Joy was written all over the faces of 20 students who graduated from Eziko cooking and catering school, in Langa, as each of their names was called and they went to the front to receive their certificate for completing the six-month course.
Parents and local business owners converged at the offices of Eziko on Thursday September 29, to congratulate and motivate the graduates and to inspire them to work hard.
The school offers the students first-hand experience of working in the catering industry.
The training comprises six months in-house training followed by a six-month internship at some of the country’s top companies.
Founder and director of Eziko, Victor Mguqulwa expressed his excitement, saying the school wanted to address the problem of unemployment in the townships.
Mr Mguqulwa said the school placed more than 80 percent of students in permanent jobs.
He said he wanted to achieve 100 percent.
“The students are now qualified chefs,” he said.
The ceremony also marked the school’s 20th annivesary.
“We have also started producing our home-made products such spices. We are extremely proud that some of our students have found jobs and others have intention of starting up their own restaurants,” he said.
Mr Mguqulwa highlighted funding and limited resources as critical challenges and heaped praise on food and spice supplier Crown National which partnered with the school to offer additional training to the students.
Mr Mguqulwa said the school was in the process of offering bursaries to deserving students and urged supermarkets and retailers operating in the townships to support local business by purchasing their products.
Crown National executive chef, Peter Kruger, said the students had the potential to be the best chefs in the industry, but they needed to gain experience.
He said the students attended one week “intense” training at their factory kitchen every month.
The central approach of the training is to expose the students to a variety of foods and also test their readiness, he said. Asked what some of the skills required to pursue a catering career were, Mr Mguqulwa said these included a passion for food and the ability to work under pressure. “They are not yet ready to be chefs but they can be chef’s assistants. They still need a lot of experience before they can be chefs,” he said.
“We hope this partnership will yield the desired results. We teach them some basic skills of what are some of the requirements to prepare their meals,” he said.
Graduate Yolanda Nyanda, 27, said she was passionate about cooking and thrilled to have completed the training. She now believes her future looks bright. Ms Nyanda said she battled to cook western foods when she started because she was not used to it. But she eventually managed to find a way to master them. She said she enjoyed cooking breakfast meals like omelettes.
“I wish to see myself working for one of the best hotels in the world and touring the country and I do have ambitions of having my own restaurant. “It is also crucial for me to give back to the community and help other young people who are ambitious to become chefs.
“We also need to change the mindset that we have about pursuing a career in the cooking industry. When you work in the kitchen time is essential,” she said.