our youth through one day events,” she said.

“The development programme was started with the intention to contribute to our communities by developing the skills of our youth in partnership with non-governmental organisations focused on skills development training in the Stellenbosch area.”

Today, that investment is paying dividends for the municipality and students like Ms Fani who are benefitting from their support.

“Training people in an employable skill and then sending them home without helping them to secure employment is not real empowerment. So it excites me to see the 100% employment rate of graduates who trained at Bergzicht Training with sponsorship received from the municipality’s programme,” added Ms Aalbers.